Jeffrey W. Cupchik, Ph.D. Research Interests

Chöd Damaru Drum

Machik Labdrön (1055-1153)
Founder of the Chöd Tradition

Research Interests & Research Curriculum Design

My research, teaching, and writing are all centrally involved with the themes of music, altruism, health, and well-being.

In the first section below, I summarize the main areas of my work, and the subfields in which I have researched, written, taught, and designed new qualitative research methods curricula and courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In the second, I provide a link to a more detailed outline of my research activity.

Summary of Research Areas

1) Music, Health & Well-being

a. Music Science and Health Sciences | Medical Ethnomusicology.

b. Music Science and Mind Sciences.

c. Fostering Undergraduate Study and Research in Music and Health & Wellness.

2) Music, Religion, and Ritual

a. Music and Buddhist ritual.

b. Popular music and religion/spirituality.

3) Global Public Health and Popular Music | Social Movements

a. Megaconcerts: exploring how the construction of a dramaturgical narrative, awareness-raising songs, and performance campaigns can lead to rescue and recovery support, as well as to substantive social change.

b. Popular Music & Media studies.

4) Research Methodology Pedagogy | Curriculum Design in Qualitative Research Methods

a. Created a new curriculum in qualitative (ethnographic) research methods that combines Community-based Research (CBR) with Service Learning (SL). Students serve in custom placements, while learning through best practice models how to design, propose, plan, and conduct a a micro-ethnography, and share their findings in a written report and visual/oral presentation.

b. Adapted new research methods curriculum to various undergraduate programs in the social sciences, humanities, and sciences, including: public health, nursing, medical anthropology, anthropology of law, psychology, sociology, ethnomusicology, etc.

c. Trained advanced students in India how to investigate challenges faced by their own community in their vernacular with modern research techniques.

d. Taught this new curriculum utilizing experiential education methods.

5) Critical Ethnomusicology/Anthropology | Ethics, Roles & Responsibilities of Performing Ethnography

a. Role of the ethnographer in community.

b. Role of the ethnographer as writer, representing individuals and community.

6) Indo-Tibetan and Himalayan Area Studies

a. Historiography | Transnationalism and Diaspora | Pedagogy & Transmission | Preservation of folk, sacred & popular music.

b. Buddhist ritual music | Performance Practices of indigenous traditions | Chöd ritual studies.

c. Performance of sacred and secular music traditions | Ritual Mapping | Musical theory & analysis.


Please click here for a more detailed outline of my Research:

Full text: Research Activities and Publications  


Forthcoming book:

The Sound of Vultures' Wings: The Tibetan Buddhist Chöd Ritual of the Female Buddha Machik Labdron

The Tibetan Chöd (gCod¹) Tradition

Buddhism as Performing Art

The eleventh-century Tibetan ascetic Machik Labdrön (Ma gcig Lab sgron, 1055-1153) developed the Chöd (Tib. gCod, “to cut”) tradition, a musical-meditation Vajrayana (tantric) method to "cut-off" the root of suffering -- "self-grasping" -- which is defined as the mistaken instinct of regarding one's self and all phenomena as intrinsically, or independently, existent. Her musical-meditation method became renowned across Central Asia during her lifetime, and Chöd ritual practices and liturgies have been transmitted from teacher to disciple in unbroken lineages until today. The ritual is now well known globally, with Tibetan Lamas, nuns, and empowered exponents teaching widely, across a transnational Diaspora, to Tibetan Buddhists engaging in the practice.

This research combines textual work, ethnographic fieldwork, musical apprenticeship, cultural immersion, and music analysis. A multidisciplinary approach is important for research into Buddhist ritual music because meaning is conveyed in different ways by Tibetan Lamas for disciples as they achieve different levels of understanding and skill in ritual performance. Not all esoteric meanings, ritual performance instructions, and accordant meditative practice directions can be found in a sadhana (liturgical text), nor even in its yig-chung (the small script within sadhanas that provides ritual performance instructions). Rather, it is traditional that a great deal of instructional advice be retained in the parallel oral traditions, where it is safe-guarded by Lamas and their lineage exponents.

¹ The phoneticization of gCod as Chöd throughout is used to facilitate reading.
² Sadhana refers to a ritual practice's liturgical text. The term literally means "method of accomplishment," and denotes that by practicing a particular sadhana liturgy, or "method," one can achieve enlightenment.

Full text: The Tibetan Chöd Tradition: An Overview