Stratified Story-telling: L'Orfeo meets Karnatik Singing

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Mani, Charulatha
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Singapore, Singapore


When stories are told, there is without doubt an explicit narrative being curated and shared. However, underlying this overtly told tale, there lurks another implicit one that is shared by the musicking body; this story derives from tacit cultural-semiotic encrustations and unspoken somatic challenges and boundaries. In this paper, I draw on my two decades of immersion in the traditional vocal music practice of South India, Karnatik music, and my research into 17th century singing-acting practices of Italian opera, to tell a two layered story. The first story is one that explicates the artistic processes involved in creating 'Monteverdi Reimagined, an intercultural imagination of 17th century Italian composer, and prime proponent of Opera, Claudio Monteverdi's first "fable in music," L'Orfeo.

The second story layer shall unfold in-situ, during the presentation - a dynamic shaping my embodied experiences in creating this intercultural production using gesture, bodily movements, drama, and facial expressions, the very facets of music-making that are currently devalued, specifically in the context of women performers, in the field of Karnatik music. The interface at which the exterior and interior stories meet is the "facing" that the conference shall provide, by way of an audience.

This paper proposes one way by which intercultural music-making can draw on the process-centricity that the recently burgeoning field of Artistic Research in Music affords. It also exposes the intractable truths pertaining to the female Karnatik singing body, not least the suppressing of bodily movement, sensory acknowledgement and gesture, and presents an exemplar model that could be viewed as one that challenges preconceptions and gender-based prejudices by adopting the methodological lens of what I propose as a case of "socio-culturally interrogative artistic research in music."

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Telling Stories: Performers(') Present International Artistic Research Symposium

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Drama, theatre and performance studies

Music performance

Musicology and ethnomusicology

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Mani, C, Stratified Story-telling: L'Orfeo meets Karnatik Singing, 2019 Performers(') Present International Artistic Research Symposium, 2019