UW–Madison Course with Arun Luthra

Profile image of Arun Luthra playing the saxophoneThe Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music

Course: Music 497, Sec. 096
Day/Time: Monday and Wednesday | 4:00-5:15 pm  (both days will be synchronous)
Credits: 3 | Counts toward certificate and major requirements through Music and Center for South Asia*
Location: 2441 Humanities Building | 455 N. Park Street
Prereqs: None; no prior musical study required
Other Info: *This course counts towards the degree requirements of the B.M. in Performance (jazz studies track) and the undergraduate Center for South Asia’s certificate and Foreign Language and Area Studies.

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Description: This course will be an introduction to konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical) music discipline of vocalizing rhythms. Students will learn konnakol and explore the universality of rhythm through science, history, politics, and other disciplines. Blending konnakol with other musical traditions, particularly Black American Music, will also be examined. The course will consist of a weekly konnakol lesson/practice session and a weekly lecture/discussion. The lecture/discussion will explore rhythm’s connections to science, history, politics, etc.; and the parallels between the developments of Indian musics and Black American Music within the political, social, and economic systems of the United States, and of colonialism generally.

Readings, lecture, and discussion will also explore relevant concepts of:

  • cultural influence, racial & economic oppression, colonialism, cultural reframing, and cultural appropriation in the performance of Carnatic music;
  • the impact of colonialism on the emergence of the South Asian diaspora, and the spread of the music of the Subcontinent throughout the world;
  • and parallels with Black American Music’s development within the oppressive political, social, and economic systems of the United States, and with Black American Music’s ubiquity as a prime musical influence across the world.

Additionally, reading and class discussion will probe the concept of rhythm as a universal phenomenon which defines our world. From the frequencies of the beams of light from the sun, to the cycles of the seasons, the regular pace of our steps as we walk, and the steady vibrations of air molecules which produce the pitches used in music, rhythm gives our world form and structure. Students will present works that incorporate konnakol concepts into creative projects ranging from music to poetry, prose, dance, scholarly papers, and beyond.

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If you have any questions about the course, please contact iarp@arts.wisc.edu.