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Gesture and melody in Indian vocal music

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The gestures that accompany improvisation in Indian vocal music, like the gestures that accompany speech, are closely co-ordinated with vocalization. Though linked to what is being sung, these movements are not determined by vocal action; nor are they taught explicitly, deliberately rehearsed, or tied to specific meanings. Students tend to gesture recognizably like their teachers, producing lineage-based gesture dialects, but the gestural repertoire of every vocalist is nonetheless idiosyncratic. This paper aims to trace a brief history of song gesture in India, and to show some of the links between gesture and vocalization. It also adapts Katharine Young's theory of the "family body" to the transmission of gesture dialects through teaching lineages. Gesture and sound are taken to be parallel channels for the expression of melody.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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