Mountainous sound spaces: listening to history and music in the Uttarakhand Himalayas

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This book provides a perspective on cultural practice in the Himalayas that engages directly with the sonic world of musical production, thus emphasizing how the invisible world of sound is critical to shaping imagined histories, creating mythologized heroes and amplifying the stories of mountains and people.

Together, Garhwal and Kumaun comprise the present-day Indian state of Uttarakhand, a state with unique histories associated with Hindu mythology, immigrant communities from western India, Gorkha conquest, British colonialism and modern-day India. The book situates the reader within the history and geography of Garhwal and provides general information on a selection of instruments and sound structures. The reader is introduced to Garhwal’s aristocratic and colonial past as well as to the region’s folklore. The music of bagpipes echoes a colonial past by blending British regimental histories with contemporary folk traditions. Drum and trumpet ensembles echo the martial traditions of Rajputs and Mughals and confirm migratory histories between the mountains and the plains. Flutes echo the supernatural world of sprites and gods and become a potent symbol of dangerous love.

The book also uses a variety of theoretical models to explore the ways in which music is described and explained in academic literature and mystic traditions. The nature of sound as well as its relationship to language is re-examined in the context of the Himalayas. It provides the reader with a framework for understanding how music is created and how repertoire is organized. In addition, it moves the reader between the worlds of epic performance and contemporary practice giving a sense for disparate sites of musical production and performance.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew Delhi, India
PublisherFoundation Books
Number of pages198
ISBN (Print)9789382993322
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Music--Himalaya Mountains Region
  • Himalaya Mountains Region--Description and travel
  • Himalaya Mountains Region--History
  • Himalaya Mountains Region--Social life and customs


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