Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools
Edited By Mira-Lisa Katz
10. The Paramparic Body: Gestural Transmission in Indian Music
The Paramparic Body
Gestural Transmission in Indian Music1
I am singing at a house concert in California. It is my first performance away from my teacher, and I try to sing as he has taught me. I deliberately choose music that we spent many months working on. Even as I improvise novel melodic material, I recall his repeated admonitions about proper singing: each chunk of melodic action should be well-knit as though it were carefully composed ahead of time; the voice should be clear and open; melodic development should be gradual and methodical. Restraining myself from dashing forward into rapid melodic flights, I will myself to relax my shoulders, take deep breaths, and dwell in a medium-tempo melodic flow, even past the point where my attention wanders. Even when I make a mistake and want to hide my voice behind closed vowels, I remember his relaxed, open voice. All of these small pieces of advice during my training were brought together in a single discipline by my teacher’s presence. Singing far away from him, I sometimes recall them one by one; it’s easier, however, to simply remember his presence.
One of the guests, a longtime student of Hindustani music, approaches me after I finish. “You sing differently now,” she says. I ask her what she means. “You never used to do this,” she says, looking at her hands, tracing interlocking ellipses with her open palms. The...
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