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Session 1: ‘Extended Gesture’

Dr Alice Barron (Violinist-researcher, Lecturer in Music, University of
Experiencing the Karnatic Violin

This presentation follows my story as a London-based violinist learning to play Karnatic (South Indian) classical violin, illustrated with examples on the violin. I examine how the craft of the violin, specifically in the hands, relates to the social and cultural context of the Karnatic classical musical tradition. In particular, I find the ways in which the left hand negotiates the instrument in Karnatic playing both fascinating and challenging. While the instrument is the same as the European violin, the music requires an array of elaborate left hand movements to implement the gamakas (ornaments or embellishments) that place demands beyond those present in Western classical violin playing.

My story addresses material differences and personal experiences that arose in my Karnatic violin lessons with the Mysore Brothers; namely, a new way of using the left hand for creating Karnatic gamakas and potential pathways for developing a re- constructed relationship between the hand and the violin. I end with my reflections from an intercultural concert in London where the embodied knowledge of both my Karnatic and Western training became more apparent in an improvised setting on stage with other performers.

Professor Shelagh Vainker (Curator of Chinese Art at the Ashmolean and Associate Professor of Chinese Art in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford)

Gesture and Movement in Chinese Calligraphy

Calligraphy in China has been practised as an expressive act since around CE300, while its origins in literacy and associations with educational success mean that it has been at once highly formal – with prescribed posture for holding the brush – and extravagantly gestural. This talk will present some examples from different moments in calligraphy’s long history to consider the role of body and movement in the creation of China’s most consistently valued form of art and communication.

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