Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India

Front Cover
Duke University Press, Jul 18, 2006 - History - 349 pages
While Karnatic music, a form of Indian music based on the melodic principle of raga and time cycles called tala, is known today as South India’s classical music, its status as “classical” is an early-twentieth-century construct, one that emerged in the crucible of colonial modernity, nationalist ideology, and South Indian regional politics. As Amanda J. Weidman demonstrates, in order for Karnatic music to be considered classical music, it needed to be modeled on Western classical music, with its system of notation, composers, compositions, conservatories, and concerts. At the same time, it needed to remain distinctively Indian. Weidman argues that these contradictory imperatives led to the emergence of a particular “politics of voice,” in which the voice came to stand for authenticity and Indianness.

Combining ethnographic observation derived from her experience as a student and performer of South Indian music with close readings of archival materials, Weidman traces the emergence of this politics of voice through compelling analyses of the relationship between vocal sound and instrumental imitation, conventions of performance and staging, the status of women as performers, debates about language and music, and the relationship between oral tradition and technologies of printing and sound reproduction. Through her sustained exploration of the way “voice” is elaborated as a trope of modern subjectivity, national identity, and cultural authenticity, Weidman provides a model for thinking about the voice in anthropological and historical terms. In so doing, she shows that modernity is characterized as much by particular ideas about orality, aurality, and the voice as it is by regimes of visuality.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India
By Amanda J. Weidman
Published by Duke University Press, 2006
I find that the author has made some references to the Travancore music composer, Swathi Thirunal.These seem to rely solely on one Balachander's stories which are unfortuantely just wishful thinking. For instance, regarding the argument that the name "Swathi" never existed before 1882, I can point you to British and Australian documents prior to 1847 which cite this name. To begin with I request you to see my unpublished article in my site in the what is new section.
I also think it is very irresponsible on your side to give such one sided comments on sensitive issues without scholarly study. Kindly be aware that you could have hurt the sentiments of thousands of fans of the composer king. You could at least have given an indication that you are just quoting and not endorsing his views. If you endorse, you are liable to defend, which I invite you to.
I am very interested to see how the author responds to this
Warm regards
Dr Achuthsankar S Nair
Hon. Director
Centre for Bioinformatics
University of Kerala, Trivandrum 695581, INDIA
Tel (O) 471-2412759 (R) 471-2542220

User Review - Flag as inappropriate



Gone Native? Travels of the Violin in South India
From the Palace to the Street Staging classical Music
Gender and the Politics of Voice
Can the Subaltern Sing? Music Language and the Politics of Voice
A Writing Lesson Musicology and the Birth of the Composer
Fantastic Fidelities
Modernity and the Voice
Work Cited

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 4 - Britain and disrupt its political process in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, Britain had attained a stable integration of its constituent parts by the early seventeenth century.

About the author (2006)

Amanda J. Weidman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College.

Bibliographic information