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Widdess, Richard (2015) 'Pulling chariots, singing songs: Musical structure, performance and cultural meaning in a dāphā song from Nepal.' Cultural Musicology iZine [Online].

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How does music embody cultural meaning? What is the cultural significance of musical structure? How is music linked with other domains of human behaviour, meaning and experience in oral cultures? An approach to these questions might be based on the concept of schema as used in cognitive psychology (Bartlett 1932, Neisser 1976, Mandler 1984 etc.), cognitive anthropology (D’Andrade 1995, Shore 1996, Bloch 1998, 2012) and music cognition (Rosner and Meyer 1982, Gjerdingen 1988, 2007, Byros 2012). The term refers to an array of cognitive categories in a flexible relationship, which is acquired in memory through repeated experience and deployed in everyday life. Music employs highly specialised schemas that generate expectations (Huron 2006); they may be especially significant in orally transmitted music where the role of memory is paramount (cf Rubin 1995). Schemas can also carry meanings, explicit or implicit, and may re-appear in different, apparently unrelated cultural domains: such “foundational schemas” (Shore 1996) can link music, psychological experience, and other domains of culture – social, religious, architectural etc. (Widdess 2012, Lewis 2013). To illustrate this approach I here analyse one example of a dāphā song, showing how its schematic structure can be related to schemas in other cultural domains. Dāphā is a tradition of sacred singing performed in the city of Bhaktapur, in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Widdess 2013). It is performed by neighbourhood groups of male singers of the farmer castes (Ill. 1, p. 11), who belong to the Newar ethnic group. Their music is transmitted orally, and its performance is deeply embedded in local social and religious culture.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: cultural musicology; Newar music; cognition; schema
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Music
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2016 16:06

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