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Forging a More Perfect Union: A Journey from Exoticism to Intercultural Synthesis of Indian and Western Art Music through Works for Violin


While interculturality between East Asian and Western classical music has been explored extensively, little attention has been focused on the potential for interculturality between South Asian classical and Western classical traditions. I begin by assessing musical and extra-musical barriers to the achievement of this interculturality. My research then focuses on two composers, Walter Kaufmann (1907-1984) and Shirish Korde (b. 1945), whose distinct attitudes toward interculturality offer a valuable roadmap. While Kaufmann’s approach showcases an imaginative saturation of South Asian raaga within Western genres and forms, Korde engages with South Asian music in a more holistic manner, drawing on varied facets of raaga along with South Asian classical genres, forms, and aesthetics, to create a unique synthesis (following Dr. Yayoi Everett’s classification terminology) of South Asian and Western art music. Although Kaufmann worked for All-India Radio and wrote two acclaimed ethnomusicological textbooks on South Asian music, his study of Indian music was at times gently paternalistic, leading in some of his compositions to classic Orientalist tropes. With this backdrop, I elaborate on the evolution of Indian and Western musical interculturality since the British Raj through an exploration of Kaufmann’s Violin Sonata No. 4 (1940) and Korde’s Vak for Solo Violin and Taanpoora (2017).

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