Kepler Salon
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Lectures / 03/05/2009 10:00 am

Art and Science?
Programmbild Kunst und Wissenschaft?

The City as a Musical Score. Music in the urban context and the rituals of the Newars in the Kathmandu valley

The “Masterdrummers of Nepal”, eight musicians who will be taking part in the Linz09 project “Parade”, belong to the Newars, a people who flourished between the 13th and the 18th centuries before the Kathman¬du valley was conquered by an ancestor of the recently deposed Nepal¬ese king. They built the architecturally remarkable cities Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
Many musicians organized into different castes take part in the musical life of the Newars, whose rhythms are dictated by the lunar calendar, the annual cycle and by the great events in the lives of individuals. This musical life finds its expression in many urban rituals that include processions and musical performances at temples and shrines. All music making is part of the cult of the God of Music, Nasahdyah. Musical apprenticeships are punctuated by bloody sacrifices offered up to the god. The sacrificial animals are stolen by the pupils and are served up at a festive meal which is eaten in the company of the teacher. The musicians perform musical invocations of the gods and do so as they walk past shrines, temples, entrance holes in walls, and cobblestones in the street that are charged with special significance; by doing so they reaffirm in everybody’s hearing the spiritual power of these gods. In this way urban space becomes a musical score and reminds the musicians of the rhythms that are expected of them in specific places. The Newar cities are based on an ideal blueprint in the shape of a mandala. This mandala arranges all the major gods in concentric circles and comes to life in the processions that are a main feature of these urban rituals. The musicians mediate between the human and the divine worlds.


  • Levy, Robert I.: Mesocosm. Delhi 1992: Motilal Banarsidass
  • Gutschow, Niels: Stadtraum und Ritual der newarischen Städte im Kathmandu-Tal. Stuttgart 1982: Kohlhammer


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03/05/2009 10:00 am
Lecturer: Gert-Matthias Wegner
Host: Tamara Schwarzmayr


Programmbild Kunst und Wissenschaft?