Ethnomusicology Final Post

Project Summary:
I will be traveling on a ethnomusicological research trip to the region of northern India for a month and a week to document the process of building several types of traditional instruments, and to record as many examples of these instruments being played in both large and small ensembles. My focus will be on the well-known tradition of Hindustani Classical Music and the lesser known folk music traditions of north India. My work will be presented in an research article and through series of educational lectures back in the States.

Purpose of Trip:
This will be an entirely non-profit, educationally motivated research trip. My goal is to gather information which will enable me to present a historical and chronological study of where and how traditional instruments of this region are made, and then to show their use and present recordings of their sonic qualities in contrasting big city, large ensembles, and more obscure folk settings in the countrysides. This will both complement the substantial research and attention that this region has received, while also bringing a new look to the importance of the traditions and craftsmanship of the instrument makes, and how important they are to the sonic qualities of the music that is the end result of the process. I hope my work can be used as an academic ethnomusicological resource for years to come.

Background & Goals:
Nadaswaram Classical Instrument Workshop in Narasingapettai
This project is not intended to explore every aspect of two very complex musical traditions. This would be an impossible task given a lifetime, let alone a little over a month. In a sense, this trip will be an exploration in ‘micro-ethnomusicology’. What I mean is that I want my work in the region to explore the finest of details of the qualities and timbers of some of the most fascinating and striking musical instruments on the planet. I also want to look into the small details of everyday life in India, and how these things affect the emotional content and character of the music. I want to make these connections through the theme of instrument construction and through both professional and folk musicians. The motivation for this considerable task come from a passion I have for these mysterious and beautiful sounds. I am a novice when it comes to Indian classical music, and now even less about north Indian folk traditions, but I was an instant convert to the allure of the musics when a chance encounter led me to a drum workshop with one of the finest tabla players alive, Zakir Hussain. Listening to Mr. Hussain talk about the differences between Eastern and Western musics fascinated me and instantly expanded my perception of what music is and could be! Once he began playing, my life was changed forever. Below is a clip of Mr. Hussain at work:

I love the dark booming timber of the bass in his tabla, and how it is contrasted by the bright, reflective, and very tonal opposite end of the spectrum. The drumming is quite literally a language in itself, and a beautiful one at that. What creates these unique characteristics in an instrument such as this? How has this sound evolved in unison with the evolution of the peoples of this region and the people of the Earth? These are the kinds of questions I want to explore on my trip.

Project Details:

Trip Itinerary: I will be leaving Seattle, Washington on new years day 2015 for Jaipur, India. I will travel by train to New Dehli on January 13th. During my time in New Delhi, I will be purchasing an off road motorcycle which will travel with my via train on January 24th to the region of Binsar Valley. I will explore several villages in the region traveling by motorbike before returning to New Delhi on January 5th, and catching a plane back to Seattle on February 7th. All-in-all, the trip will take 37 days.

Accommodations: In Jaipur I have made arrangements to stay at the Umaid Residency Hotel for 12 nights at Rs. 1300 per night (about $18). In New Delhi I will be staying at the Yuvraj Deluxe Hotel for 12 nights at Rs. 1400 per night (about $22). My accommodations in the countryside is being intentionally kept somewhat open to allow me to travel freely based on information I receive from locals, but I have arranged for a two night stay in Binsar at
Mohan’s Binsar Retreat, which will cost $126 for the total stay. Much of my stay in the rural areas will be backpacking/camping.

I have again purposely balanced this aspect of the trip with some structured guide work, and some more free-form portions of time with the intent to force myself to get ‘off the beaten path’ and to communicate on my own with locals. In both Jaipur and New Delhi I have come up with a creative solution for guides and translators in that I have made arrangements to use local english speaking music instructors to guide me on a musical journey throughout their respective cities. In Jaipur I will be working with a traditional hindustani classical flute instructor named Sandeep Soni. We have arranged a half-day rate of $50 and a day rate of $75 for Mr. Soni’s services as a guide and translator. I hope to use his connections as a local performer to lead to some other excellent people and resources. In New Dheli I have contacted a multi-instrumentalist, Manoranjan Bal, to work with as a guide. Mr. Bal was chosen specifically due to his connections with Sanjay Rikhi Ram, who owns and operates one of New Delhi’s premier instrument making shops, the Rikhi Ram Music Store. Mr. Bal has arranged for half days only, at a rate of $40 per day. I will work without a translator in the rural areas I travel to, though will have a budget to find assistance as need and opportunity presents.

Musician Compensation:
Jayanthi Kumaresh 3Due to the educational purposes for this trip, and due to the fact that none of the music I record will be ever released in any commercial form, I hope that much of the music I record is done so with the musicians donating their music for these purposes. However, in cases where I am asking musicians to donate their time specifically to my cause, I will compensate them based on a fair hourly rate I arrange with my guides, and based on location and demand. In rural locations I will cary a translated written explanation of my goals and purposes, and once again I will be willing to compensate those who require it.

Equipment: For recording I will be working with a simple hand held digital recorder (the TASCAM DR-100mkII). I will also be brining a matched pair of small condenser microphones (Cascade M39’s) for more detailed or quality recording applications. I will have my MacBook laptop and an additional hard drive to back up and in some cases field edit the audio I record. I will have a few sets of backup batteries and a recharger kit for the recorder. For photo and video documentation I will be using a Canon Power Shot SX170 IS point-and-shoot digital camera. I am purposely keeping my equipment to a minimum to better fit the logistics of the travel and accommodations.

Crew: Besides my afore mentioned guides which will assist me during certain parts of this trip, the project will not have any additional crew besides myself.


Travel: Flights: $1848.00, Trains: $94.00, Motorcycle Budget: $450.00, Miscellaneous Travel Budget: $75.00

Accommodations: Total Hotel: $606.00, Miscellaneous Accommodation Budget: $350.00

Language/Translation/Guides: Total Pre-Arranged Costs: $575.00, Budget for Additional Guides: $350.00

Equipment: Total Pre-Trip Equipment Costs: $467.00, Budget for Replacements or Repair: $200.00

Musician Compensation Budget: $275.00

Food Budget: $400.00

Travel Insurance: $148.00


This trip will be documented and presented in two ways. I will write an article which will be intended as a scholarly educational document that can be used freely by students or professionals in the field for further research. A companion disc will also be included with my article to give the work further context. In addition, the information I collect, including photos and audio, will be presented at a minimum of two lectures upon my return to Washington. In keeping with the goals and guidelines of this project, the lectures will typically take place on university campuses and open to members of the institutions and, in some cases, to the greater general public. My time for this lecture series will be donated and no compensation will be received. I hope to arrange lectures sometime in April, 2015 at the Art Institute of Seattle and the University of Washington.

Thanks for reading my trip proposal, and for your consideration. I know this trip can provide a valuable addition to the collection of ethnomusicological research focused on this spectacular region.

Chris Stefanile


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