Richard Wolf: Impression and Presence in Badakhshan and Beyond

Wolf Headshot

On Tuesday, April 16 the South Asia Center is pleased to welcome Richard Wolf to speak about his research in the mountainous historical region known as Badakhshan in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Writers in Arabic and Persian have used notions of impression, effect, or influence, ta’s̲īr, to express how qualities of human character correspond to the sounds of music and poetry, and argued that the latter can actually shape the former. Focusing on the tradition of singing in the region of Darvoz—literally the gateway to the region of Badakhshan—Wolf will make two points. 1) the relation of “presence” to “impression” is concretized through different forms of musical transmission, and 2) texts are seen to impress themselves on listeners by particular musical means.

The talk begins at 12:30pm in 341 Eggers Hall. We invite you to join us!

Following Professor Wolf's lecture, we will also be holding a movie screening and discussion of "Two Poets and a River," a film directed by Wolf. "Two Poets and a River" is an ethnographic film about the lives and music of two poet singers belonging to the same minority Wakhi community who live on opposite sides of the Oxus river. They are historically separated by empires (Czarist Russian and British) and currently by the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. 

The film screening takes place at 4pm in 060 Eggers Hall. 

Professor Wolf will also be giving a lecture/demo at Onondaga Community college as part of a collaboration between OCC and the Cornell-Syracuse South Asia Consortium. In this lecture Wolf will introduce the vina, an Indian stringed instrument, through a discussion of classical and ritual music in South India. This event takes place on Wednesday, April 17 at 11:15 am in the Recital Hall (P 100) Academic II Building, OCC. Please contact  Emera Bridger Wilson,, for more information. 

Richard K. Wolf, Professor of Music and South Asian Studies at Harvard University, has been conducting ethnomusicological research in South Asia since 1982. His topics have included social-cultural “style” in South Indian classical music, conceptions of space, time and music among the Kota tribal people of south India, and drumming, “recitation,” and music in public Islamic contexts in India and Pakistan. Wolf is currently preparing a monograph and an ethnographic film concerning music, language, and moral being among the Wakhi people of adjacent parts of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and western China. In addition to writing and teaching, Wolf is also a performer on the South Indian vina. He is currently the 2018-2019 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow at the National Humanities Center.