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Dr Sam Bowker

Remixing the Ramayana: Literary listening and the curation of contemporary song cycles

View recording of Sam’s presentation here.

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.

Ramayana: Full Sequence (2018): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7CovypkuTDxOnXlNi2CFzH

Dante’s Divine Compilation (2019): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2Kdh1fCHulGysJGFo16ZmB

Aladdjinn (or, “I can’t believe it’s not Faust!”) (2020): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3RYGpPI4sSR0b7VZjdthEw

Dr Sam Bowker is the Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture for Charles Sturt University.

His research focuses upon the history of Egyptian Tentmaker Appliqué or ‘Khayamiya’. Co-authored with Seif El Rashidi, this has been published as the book The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft through the American University in Cairo Press (2018). He is also a curator and educator across diverse fields in art history, notably Islamic art and design from Australian perspectives.

His work before academia was focused on museum and gallery education (or ‘learning and access’) for Australian cultural institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Australia, and National Library of Australia.

https://drsambowker.com/

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