ISSN 2158-5296
AAWM JOURNAL VOL. 4 NO. 1 (2015)
Meaningful Adjustments:
Musical Performance and Ritual Action in a South Indian Temple

William Tallotte

In this article, I analyze music and context as two interconnected parts. I examine musical performance and ritual action in a South Indian temple, focusing on the spatial, temporal and structural relationship between the music of an outdoor ensemble of shawm and drum players, the periya mēḷam, and the activities carried out by priests during the last daily worship performed in the Śaiva temple complex of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. The analysis, based on interviews, observations, and recorded performances of the same piece during the same ritual sequence, raises questions about the coordination of musical and ritual times, the performance process and the nature of musicians’ knowledge, and the significance of music to cultural knowledge in the context of Hindu ritual. Overall, I show that musical analysis, when carefully situated, may help us to understand music as a meaningful manifestation of human experience.

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Contributor Information:
William Tallotte is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

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