Time, gesture and attention in a khyāl performance

Clayton, Martin (2007). Time, gesture and attention in a khyāl performance. Asian Music, 38(2) pp. 71–96.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/amu.2007.0032


North Indian rāg performance, especially as practised in intimate and informal settings, is often distinguished by a lively interaction involving both musicians and listeners, mediated by gestures and vocal interjections. Performers gesture to each other, to the audience, and expressively with the music, and audiences become part of that process. The premise of this study is that observing the behaviour of audience members, as well as that of performers, should provide a valuable window onto the ways in which rāg performance is experienced by all of its participants. The main questions I aim to elucidate in this paper are: What does observable behaviour tell us about the way people experience the metrical and formal structures of a rāg performance? When and how do listeners become involved in the performance gesturally and/or verbally? I shall address these and related questions through an analysis of a khyāl performance by Vijay Koparkar recorded in Mumbai in 2005. Detailed analysis of this performance indicates that these questions can indeed be answered using observational methods, and also suggests other important issues that may not have done been raised had this approach not been adopted.

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