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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘The Construct of Classicism: Carnatic music and the critical regime’ , 17th March, 2015.

‘The Construct of Classicism: Carnatic music and the critical regime’


Prof. R. Nandakumar,


Aesthetic notions, popular assumptions and shared attitudes surrounding Indian classical music (in the present case, Carnatic) that are part of the dominant discourse are largely the fallout of the Orientalist baggage that later became a convenient gloss to the reformist rhetoric in the 19th century. The values and ideals championed by the reformers of Indian (Carnatic) classical music generated a new sensibility and consolidated a new listening public for whom these notions and assumptions fed into a discourse of musical aesthetics that was predicated on an idea of classicism as a cultural absolute that for self-definition has to be pitted against its binary – the popular. The talk would go to argue that such sanctimonious notions about some ultimate musical aesthetics as expressed through canons of taste are neither value-free nor culture-neutral and are located within the institutional agency of aesthetic legitimacy.


Prof. R. Nandakumar is an art historian who has a major interest in cultural musicology on which is focused his current research project under the Senior Nehru fellowship. He has taught art history and aesthetics in various Fine Arts colleges. He has been a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His writings address areas of intercultural concern from the perspective of the sociology of culture.

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