Ludwig Pesch

“I awoke into a music which no one about me heard. Whom shall I thank for it?” – Henry David Thoreau (1851)

Interested in “other” ways of teaching and sharing music, Ludwig Pesch studied South Indian music at the Kalakshetra (Diploma and Post-Diploma courses). He specialized in playing the bamboo flute under the guidance of Ramachandra Shastry (1906-92), an adherent to the personalized gurukula system of teaching, with whom he performed on many occasions.

Before studying music in India, he had already served as church organist in his hometown for several years; then studied music and musicology in Freiburg (Germany).

For the distance education department of Lüneburg University he developed two online courses (one in English and another in German), described by participants as “a fantastic resource …  inspirational”.

One Indian student’s testimonial clarifies:

“As someone who did not have an opportunity to learn the rudiments of Carnatic music, I highly value this course.”

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Other Indian participants also remembered their elearning experience not only as meaningful but also “great fun for those of us who have not taken lessons in Karnatic music”.

In collaboration with the Royal Tropical Museum Amsterdam and Architectenbureau Jowa ( he researched and developed a semi-permanent exhibition highlighting the inspiration derived from India in the West, and aspects of migration from India that are relevant for Dutch society.

Oxford University Press commissioned him to write the The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music, described as “the most thorough study of Carnatic music“. 

Throughout, Pesch’s deep engagement with his subject is clear and has its roots in practical experience, since he is a performer of Carnatic music as well as a scholar of it.

Book review by Gerry Farrell in MUSIC AND LETTERS QUARTERLY (Vol. 81, Number 4, November 2000)

In 2006-7 he taught at the Bern University of the Arts Switzerland based on a HKB research project titled “Sam, Reflection, Gathering Together!” ( and as part of the 2007 “Musik und Mensch” colloquium series of the Pädagogische Hochschule FHNW in Switzerland. It yielded A musical picture book from Kerala which facilitates the use of syllables associated with daily life as well as the arts; here amalgamated into joyful lessons suited to a wide range of situations.

“In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the spread of knowledge about India’s spirit and life”, he was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Rabindranath Tagore Cultural Award.


His music has been described as “an eloquent demonstration of the universal fact that music transcendents cultural and linguistic barriers” (Indian Express); “captivating and chaste rendition …  a golden link with the West.” (Another Garland: A Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers and Musicians; Chennai, 1993). “Pesch created melodies that reached one’s heart” (Eindhovens Dagblad, The Netherlands). – Details >>

The realisation of the sheer beauty of unadulterated sound will open many more doors also for Carnatic music. … Not surprising the Amsterdam-based Pesch is a known musicologist today, with a number of publications to his credit. Perhaps that is why Oxford University Press thought it fit to ask him, rather than an Indian scholar, to pen “The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music” … Pesch is certainly a teacher at heart. But his teaching is not only for the specialised or the academics.

Excerpt from Harmony! (interview on Carnatic Music and art education) by Anjana Rajan in The Hindu (Friday Review, November 13, 2009)

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