International Council for Traditional Music

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Innaugural meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Music and Allied Arts of Greater South Asia

On March 4-6, 2016, Richard K. Wolf hosted a conference on the music of South, Central and West Asia at Harvard University with the intent of sharing work among researchers working in and beyond the bounds of South Asia and creating an ICTM study group. The conference was successful in attracting a wide range of topics and scholars with a variety of theoretical orientations and at varying stages of their careers.

The conference was organized by a program committee consisting of Richard Wolf (chair), Anna Schultz, Natalie Sarrazin, Peter Kvetko and Robbie Beahrs.  A call for papers yielded excellent presentations to fill three simultaneous panels over three days, from 4 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The conference featured a performance on dutar, tanbur and sato by Sirojiddin Juraev, one of the finest instrumentalist in Central Asia today.  Juraev is in residence at Harvard as a Fulbright scholar.

Sirojiddin Juraev performing on the sato in Tsai Auditorium March 5, 2016

The following were last minute changes to the schedule of events and abstracts attached to this post: The scholar-performer Francesca Cassio fell ill and was not able to perform the concert on Friday March 4th.  In her place were Warren Senders (khyal, vocal), George Ruckert (harmonium), and Christopher Pereji (tabla).  Anaar Desai-Stephens also fell ill, so Francesca and her accompanists filled Anaar’s slot, Sunday 3:15-3:50 p.m., wth a lecture demonstration. 

Francesca Cassio, vocal; Parminder Singh Bhamra, jori-pakhawaj; Nirvair Kaur Khalsa, taus

All of the other participants presented the papers that they had proposed.  The format was 25 minutes’ presentation and 10 minutes’ questions.  Four panels were submitted as such, while the remainder of the papers were submitted individually and organized into panels of 2, 3 and 4.  Two film showings were followed by discussion. 

Stephen Blum, an expert in the music of Iran and Central Asia, requested that Richard Wolf act as a respondent for the keynote so as to bring South Asia more fully into the fold of that lecture.  He spoke for 45 minutes, Wolf spoke for 15, and the group held a fruitful discussion for approximately 45 minutes (keynote and response are attached).  The two concerts were approximately 90 minutes long and recorded professionally.  Both concerts were of the highest caliber and received with considerable enthusiasm.  The entire conference and the concerts were free and open to the public, so it is not possible to give a precise figure for the number of attendees, however in sum there were roughly 100 participants and viewers.  The number of official participants was 63 and number of registered attendees was 69.  Participants paid for their own travel and accommodation, registered, and were provided with name badges and registration packets, two catered lunches and a dinner, as well as coffee, snacks, and light breakfasts.  The performers and keynote speaker were invited and provided compensation.

The panel chairs were volunteers including Harvard professors of Anthropology, South Asian Studies, and at the Divinity School, as well as scholars and performers of the area. International participants and attendees included those from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, The Netherlands, Canada and the UK, and US participants included those traveling from the east coast, midwest, southwest, and west coast. All the participants expressed enthusiam about the meeting and agreed that holding future meetings involving collaborations between South Asian music specialists and those of other regions and theoretical orientations would be desirable.  The participants hope to hold meetings in greater South Asia whenever possible.

In the business meeting, the following individuals were voted in to act as officers: Richard K. Wolf, Chair; Brita Heimarck, Co-chair; Natalie Sarrazin, Secretary.  There is one tentative offer to host the meeting again in 2018 in Boston but are looking for other locales and there is a provisional plan to meet in Berlin in 2020 at the Ethnological Museum, with local arrangements chaired by Lars-Christan Koch.  Because this conference required attendees to pay their own way, it was not possible for many South Asians to attend this year.  We recognize that in other years, if meetings are held in Europe or India for instance, many of our American members may find it difficult to attend.  These are the benefits and drawbacks of an international society and we are aware that we must cope with these issues.  Because none of the participants from Greater South Asia participated in the business meeting, it was not possible or practical to elect any of them as officers.  At our next meeting we will establish by-laws concerning the processes for election and term limits of officers.  In this meeting, we wished only to establish the basic structure.

By vote the attendees agreed on the following name for the ICTM study group:

“ICTM Study Group on Music and Allied Arts of Greater South Asia.”

There was disagreement about whether “sound” should also be listed in the title and, feeling that the title was long enough already, the group compromised by representing their interests in sound in the mission statement.  Allied Arts is explicitly meant to include dance and movement, as well as such arts as iconography and visual components to musical performance.