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Durham University


Role, Status and Hierarchy in the Performance of North Indian Classical Music

Project summary and research questions

This project investigated how North Indian classical musicians assert and challenge social and musical roles in the course of performance. Such processes of display and negotiation of status affect the production of music, and in-depth study of their dynamics is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of music making. Our research investigated how different social hierarchies and bonds overlap the soloist/accompanist relationship which dominates discourse in this tradition; how on-stage hierarchies relate to those in the audience; how musicians articular notions of role and status, and describe the experience of performance in terms of collaboration or antagonism; how these dynamics affect the creation of music. Our work is based on extensive fieldwork carried our in the Indian States of West Bengal and Maharashtra.

This project was supported by the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants scheme. The audiovisual recordings of interviews and performances on which the analysis carried out for this project is grounded are currently being archived at the British Library Sound Archives.