Graduate Music Colloquium: Garrett Field—“Rethinking Rāga in Free Rhythm: Karnatak Ālāpana and Eloquent Writing” [New Date and Location]

Thursday, October 5, 2023 at 4:30pm
Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, Room 003 (Daltry Room), 60 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown


Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology/Musicology at Ohio University Garrett Field MA ’08, PhD ’13 examines the playing of South Indian Karnatak mandolinist U. Srinivas (1969–2014) to offer a clearer view of the interesting musical processes that occur during improvisational performances. This event is part of the 47th annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan.

The patterns of notes used as a basis for improvisation in South Indian Karnatak music are called rāga. The free-rhythmic melodic improvisation of rāga is known as ālāpana, and it is common to consider ālāpana as “musical speech.” Yet Field argues that ālāpana is less like an unscripted, off-the-cuff speech, and more like the eloquent writing of a speechwriter. Field more specifically contends that three underlying principles of ālāpana are coherence (the creation of sections to produce a portrait of the improvisation’s structure), cohesion (the musical ways that phrases within the sections are tied together), and rhetorical climax. Field seeks to bear out his argument through the analysis of these principles in four ālāpana performed by Srinivas.

Field is the author of Modernizing Composition: Sinhala Song, Poetry, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Sri Lanka (University of California Press, 2017). He has published research articles in Modern Asian Studies, Anthropological Linguistics, Analytical Approaches to World Music, and The Journal of Asian Studies. He has received support for his research from the Fulbright-Hays Award, Ohio University’s Baker Fund Award, and two Sinhala Language Instruction Grants from the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies. Field is a performer of South Indian classical music and leads the Ohio University Indian Music Ensemble. His teachers were Adjunct Associate Professor of Music B. Balasubrahmaniyan, Adjunct Associate Professor of Music David Nelson PhD ’91, and Kalpana Venkat.