Music, Modernity and The Public Sphere

All day
Through February 28, 2016
UChicago Center in Delhi

Feb. 27

Music is a means by which modernity came to be “performed.”  If modernity, as many recent scholars argue, rearranged the relationship between private and public realms, then music can be seen as instrumental in marking the distinction between such realms. New social arrangements gave rise to new forms of musical experience, whether collective or individualized.

In this conference, leading scholars from India, China, and North America were gathered to discuss the topic of music and modernity with a particular focus upon the South and East Asian experience. Experiencing music became an important part of the modernization process in these regions.  The increased availability of--and access to-- music transformed the nature of public participation in culture-making;  indeed, one might argue it even transformed people’s ‘taste’, whether for politics or culture, trade or pleasure. Examples that might be cited include newly-classicized indigenous music, as in India and China, or Western genres of classical music or jazz as received and appropriated in a number of Asian and African locations. It could be the disconcerting experience of hearing Hindustani music through the novel technology of sound recording in the early 20th century, or the use of clichéd Romantic song in the development of Bollywood family romances in the 1990s.  The growth of urban centers in the metropolis as well as the colonies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, across a number of continents, ensured the formation of new markets and new structures of patronage, leading to the coming together of musicians and performers in new configurations.

A key aim of the conference was to assemble and refine our conceptual frameworks for understanding the changes brought about by, in and through music in a South Asian context.  We hope to interrogate the concept of the ‘public sphere’ and examine its validity in terms of how it can or cannot capture these kinds of changes.  Another important aspect of our conference was to rethink the relationships between the musical text or performance and the context within which its formal and social meanings are realized.  We seek, in short, to answer the ambitious question of what it might mean to speak about a ‘musical public sphere’ in a broadly global context.

Participants include:
1. Urmila Bhirdikar (Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar)
2. Thomas Christensen (University of Chicago)
3. Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago).
4. Aditi Deo (IISER, Pune)
5. Partho Datta (Delhi University)
6. Tasaw Lu (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
7. Adrian McNeil (Monash University, Melbourne)
8. Kaley Mason (University of Chicago)
9. Tejaswini Niranjana (TISS Mumbai and Lingnan University-Hong Kong)
10. Surabhi Sharma (Film-maker, Mumbai)
11. Lakshmi Subramanian (CSSSC, Kolkata)
12. Vibodh Parthasarathi (Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi)
13. Yu Siu Wah (Kwan Fong Centre, Hong Kong)