Sonic Performativity: Analysing Gender in North Indian Classical Vocal Music

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Abstract

Musicians and listeners hear many aspects of contemporary North Indian classical vocal music as gendered: genres, improvisational techniques and even certain ornaments evoke gendered connotations. However, analytical work on this music has failed to take gender into account, so the relationship between gender and musical sound remains unexamined. In this article, I explore how issues of gender might come to bear on the close analysis of North Indian classical vocal music. First, I present an overview of the gendered musical landscape of the tradition. I then draw upon work by Judith Butler in order to theorise this in terms of what I call ‘sonic performativity’: I argue that North Indian classical musicians perform gender sonically and that this influences the subtlest nuances of musical style. Finally, I demonstrate ways in which considerations of gender inform the stylistic decisions of one singer, detailing how she negotiates gendered musical norms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-379
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2015

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