Instruments INDIA: A sound archive for educational and compositional use

Blackburn, Manuella (2014). Instruments INDIA: A sound archive for educational and compositional use. Organised Sound, 19(2) pp. 146–153.



This article documents the evolution of the ‘Instruments INDIA’ project, which led to the creation of an online sound archive of Indian musical instruments. Recording work with approximately 27 musicians provided material for this interactive resource (which functions as an educational tool and concertgoer's guide), and also for compositional work, where culturally tied sound material formed the basis for two new works; Javaari (acousmatic) and New shruti (mixed work) for sarod and electronics. Trialling a variety of methods for gathering and then subsequently integrating sounds from Indian musical instruments into electroacoustic compositions provided a framework for the exploration of hybridity and intercultural sound interactions, while observing the translation and transference of highly emblematic sounds from one musical tradition to the next also led to unique artistic and theoretical outcomes. Curatorial decisions made with my project partners, Milapfest (the UK's leading Indian Arts Development Trust) regarding the participating musicians and their sound contributions posed further considerations for the representative quality of each instrument showcased on the archive. Gathering appropriate material for users of the archive (young learners, audience members and interested laypeople) while capturing sounds suitable for compositional purposes presented new challenges within the recording environment. Further complexities surfaced when this challenge was coupled with a lesser degree of familiarity with instrument capabilities, playing styles and cultural traditions. This unique collaboration with cultural sounds and performance practices raised questions about my compositional intentions, cross-cultural borrowing, respectful practice, and the unavoidable undertones of cultural appropriation and colonial attitude.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions