Archive for the ‘Intangibility’ Category

Music Learning in Digital Age

04.22.13

Urgency for conservation and continuation of heritage practices is unquestionably enhanced now, in comparison to even a mere century back. The awareness, better still, concern has always been there.  If all past knowledge is preserved in condensed, usable form, the given discipline is assured of health and growth. When the essence gets buried under innovation, the discipline itself is lost.

1It does not suffice to trace the origin of Indian Veena-s or of Harappan civilization; it is also necessary to examine how the idea and facts  of yore are still relevant. Often, individuals as well as institutions make the mistake of equating the form of practice as its essence. They err to consider completion of act in mere repetition of  tangible patterns.

Of all others, music is intangible most art form. Its teaching and training requires development of strong understanding between teacher and the taught. Indian musicians in past tended to disregard any other form of learning, which fell short of absolute one-to-one teaching. Thankfully, there always have been some unconventional musicians who kept the stream of scholarship vibrant, constantly  documenting, analyzing and directing the  practice of music.

It is scholar-musicians of this timbre who dare to defy the physical contact and move into realm of distance education. It involves intangibility at an extra level – that of not being physically present. Strangely, technology sometimes overpowers existing intangibility in hitherto unimagined ways. Like, providing tactile feedback to fingers of student

From formulating requisites  for teaching of Indian Music in the distance mode to actual innovation and practices, scholars from around the world contribute their ideas and experiences in this groundbreaking compilation –   Distance Education in Music. Edited by founder director of Madhukali, Pt. Omprakash Chouraisya, the volume carries the research paper in original language and its translation in Hindi or English. Published by Kanishka Publishers, Dariyaganj, Delhi this book shall prove useful to planners, educationists, musicians and interested learners. There are a few innovations like Digital Veena and Ome Swarlipi that do not find mention here, but ample information by stalwarts of music that shines benign on pathway to learning of music on one’s own.

Self-learning has always existed, even though it was not encouraged at elementary level. In words of Misrabani exponent Dr. Ragini Trivedi, “I call the instrument my father and after him, my brother used to play, Divya Veena. It is Divya (divine) because it teaches me how to play it.”

Categorization of Music Practices

04.10.13

Rajiv Trivedi

VibCov2As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of UNESCO Convention 2003, the idea of conservation and continuance of traditional practices through according them greater visibility has become a familiar concept. It may yet take time to percolate to every working adult, but community leaders have begun to realize its importance and are coming up with plans. It was reported in media that people of Varanasi are busy in making inventory of activities both ancient and current, so the ancient most city (Kashi) may be included in UNESCO’s representative list. Kashi has been seat of all Indian learning not only for creation but also for evaluation and incorporation. Music finds mention in Veda-s and has been an intellectual discipline ever since.

Broadly, practice of Indian classical music is in area of singing and instrument playing. Both these areas involve the form, content and governing rules. The techniques are quite different; yet, still, they are in the same domain of intangible.

Instruments involve the solid and the physical as well.

So, for the heritage worker, the various fields for consideration become distinct.

1. Body of Music.

2. Practice & Technique in distinct areas of Vocal and Instrumental.

3. Actual form of instruments. Tangible and Intangible Aspects.

4.  Intangible aspect of instrument making.

In a way, this implies that field of instruments is more demanding as it involves two extra aspects (No. 3 & 4) than vocal music.

Further divisions might be made on Stream – North Indian/ Hindustani and Karnatic – region, period, style and school. So to work for continuance of practices in the field of Indian Classical Music is a massive one. Existing body of documentation itself requires inventorying. If we leave the last century out of consideration when audio-recording techniques were evolving, music has been an absolute oral practice. Among all arts, it alone takes a form of absolute intangible.

It shall serve the cause if interest of academia may be harnessed for examining their content through the point-of-view of safeguarding ICH. Young researchers should be encouraged to take up studies that aim  either directly at preservation and safeguarding, or employ this as one of the factors for evaluation of current practices. Government and other organizations should come up with schemes to encourage publication of treatises under the head of “Safeguarding ICH”

Safeguarding ICH: Identifying Elements in Music

03.18.13

The difference between tangible and intangible heritage has been pointed again and again. Clear poignant measures may be taken for protection, restoration and appreciation of tangible cultural heritage. Whereas these measures often require a small amount of modification, by and large the principle remains unaltered. It is neither sufficient nor advisable to safeguard intangible heritage in this fashion. For, it exists in practice,  in continuity, more like an organism than a finished product.

One has to understand the motivation fuelling a practice in order to safeguard not merely the practice but its essence as well. Without taking into count this intangible – the immeasurable aspect of the art-form –, despite logic of methodology and objective examination, the benefic exercise would become the bane. The end of knowledge is not mere collection or aggregation; all these essentials lose value if creation of new idea-s is blocked.

 

Practice of music in India is traceable from Veda-s. This practice was motivated, in part, with aim of granting  joy and still more, for self fulfillment and absolution. It developed as a discipline with guiding principles based on tangible phenomena. Safeguarding of Indian classical music involves respect for both its motivations. Absolution, in itself an abstraction, provides the practice with ability to transcend the physical rules; yet due its innate obscurity is likely to be shunned for clearer goal of granting pleasure. The science of Indian music developed with clear principles, which permit it full play and space for innovation (Upaj) and safeguard its practice from turning into vain exercise in providing vacuous pleasure to undiscerning people. The danger of ‘entertainment’ devouring  ‘discernment’ and ‘absolution’ was never greater. With breaking up of all human affairs into consumption and production, demand and supply, the ‘fast buck’ has pushed away all other concerns.

Indian Classical Music practice was gradually being molded towards the ostensible goal of pleasing listeners, ever since music could be recorded and replayed. No musician had ever listened to himself singing in exact fashion over and over again. And now, the ability to sing in a manner that could not be bettered – because, this same performance would be heard with same flourishes and blemishes – changed the very mode of Riyaz.IMG_4825 The objective now became an exercise in dissatisfaction for executing blameless performance instead of immersing and losing oneself in one’s music. A still more dominant factor was Time; the necessity to bind one’s practice into definite duration.

It is not that idea of excellence and competence were absent prior to this; but they existed more as just reward that comes to deserving and fortunate practitioner. Concept of detached Karma (one has no right over the result of one’s action) modulated the practitioner’s psyche. Historically, a large number of practitioners, rooted in idea of absolution through art,  remained content with their station in life.  The increasing pressure of externality erodes the internal fulfillment, and most practitioners succumb to immediacy of tangible rewards than wait for intangible, uncertain absolution.

Stalwart vocalist of Jaipur-Atrauli school, Pt. Rajshekhar Mansur received training in music and life from his father and Guru. He confides how his father prohibited him from using music for earning livelihood.  Music is for mind and heart, not for stomach and flesh. And so the son took up university degree and pursued career in higher education, even as he kept learning with his father. Modern thrust on individual as efficient consumer-producer batters all activities into demand-supply chain. Individuals are taught to excel in an activity that comes closest to their heart and use it for subsistence.  Fulfillment is welcome so long it aids economic cycle; but self-sufficiency that opts out is frowned upon. It no longer fits in with the system. So long as music aims to entertain others, it is an activity involving exchange; but when its end is self-fulfillment, it denies the external world. Apart from such a stance being against consumption, it also exemplifies an alternative to rat-race existence.

The idea of attaining bliss – Sat, Chit, Anand – was evocative of spirituality and thus Indian music practitioners whole-heartedly accepted and professed it as ‘spiritual’. Any attempt to approach it rationally were opposed and rejected. Scholars, on other hand, had always  discussed practice and directed course of development.  Introduction of tangible aspects in recent past has reduced clarity and focus in academics.  Through equalization, trivia – because of sheer volume – now  commands greater attention of learner, practitioner than actual science.

Indian Classical Music thus faces threats on all platforms: political, social, economic and academic. Political correctness attacks it for ‘elitism’; socially, it is less than entertainment; it is no longer an economically viable activity  with inverted user: time ratio; academically a near-impossibility to teach with reduced attention span and learning time. Whereas technology aids most learning activities, inter-relationship of Music and Time, does not provide short-cuts.

Safeguarding Indian music thus involves re-affirmation of its shadowed goal – self-fulfillment, sublimation, absolution – through Appreciation, Practice and Education leading to awareness and consensus amongst practitioners for preserving innate strength and essence. People have to realize that solution to thirst in a desert lies not in turning it into ocean, but in a tiny, secluded haven. Music, like life, has existed only through giving not mining. As Magi would say, giving is reward in itself.

Heritage

06.30.11

On his tour around the country the Mahatma espied an eight year old girl. She carried a bucket of water in her right hand and a two year old hitched on her waist protectively hooked by her left. He asked, “How can you carry this pail of water with that burden?” The girl replied, “It is not a burden, he is my brother.”

Caught up in the race to keep pace, we often forget our treasure, our heritage and consider it as a burden. Once the initial effort to break the inertia of proud belonging is made, our inheritance shall make us strong and confident to enjoy challenges life brings. With no past possession, we anxiously pursue worth that may grant us fulfillment.

Heritage is our ready-made fulfillment; it does away with the worry of attaining lasting value, for we have it right now. Look within and find it. Look around with that knowledge and find the world lovelier than before.

 

Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar — Indian Classical vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.
 

Culture: Contradictions and paradoxes

06.29.10

We are truly social creatures now. Man’s dependence on others has reached exponential levels; also his connectedness. The time between one man’s thought and another’s benefit is drastically reduced. Also, time is no longer an absorbent or  muffler that might diminish or soften harsh ideas or actions. This “real-time” action disables the possibility of  meaningful action on individual level, drastically minimizing his area of influence. While it turns life into a queue or a traffic lane with little leeway for self-directed  action (theirs not to question why, theirs but to do and die), greatest sufferers are those who dwell in the realm of creativity, imagination and ideas.

For full article, visit Omenad.

Veena : Manifestation of Intangibility

08.04.09

Names are like human beings, often helpful but at times deceptive. Ancient most Indian treatise records two kinds of non-percussive instruments – Veena and Venu. Wheras Venu or flute during its evolution changed little, Veena had a hundred avatars. In the twentieth century, when most of the Veena-s had vanished and remaining ones had carved an exclusive niche with unique names, there are still some instruments that despite some changes, have retained both the ancient essence as well as name. Rudra Veena and Vichitra Veena of the North, with slight modifications in design and embellishment are in vogue as Tanjauri Veena and Gottu Vadyam in South. However, the music system remains unchanged despite distinction in form. In India music like painting, theater and poetry has never been separate from ordinary routine of people. All knowledge is dedication of one’s talent, all talent a medium of sublimating one’s ego. Learning Veena is a constant flattening of one’s ego till gain of wisdom.
For full essay visit Omenad.

Clutching the Intangible: Conserving Veena

08.04.09

In a world grappling with material, the concept of imperceptibility, invisibility and intangibility has slowly crept in. More and more activities, products and services are getting virtual. The materialization and later commercialization of music wiped out several traditions of musical practice. The nature of nation, society and family has been drastically overhauled with so-called empowerment of the “individual”. The price of such material empowerment has been paid by the individual in currency of emotional, intellectual and psychological balance. Fortunately, human life is governed by several factors. So while, technology and economic order pushes him in one direction, the local socio-cultural factors tend to retard the pull. There are some who ride the crest, while those in trough serve as anchors. It was decided by the supreme body that culture has an intangible side which needs concrete aid and support in order to maintain the essence of human nature – compassion, camaraderie and creativity. Indian music is best represented by the tradition of Veena-playing which involves performance, scholarship, innovation and crafting. For millenniums, it has retained continuity but the challenge of technology driven economy, which leaves little time to individual, is the toughest. It needs determination and concrete policy to keep Indian music in health.
Visit Omenad for complete article.

The Concept of Intangibility

05.08.09

by Rajiv Trivedi

Consciousness, perception, reason, intelligence are concepts necessary to establish a relationship between man and the world. His senses help him in formulating such a relationship on basis of actions which involve classification; language is a tool developed for this purpose. This tool has limitations and thus representation of reality is neither precise nor permanent. It is not merely the inadequacy of language which gives birth to idea of intangibility; it predates language as essence of consciousness itself. It is that which vitalizes consciousness and propels one to know. On a practical plain, it represents that which is perceptible but defies quantification. One has to ultimately recourse to such terms as… Visit Omenad for full article.