Over the past four decades, international music markets have fostered the development of an aesthetic based mainly on what Western consumers find spectacular and intriguing—often music sharing common melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic ground with familiar Western styles. Ethnomusicologists have begun increasingly to cast their studies in transnational terms—in part to take account of these emerging, globally mediated forms and their localized counterparts. Studies of globalization emphasizing neoliberalism and the transnational flow of capital have come to dominate in a newly forming academic hierarchy.
The authors of Theorizing the Local argue that the largely top-down orientation of many of these studies has the potential to marginalize and undermine the study of many traditions that do not circulate in the manner of many of today's commodities. What does it mean, they ask, for musical activities to be local in an increasingly interconnected world? What are the motivations for theoretical thought, and how are theoretical formulations instigated by the needs of performers, agents promoting regional identity, efforts to sustain or counter gender conventions, or desires to compete? To what extent can theoretical activity be localized to the very acts of making music, interacting, and composing?
Long-term ethnographic studies of regional music traditions and face-to-face interactions hold great value for communicating fundamental processes of music making that characterize regions and civilizations as well as those that extend beyond traditionally conceived borders. This book is an attempt to rethink the music of one large region, South Asia, in light of the many diverse regional practices that have now been studied for many decades by scholars across the disciplines. The authors use comparative microstudies to cross the traditional borders of scholarship and region—extending from Nepal to India, India to Sri Lanka, Pakistan to Iran—and to gain new footing for the study of South Asian musical traditions in the understanding of 21st century music of the world.