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Music and Modernity - North Indian Classical Music in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Item Code: NAN715
Author: Amlan Das Gupta
Publisher: Thema Books, Kolkata
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8186017348
Pages: 268 (25 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description
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Indian Classical Music I Media Studies I Broadcasting / Audiography This collection brings together essays by a number of scholars, researchers and professionals in the field of music, offering a wide range of viewpoints and approaches to the impact of modernity on the traditional practices of north Indian classical music. Specialists in the fields of history of technology, instrument-making, record collection and preservation, as well as performing artists and researchers in the history and aesthetics of music focus on the impact of technology with the introduction of techniques of sound reproduction, as also with the advent of print culture and the new values of reception and learning.

Contributors: Suresh Chandvankar, Siddhartha Ghosh, Adrian McNeil, Rajeev Patke, Urmila Bhirdikar, Amelia Maczisewski, J on Barlow, Amlan Das Gupta.

AMLAN DAS GUPTA teaches English at Jadavpur University and has written on the history of Hindustani classical music. He has translated (with Urmila.Bhirdikar) My Life: Khansahab Alladiya Khan (Thema 2000).


This collection appears long after it was originally planned. Some of the contributors submitted their essays shortly after being requested to do so, and a sincere apology is due to them. In such cases, it is usual to say that the delay was owing to reasons beyond the editor's control I am aware, uncomfortably, that this is only part of the truth.

The main reason for the delay, I should say, is the long illness and consequent death, of one of the principal movers of the project that this book is part of Amitabha Ghosh, better known as Siddhartha Ghosh, for many of his writings in both English and Bengali, appeared under this name. The book as it now stands partly incorporates versions of papers presented at a conference held in Kolkata in 1999 entitled 'Indian Music in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction'. It was at this time that the idea of putting together a book which would include some of the papers from the conference, and also include some commissioned essays was put forward by Siddhartha Ghosh. With customary generosity, he asked me to edit the book, but also promised to help in whatever way he could.

The idea that we-among whom were also Abhijit Bhattacharya, Anindya Banerjee, Adrian McNeil, Jon Barlow and Lakshmi Subramaniam-had at this time was that it was necessary to view music in the condition of modernity from a variety of viewpoints: that of the academic researcher, the music collector, the expert listener, the performer, the historian, the manufacturer of instruments and so on. The conference was thus an unusual one, and aroused considerable enthusiasm. Subsequently Siddhartha Ghosh and I approached some of the speakers for publishable forms of their papers. We also asked other experts for contributions, especially in areas that had not been adequately covered in the conference. Some obliged quickly (and I am particularly aware of the fact that they have every reason to be dissatisfied with my dilatoriness); others took more time to work their ideas out. The great trouble that they went to more than compensated for the delay caused to the project.

In the mean time, Siddhartha Ghosh had been persistently unwell. After being incapacitated for many months following an accident, he died in late 2002. For several months after that I felt it difficult to continue with the project. Apart from constantly drawing on his seemingly inexhaustible fund of knowledge about early technology in India, I benefited from his advice in many other matters too. He promised till even a month before his death that he would revise his essay on. 'pre-commercial' recordings as soon as he was a little better, but that, sadly, was not to be.

The title of the book is partly his devising, for it was he who had suggested the name for our conference. I feel that the term is appropriate both in a specialized sense-in that a number of articles deal with early recording, in particular those by Suresh Chandvankar, Adrian McNeil, Urmila Bhirdikar and Siddhartha Ghosh himself- and in a more general way as it reflects the identity of the age which this books focuses on, one which Jacques Attali has called the age of 'repetition'. Jon Barlow's article on the form and voice of the sarod, Amelia Maciszewski's article on modem women performers, Rajeev Patke's contribution on the aesthetics of listening and the present editor's piece on bandishes, all in various ways illuminate the implications of 'modernity' in the field of music.'

There are a number of inconsistencies in the sty le of presentation in this volume. Some are written in accepted academic style, others not: the academic style itself is not uniform. I have' let-most of it stand, apart from clearing up some superficial points. I have made no attempt to impose a uniform style of reference either, and feel that each of the essays-footnoted or not-are perfectly lucid in their citation of evidence. The essays are not equal in size: Jon Barlow, after being dubious about being able to write anything at all, finally came up with a two-part article the size of a small monograph, meticulously illustrated with drawings of old instruments. I feel privileged to be able to present this article to readers. Amelia Maciszewski's article on professional women artistes is also considerably longer than many of the others.

More difficult to defend, perhaps, is the choice of subjects. There are two articles on the sarod, two on early recording, one each on listening practices, on bandishes, on early classical music in Maharashtra and on present-day professional women performers. It is easy to ask why these are represented and other, equally important, subjects are not. Why for instance, is there nothing on the sitar or other major instruments? Or on major vocal styles, to say nothing of dance? Such questions may be just, but are unanswerable. All I can say is that I would have been happy to include others (if space was not a problem), if they had been forthcoming, but I would be extremely unwilling to part with any of the articles that I got from the learned contributors. In any case, an amount of eccentricity is traditionally attributed to the great performers of Hindustani music, and a book dealing with the subject may claim some indulgence in this regard. However, the limitation of the book's scope to North Indian music only means not being able to include work on the South Indian tradition: this is a compromise that I have been reluctantly compelled to make in order to give the work some kind of focus.

I am grateful to the contributors severally and individually, for the demands that I have made on their time and patience. I would also like to thank the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, the Society of Indian Record Collectors, Mumbai and the Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata for support of various kinds. Versions of Suresh Chandvankar 's and Siddhartha Ghosh's articles appeared in The Record News (the annual newsletter of The Society of Indian Record Collectors) published in mimeographed form. A version of Adrian McNeil's 'Making Modernity Audible' appeared in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, volume 27, number 3, December 2004.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Siddhartha Ghosh.




Preface viii
Centenary of Indian Gramophone Recods 1
The Pre-Commercial Era of Wax Cylinder recordings in India 19
Thinking Dialectically of North Indian Classical Music 32
Making Modernity audible: Sarodiyas and the Early Recording Industry 60
The Sarod: Its Forms and Voices 89
the Sarod: Instrument Analysis 124
Nayika ki Yadgar: North Indian Women Musicians and Their Words 156
The Spread of North Indian Music in Maharashtra in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century: Sociocultural Conditions of Production and Consumption 220
Words for Music Perhaps: Reflections on the Khayal Bandhish 239

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