Associate Professor: Musicology/Ethnomusicology
Affiliate Faculty: Asian Literatures, Cultures and Media, Religious Studies, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature
Matt Rahaim specializes in Indian music. His book, Musicking Bodies: Gesture and Voice in Hindustani Music, investigates the tacit bodily disciplines passed down through generations of Hindustani vocalists. It maps a discursive history of gesture, analyzes the parallel expression of melody in hand and voice, and paints a new picture of how singers physically navigate raga, space, and time in the course of performance.
His current ethnographic project (tentatively called Voice Cultures: Indian Traditions of Resounding Virtue) investigates various traditions of voice production in India. In this project, he works not only with classical vocalists, but also with singers of Sufi ritual music, devotional bhajans, and the cluster of cosmopolitan musics often called "Western"--all with an eye toward training, practice and dynamic striving rather than fixed generic or regional categories.
At the U of M, Matt teaches the undergraduate courses World Music (which focuses on several traditions of Terran music) and Music, Society, and Cultures (which teaches how to write about performance and ethics across musical worlds). He also teaches a range of seminars that are open to graduate and undergraduate students: Sonic Ecology; Indian Music History; Ethnography and Performance; and What do Voices Do?: Mode, Timbre, Gesture, Ethos. In addition, Matt teaches a summer Indian vocal music intensive class which is open to all. Students in all of these courses sing.
Past projects have dealt with models of evolution, the performance of piety, Indian music theory, and the history of the harmonium. Other research and teaching interests include comparative voice production, the anthropology of ethics, Middle Eastern music, early Gregorian chant notation, musical metaphysics, the politics of tuning systems, rhythmic tendencies in raga, medical ethnomusicology, the performance of speech, the interface of raga and maqam in the 16th-19th centuries, devotional performance, phenomenologies of listening, birdsong, and theories of tuning and temperament that bridge arithmetic, aesthetics, and politics.
His research and review articles have appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies, World of Music, Asian Music, Yearbook for Traditional Music, Gesture, and New Perspectives on Music and Gesture. He also is the author of the article "Music" in the Brill Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Before coming to the U of M, he taught Religious Studies, Music and Asian Studies at Berkeley, Stanford, and St. Olaf College.
Matt has been performing Hindustani vocal music both in India and North America since 2000. His other performance experience includes oud, Afro-Cuban drumming, simulogue, shape-note singing, experimental vocal performance, Thank-You-Play, and Javanese gamelan. Matt also studies and teaches Middle Eastern music. In spring of 2010, he was studying oud performance and Arabic language in Damascus, Syria, funded by an ACM-Mellon Post-Doctoral fellowship; in 2012, he was a visiting fellow at the Center for Behavioral Research at the American University in Beirut.
Matt studied at Wesleyan University (BA, 2000) and UC Berkeley (PhD, 2009). His mentors in scholarship have included Bonnie Wade, Eve Sweetser, Vasudha Dalmia, Richard Crocker, Ben Brinner, Linda Hess, and Jon K. Barlow. His primary music teachers are Vikas Kashalkar and L.K. Pandit. Matt believes in the liberal arts, and he believes in going slowly.