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Matthew Rahaim


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Personal profile

Research interests

My book, "Musicking Bodies: Gesture and Voice in Hindustani Music," is an investigation of how the body works to manifest melody. It maps a discursive history of gesture, analyzes the parallel expression of melody in hand and voice, and paints a new picture of how singers physically navigate raga, space, and time in the course of performance. It also investigates the transmission of paramparic bodies (disciplined aesthetic/ethical modes of moving and singing) through face-to-face teaching lineages. My current ethnographic project brings these intertwined aesthetic and ethical traditions into focus. I'm investigating various traditions of voice production in India, with a special focus on their ethical powers. I am in the middle of a collaborative project with Srinivas Reddy and Lars Christiansen: a re-examination of Ramamatya's Svara-Mela-Kalanidhi in the context of the decline of Vijayanagara. Other interests include speech melody, the interface of raga and maqam in the 16th-19th centuries, devotional performance, phenomenologies of listening, birdsong, and theories of tuning and temperament that bridge arithmetic, aesthetics, and politics. I am particularly interested in music as a ground for integral dialogue between scientific and humanistic disciplines: in Jon Barlow's words, a meta-discipline. I am strongly committed to teaching and scholarship in the liberal arts tradition. I have studied and performed Hindustani vocal music (Gwalior gayaki) in India for many years. I have recently started practicing oud as well, with Essam Rafea in Damascus and Ziad Al-Ahmedieh in Beirut. I love teaching. I was inspired to be a teacher and scholar in the first place by my own generous teachers: Jon K. Barlow, Howard Bernstein, Bonnie Wade, Vasudha Dalmia, Richard Crocker, Don Willson, Ben Brinner, Eve Sweetser, Vikas Kashalkar--and of course my parents and older brother.

Research interests

  • phenomenology
  • voice
  • indian music
  • virtue ethics
  • prosody
  • raga
  • levinas


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