“Stereophonic Methods, Auditory Histories, and Paracolonial Time: Hindustani Music in the Indian Ocean, 1760–1860″
Room 266, Everson Hall
One of the biggest methodological challenges in writing the history of paracolonial soundworlds before the era of recorded sound is developing an ear for where sound might linger within and across radically differing archives. This challenge is compounded when one is seeking to connect archives that are multilingual, embodying multiple lineages of knowledge, and interregional, in this case dealing with the diverse cultural geographies of the eastern Indian Ocean c. 1750–1900. The texture of the official colonial records of, say, the India Office in London is utterly distinct from those of the hundreds of rich treatises on Hindustani music from this era in India’s classical and vernacular languages, which themselves embody diverse genealogies of musical thought. But in the Malay world for the same period, under the same colonial rulers, there were no written works dedicated to music at all; instead, one must trawl the entire gamut of Malay and other regional literatures for sonic references, and think laterally about how to trace audibility and performativity in language itself.
How can we use these differing colonial and paracolonial archives, and the idiosyncratic methods required to mine each one, to write cohesive, connected histories of music and sound in the eastern Indian Ocean—especially when the ephemeral object of our attention has long passed into silence? In this paper I will document the challenges and advantages of bringing varigated archives together—from both sides of the Bay of Bengal, and from colonial records and private papers to the manuscript and print cultures of the colonised—to produce an unprecedentedly stereophonic understanding of Hindustani soundworlds in the Indian Ocean c. 1760–1860. In so doing I aim to present one solution to the question of how we write histories of music and sound that take ethnomusicological method seriously.
Katherine Butler Schofield (King’s College, London) is a cultural historian and ethnomusicologist whose work focuses on South Asia. She trained as a viola player before embarking on postgraduate studies at SOAS in North Indian music, followed by a research fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and a lectureship at Leeds.