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Vortrag: “The Voice in the Drum,” Creative Non-Fiction, and Ethnomusicology

Am Montag, den 19. Mai 2014 spricht Herr Prof. Dr. Richard Wolf, Havard University, über das Thema: “The Voice in the Drum,” Creative Non-Fiction, and Ethnomusicology

19.05.2014 um 18:00 Uhr

Prof. Dr. Richard Wolf, Harvard University

“The Voice in the Drum,” Creative Non-Fiction, and Ethnomusicology

Many kinds of act we recognize as performative mediate and help constitute religious experiences all over the world.  This presentation, based on my fieldwork in India and Pakistan over a 28 month period in late 1996 and on shorter visits extending into the mid and late 2000s, concerns the experiences of drummers, dancers, and other participants at a Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan. It is a adapted from my forthcoming book, The Voice in the Drum: Music, language, and emotion in Islamicate South Asia, a hybrid piece of creative and analytic writing in the form of a novel. Religious communities all over the world transmit both moral lessons and the emotional tones of their faith through storytelling.  In both kinds of storytelling, mine and theirs, the listener may face challenges regarding the status of what they hear as being “real.”  We all know that deep truths can be couched in forms that are not literally true.  While it may be a stretch to claim that a story printed on a page is a performance, any written distillation of an event’s complexity, like an exciting performance, has the potential to stimulate the reader’s imagination.  It may have an aesthetic effect—an indeterminate emotional message—as well as a logocentric one.

The Voice in the Drum is set in the decades following the Partition of India in 1947.  Its larger story focuses on the family of Sunni raja Ahmed Ali Khan, the ruler of a minor principality outside Lucknow, North India.  Ahmed Ali revels in the glories of 19th century Avadh.  He regales his family with rose-tinted stories of Shiahs and Sunnis, Hindus and Muslims, joining together in grand royal processions and other affairs of cultural and artistic merit.  His son Muharram Ali, second son of Ahmad Ali’s fourth wife, a Shiah, is a keen observer of human behavior, deeply interested in music, and a romantic torchbearer of his father’s liberal ideology.  A journalist, Muharram Ali scours the subcontinent in pursuit of a musical obsession related to his own biography. Rather like his father, he holds naive hopes that the aesthetic force of music may help dissolve religious and political barriers.  The book’s plot charts the breakdown of this naiveté.


Richard Wof ist Professor für Musikethnologie an der Harvard University. Von Mai bis Juli wird er als Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Forschungspreisträger an unserem Institut forschen.


Wann?     Montag, 19. Mai 2014, 18:00 - 19:00 Uhr
Wo?         Institut für Ethnologie, Oettingenstraße 67, 80538 München
                Raum L155 Lageplan