Dec. 11, 2012 by David Low
In Musicking Bodies: Gesture and Voice in Hindistani Music (Wesleyan University Press), Matthew Rahaim ’00 studies the role of the body in Indian vocal music. Indian vocalists have long traced intricate shapes with their hands while improvising melody. Although every vocalist has an idiosyncratic gestural style, students inherit ways of shaping melodic space from their teachers, and the motion of the hand and voice are always intimately connected.
Musicking Bodies is among the first extended studies of the relationship between gesture and melody. Rahaim draws on years of vocal training, ethnography, and close analysis to examine the ways in which hand gesture is used alongside vocalization to manifest melody as dynamic, three-dimensional shapes. The book builds on insights of phenomenology, Indian and Western music theory, and cultural studies to illuminate not only the performance of gesture, but its implications for the transmission of culture, the conception of melody, and the very nature of the musicking body. Several helpful illustrations and photographs have been included in the publication.
Rahaim is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota. He was a music major at Wesleyan and received his MA and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.