Past Event

Eben Graves, “The Politics of Musical Time- Expanding Songs and Shrinking Markets in Bengali Devotional Performance”

December 8, 2017
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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701C Dodge Hall (Center for Ethnomusicology), Columbia University

On Friday, December 8 at 4PM, Eben Graves will deliver a talk, “The Politics of Musical Time: Expanding Songs and Shrinking Markets in Bengali Devotional Performance." This will be a joint presentation of the Center for Ethnomusicology and the Historical Musicology & Music Theory Colloquium Series. 


For centuries, performances of devotional song in eastern India have used temporal features of musical style to express ideas about religious affect and political belonging. A feature of musical time prominent in padavali kirtan,a medium of song and storytelling from the Bengal region, is the use of an expansive musical style that elongates short song texts into long-song forms. The slow tempos and large meters used in performance illustrate connections between musical style and the processes of devotional meditation central to devotional practice in Bengal since the sixteenth century. While musicians attempt to reinforce these links in the present, features of modern time organization have introduced temporal conflicts that challenge the completion of full-length song renditions. This talk examines how musicians work to reinforce the connections between devotional practice and musical time that are strained in the performance contexts of contemporary India, as I focus on how features of musical time are negotiated in live performance and media production.


Eben Graves is a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Music at Columbia University. He earned a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 with a dissertation studying padavali kirtan. His articles appear or are forthcoming in Ethnomusicology, the Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford Bibliographies Online, and the Journal of Vaishnava Studies.