Gurminder Bhogal

Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music

Scholarly interests focus on the music of French composers including Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Delage; the practice of ornament in French music and the visual arts during the early twentieth century; music and aesthetics; music and orientalism/exoticism/colonialism-decolonialism; and Sikh devotional music (Sikh Kirtan)

My research falls into two areas. The first deals with early twentieth-century French music and culture with a focus on relationships between music and the visual arts. These connections have been explored most recently in Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). Other publications that examine the practice and aesthetics of ornament in music composition and visual art of early twentieth-century Paris include Details of Consequence: Ornament, Music, and Art in Paris (AMS Studies in Music) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); “Orchestral Tissue, Subordinate Arabesques, and Turning Inward in Maurice Ravel's Boléro,” Music Theory Online 26/2, 2020; and “Ephemeral Arabesque Timbres and the Exotic Feminine,” in Arabesque Without End: Across Music and the Arts, ed. Anne Leonard (New York: Routledge, 2021). Other publications are forthcoming on Debussy’s piano music; Debussy’s music in video games; and grotesquerie and the oriental subject in The Rite of Spring.

My second research area is on Sikh devotional music. I won the Pauline Alderman Award for Outstanding Scholarship on Women in Music (2017) for my article, “Listening to Female Voices in Sikh Kirtan,” Sikh Formations Religion, Culture, Theory 13/1-2 (2017): 48-77. I am currently completing a monograph about Sikh Kirtan for a University press. A recent article about the halo in Sikh art and its connections to divine sound can be read here: "Anahad Naad and Pictorial Resonance: The Halo and Sonic Vibration in Sikh Art," Sikh Research Journal, Spring 2023. This recent article explores the history of the harmonium in Punjab with a focus on Sikh kirtan: "Tracking the Harmonium from Christian Missionary Hymns to Sikh Kirtan," Yale Journal of Music and Religion 8/2 (2022).

From March 2019 to June 2022, I served as Review Editor for the Journal of the American Musicological Society. I am currently series editor for the American Musicological Society's Studies in Music Series.

I teach a variety of courses in music history, theory, and analysis, some of which have received funding from the Mellon Foundation. Core courses for the music major and minor that I teach include The Symphony in the World (MUS 201); Looking Backwards, Reaching Forwards: Modernism and Music (MUS 202); Expressing Race and Gender through New Music (MUS 202); Opera: Its History, Music, and Drama (MUS 230). My electives focus on a range of topics: The Femme and Her Song; Being Modern in Paris; Virtuosity, Suspicion, Transcendence; Finding France in French Piano Music; Nothingness in Music, Poetry, and Art; Music and Sound in Video Games; Paris Chic: French Music and the Arts; Sacred Sounds of South Asia.


  • B.Mus(Hons), Royal College of Music
  • M.Mus., King's College, University of London
  • Ph.D., University of Chicago

Current and upcoming courses

  • Topic for Fall 2024: The Symphony in the World. The Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler, argued that “a Symphony must be like the world; it must embrace everything.” This course takes Mahler’s statement as a springboard for examining the rich and varied sounds of the Symphony in the Western European classical tradition. Students will build on their skills in music analysis and criticism through close listening to famous symphonies by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler. We will learn about the cultural, stylistic, and aesthetic nuances of these works from a variety of intellectual standpoints (including feminist theory, queer theory, and sound studies). A highlight of this course will be a field trip to a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. All students are welcome.