Gesture in Musical Declamation

An Intercultural Approach

This paper draws parallels between gesture in South Indian Carnatic singing practice, and rhetorical gesture used by orators and singers in 16th and 17th century Early Modern Europe. The paper begins by referencing relevant historical literature on the performance practices. In doing so, it identifies declamation in music as an ideal musical framework for gestured performance. The paper then practically addresses the role of gesture in present cross-cultural music performance practice using an artistic project, conceptualized and implemented by the author. The author proposes that performances of textually driven, dramatically intensive musical forms, such as the Carnatic Viruttam and Early Opera, would benefit from referencing gestures from a constellation of the experientially known and the historically acquired. The research also invites a consideration of pertinent issues on gesture and women performers in the context of Carnatic music.

Journal Musicologist
Year 2017
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 6-31

Mani, Charulatha (2017) Gesture in Musical Declamation: An Intercultural Approach . In: Musicologist: International Journal of Music Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 6-31. Available at



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