Remixing the Ramayana: Literary Listening and the Curation of Contemporary Song Cycles

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Abstract

Listening is enhanced by a sense of purpose. Over almost twenty years, the author created annual compilations of music encountered during that year. These playlists were circulated as both journals and introductions to new music. In recent years, the ‘playlist’ evolved into a ‘song cycle’, in which collected samples are arranged or manipulated into reinterpretations of well-established literary narratives (including Valmiki’s Ramayana and Dante’s Divine Comedy). These have demonstrated that the literary epic narrative remains a valuable vehicle for collecting, isolating and re-purposing the audible ‘found objects’ of the Anthropocene, as well as guiding long-term reflective listening practices. As an extension of remix cultures, these contemporary song cycles are incidentally encountered and collaboratively sourced across a long-term research process. They enable the listener to form vivid and idiosyncratic engagements with the creative depth of the humanities. Just as “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”, the epic Ramayana echoes along the aisles of supermarkets, the soundtracks of video games, and down the cavernous labyrinths of YouTube.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalFusion Journal
Volume019
Issue numberMarch 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2021

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