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Williams, Richard David (2019) 'Playing the Spinal Chord: Tantric Musicology and Bengali Songs in the Nineteenth Century.' Journal of Hindu Studies, 12 (3). pp. 319-338.

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Across the nineteenth century, Bengali songbook editors applied musicological theory to their tantric religious practices. Responding to the new possibilities of musical publishing, these editors developed innovative techniques of relating the body to music by tying together tantric tropes with music theory and performance practice. Theories about the affective potential and poetic connotations of rāgas were brought into conversation with understandings of the yogic body, cakras, and the visualization of goddesses. These different theories, stemming from aesthetics and yogic philosophy, were put into effect through lyrical composition and the ways in which songs were set to music and edited for printed anthologies. This article considers different examples of tantric musical editorial, and explores how esoteric knowledge was applied in innovative ways through the medium of printed musical literature.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: tantra; nineteenth century; songs; śākta religion; North Indian music; Bengali literature
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
ISSN: 17564263
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s) 2020. This is the accepted manuscript of an article published by Oxford University Press in Journal of Hindu Studies, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2019 13:43

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