About wvdm

Wim is a cultural musicologist. What? Yes, a CULTURAL musicologist! What do musicologists do anyway? Frankly no idea, I'm retired and I do what I want. When I was young I did what my mother told me to. The rest is vague. And what is culture? Everything we learned somehow. More: Press MOI in the top menu.

South Asian Cultural Musicology

[...] Norman was doing his doctorate at Columbia in Cultural Musicology, a newly defined academic field that boiled down to historical social analysis from the vantage point of music. It is possible that Norman was the only cultural musicologist in the country, the area per se being definitely an intellectual frontier, formally speaking, although certainly there had been forerunners, musicologists of the old school and music historians who here and there blundered unsystematically into the insights Norman was attempting to organize single-handedly into arrestingly original world view with real [...]

South Asian Cultural Musicology2023-04-02T08:46:14+02:00

Tonal structure in Indian music 1

An x-ray of two raga-s: Darbari Kanada and Jaunpuri Colonial musicology and its language The colonial heritage of musicological thinking starts from language. English became the dominant world language, American its neocolonial pendant. The choice of language inevitably brings along a mindset that derives from the culture to which that language belongs. The English musicological vocabulary is both inadequate and confusing when speaking of other musics. Speaking of Indian music for instance, there simply is no word in English for raga. On the other hand the concepts of [...]

Tonal structure in Indian music 12023-02-15T09:13:16+02:00

Improvisation versus Reproduction

Abstract India has been particularly resistant to the infiltration of Western culture. Conversion to Christianity has been quite ineffective, and many other Western ideas, values and institutions have only been appropriated to a limited extent. Music is no exception and over the past centuries a controversy has arisen about the superiority of Indian versus Western music. Indian musicians and musicologists have championed improvised music as part of a living oral tradition, whereas Western music has been derided as a dead tradition of replicating written scores. This discourse may be [...]

Improvisation versus Reproduction2021-12-26T10:07:05+02:00

The AUTRIM Project, Music in Motion

Back in the 1980's the team of the Indian Society for Traditional Arts Research (ISTAR) started work on computer assisted research of Hindustani classical music. It was the engineer and computer scientist Bernard Bel who created a laboratory at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai with the support of the same institution and the Ford Foundation. Apart from Bernard the team included Joep Bor (botanist and sarangi player), Jim Arnold (musicologist and dhrupad singer) and Wim van der Meer (anthropologist and khayal singer). Joep, Jim [...]

The AUTRIM Project, Music in Motion2021-07-28T05:58:55+02:00

Microtonality in Indian Music: Myth or Reality

by Suvarnalata Rao and Wim van der Meer Paper presented at FRSM Gwalior 2009 Abstract Microtonality (shruti) is regarded as an essential and core aspect of the raga performance in Indian art music. In fact, musicians invariably refer to and rely on specific intonations as an identifying feature for certain ragas, like the komal Gandhar (flat third) in raga Darbari. 
In this paper an attempt is made to ascertain the validity of this assumption with an empirical case study of intonation of komal Dha (flat sixth) in five different ragas, [...]

Microtonality in Indian Music: Myth or Reality2021-06-06T07:35:40+02:00

Shruti and Svara

Shruti is a sacred revelation, that which is heard, heard by the sages who passed on this knowledge to their disciples and the people in general. Much later, this manifestation in sound was committed to writing. In the Indian tradition this written form is not really reliable, much is missing from it. Nicholas Cook remarked that "the score conceals as much as it reveals"Cook, 81 and this can be applied to that idea of shruti, the full monty comes only in the oral tradition. Leo Treitler challenges the reliability [...]

Shruti and Svara2021-06-08T08:41:14+02:00

Works and Ragas

The key concept of Indian music is the raga. The European tradition doesn't have ragas, but somewhat similar is the work1 or piece. With European tradition I mean the type of music we generally call "classical music". It doesn't include popular music which also has a somewhat similar concept that we call song. The Indian music that is raga-based is also generally referred to as "classical", a concept borrowed from the European tradition. In India it takes two main variants: Hindustani in the North and Carnatic in [...]

Works and Ragas2021-06-07T08:33:47+02:00

Kishori Amonkar interview 2011

Kishori Amonkar on culture Times of India SATURDAY, JAN 15 2011 page 23 MUSIC, RHYTHM & RAGA HARKIRAN SINGH BHASIN NAMITA DEVIDAYAL Kishori Amonkar, the irascible diva who has just received the NCPA Lifetime Award, talks about her love for Maugham and her complex relationship with her mom, Mogubai. I grew up to Kishori Amonkar's voice. Every time my mother placed the Thorens needle on the long playing record, and the crackling gave way to the slow cadences of Sahela Re in raga Bhoop, I suspect the ferns [...]

Kishori Amonkar interview 20112021-05-23T10:44:09+02:00

Discretisation, Perfection, Standardisation and other Miseries

Holland (Nederland) is famous for its cheese. Nonsense. There is hardly any dutch cheese worthy of the name. Well, that is, if we are talking about typical dutch cheeses, because there are some very nice blue, red and white cheeses made there by enthusiasts. Typical dutch cheese like Gouda and Edam, or its farmhouse biological versions made with unpasteurised milk used to be highly diverse from one to the other. Sometimes they would be very pungent, with a strong smell of cows, stables, pastures, and the like. And they could [...]

Discretisation, Perfection, Standardisation and other Miseries2020-06-22T18:39:55+02:00


"There is too much noise", my guru Pandit Dilip Chandra Vedi said on his deathbed. And it only got worse over the past decades. People buy machines for doing things and then they have to put those machines to work. Grass mowers, hole drillers, electric saws, hedge trimmers. They love noise. Ghetto blasters and car-radios with power woofers. There is too much mindlessness. People do things before they think about it. They say things before they think about it. They don't think. They are mindless, most of the time. Perhaps [...]

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