Dr. Lara Pearson

Research Areas

  • South Indian music
  • Music, movement, gesture, and the body
  • Aesthetics and affect in social context
  • Notions of improvisation and composition


Academic Education

2012­–2016Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Durham, UK with a thesis on gesture in South Indian art music
2011–2012MA in Ethnomusicology (with Distinction) at Goldsmiths, University of London


Since 2018Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Music Department 
2016–2017Postdoctoral fellow at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen 
2013–2017Part-time teacher at the University of Durham, UK 
2008–2011Fieldwork and practical music studies in South India 


Edited volumes

Hamilton, A., & Pearson, L. (Eds.), (2020). The Aesthetics of Imperfection in Music and the Arts: Spontaneity, Flaws and the Unfinished. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN:  9781350106055

Journal Articles and Book Sections

Pearson, L., & Pouw, W. (2022). Gesture–vocal coupling in Karnatak music performance: A neuro–bodily distributed aesthetic entanglement. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14806

Pearson, L. (2022). Inscriptions, Gesture, and the Self: Notation in Karnatak Music. In E. Payne & F. Schuiling (Eds.), Material Cultures of Music Notation: New Perspectives on Musical Inscription. Abingdon: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429342837-13

Pearson, L. (2021). Cultural Specificities in Carnatic and Hindustani Music: Commentary on the Saraga Open Dataset. Empirical Musicology Review16(1), 166-171. http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/emr.v16i1.7974

Wald-Fuhrmann, M., Pearson, L., Roeske, T., Grüny, C., & Polak, R. (2021). Music as a trait in evolutionary theory: A musicological perspective. Behavioral and Brain Sciences,44, E93. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X20001193

Pearson, L. (2021). “Improvisation” in Play: A View through South Indian Music Practices. In A. Bertinetto & M. Ruta (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Improvisation in the Arts (pp. 446-461). Abingdon: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003179443-35

Pearson, L. (2020). A Socially Situated Approach to Aesthetics: Games and Challenges in Karnatak Music. In A. Hamilton & L. Pearson (Eds.), The Aesthetics of Imperfection in Music and the Arts: Spontaneity, Flaws and the Unfinished (pp. 61-72). London: Bloomsbury Academic. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350106086.0016

Jacoby, N., Margulis, EH, Clayton, M., Hannon, E., Honing, H., Iversen, J., Klein, TR, More, SA, Pearson, L., Peretz, I., Perlman, M ., Polak, R., Ravignani, A., Savage, PE, Steingo, G., Stevens, CJ, Trainor, L., Trehub, S., Veal, M., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020) , Cross-cultural work in music cognition. Music Perception, 37 (3), 185-195. https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2020.37.3.185

Pearson, L. (2018). Cultural Heritage, Sustainability and Innovation in South Indian Art Music. In B. Norton and N. Matsumoto (Eds.), Music as Heritage: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives . Aldershot: Routledge. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315393865-12

Pearson, L. (2016). Coarticulation and Gesture: An Analysis of Melodic Movement in South Indian Raga Performance. Music Analysis , 35 (3), 280-313. https://doi.org/10.1111/musa.12071

Pearson, L. (2013). Gesture and the Sonic Event in Karnatak Music. Empirical Musicology Review , 8 (1), 2-14. https://doi.org/10.18061/emr.v8i1.3918 

PhD thesis

Pearson, L. (2016). Gesture in Karnatak Music: Pedagogy and Musical Structure in South India. (PhD), University of Durham. http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/11782/

Conference Papers (selected)

Pearson, L. (2019, Sept. 26-28). An aesthetics of movement in Karnatak music: Conceptualizing music through the body . Paper presented at the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM19), Graz, Austria.

Pearson, L. (2019, Sept. 3-9). Gestural interaction in South Indian vocal lessons: Forging common ground through the body . Paper presented at the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology (ESEM) 2019, Durham, UK.

Pearson, L. (2019 July 11-17). Gesture in Karnatak music: Technologies, data, and analysis . Paper presented at the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) world conference, Bangkok, Thailand.

Pearson, L. (2019, May 31-June 2). Oscillations, finger stresses, and slides: Gestural affordances and the Karnatak style . Paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Music and Sonic Art (MuSA), Karlsruhe, Germany.

Pearson, L. (2018, June 26-29). Gesture, segmentation, and meaning in South Indian raga performance . Paper presented at the Analytical Approaches to World Music (AAWM) conference, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Pearson, L. (2018, April 20-22). Notation, gesture, and identity in South Indian art music . Paper presented at Material Cultures of Music Notation: An Interdisciplinary Conference, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Pearson, L. (2018, April 12-15). Cultural activism in South India: Protesting social inequality within and through Karnatak music. Paper presented at the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) Annual Conference, Newcastle, UK.

Pearson, L. (2017, July 13-14). Gesture as thought in South Indian raga performance . Paper presented at the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group (RMA MPSG) conference, London.

Pearson, L. (2017 April 3-5). Gesture in Karnatak vocal lessons: Cross-domain mapping and gestural indexing . Paper presented at the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) conference, Hull, UK. 

Pearson, L. (2015, Aug 17-22). Hand gestures in South Indian vocal lessons: The exploitation of cross-domain mapping as a pedagogic tool . Paper presented at the European Society for the Cognitive Science of Music (ESCOM) conference, Manchester, UK.

Pearson, L. (2014 Nov. 13-16).Gesture in Karnatak music pedagogy: Typologies, ethical constraints, and cross-modal interaction . Paper presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) annual conference, Pittsburgh, USA.   
Pearson, L. (2014, Sept. 9-12). Deviation from standard melodic formulas by an expert performer: An analysis of Karnatak raga alapana . Paper presented at Perspectives on Musical Improvisation II (POMI II), Oxford, UK.        






Awards & Grants

Awards & Grants

2017Aubrey Hickman Award given by SEMPRE (Society for Education, Music and
Psychology Research)
2015Martin Hatch Award given by the Society for Asian Music
2014iARC (Institute of Advanced Research Computing) Digital Humanities Durham Postgraduate Research Award
2014Durham University Arts and Humanities Faculty Postgraduate Research Award
2014ERASMUS Mobility Award to conduct motion analysis at the University of Oslo
2013SEMPRE (Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research) Gerry Farrell Travel Award for fieldwork in India
2012–2015Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Studentship Award