‘When we connect, there is only music’: A phenomenological account of musical connectivity in sitar and tabla performance

Alejandro Cooper, Independent Scholar

Music Performance Research ISSN 1755-9219
Vol. 11, 36-57
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, July 2022
This paper explores the complex relationship between improvised musical interaction and social experience in North Indian sitar and tabla duo performance. As a phenomenological analysis, the main goal of this research is to provide a rigorous and detailed description of the experiential patterns that commonly underlie joint music-making in this genre. This is approached by focusing especially on how positive — particularly peak — musical and social experiences feel.
Qualitative data gathered through two case studies involving close collaboration with expert informants is presented and analysed in search for recurrent themes pertaining to these performers’ social experiences, particularly those experiences deemed most cohesive and enjoyable. The analysis is framed according to Høffding’s (2018) phenomenological categorization of musical absorption, and to McGuiness and Overy’s (2011) distinction between co-subjective and intersubjective states of shared subjectivity. Specifically, I consider the role of reflection and communication in promoting feelings of connectivity among performers, particularly during altered states of intense absorption.
The outcome of this analysis consists of a phenomenological model of musical connectivity which provides a broad topography of the various kinds of social experiences underlying this genre. This model can also be used — with certain adjustments — to describe the topography of social experiences in any other kind of musical ensemble, thereby allowing for comparative analyses of musical connectivity across genres.
Indian music
Joint action
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