by Rajiv Trivedi
Music is sound. Having said this, the task of defining music loses simplicity. One meanders into the realm of sociology or history or poetry. And if musical terms begin to be used, the jargon adds to mystery. One is pushed from one genre to other, from India to Europe, from modern to medieval period, from instrument to individual artiste to Gharana. Finally one loses interests and privately concludes, music is what pleases my ears. And yet, one is aware that kings and emperors of yore along with the great saints did train themselves in this discipline to achieve a rounded personality. Music in ancient India was discussed academically as early as the Sama Veda. Its history in Europe too is traceable for over a thousand years. Scientifically speaking a study of music involves measurement of air vibrations and frequencies, their numerous intriguing relationships. Quite a few computer experts struggle with their codes to make possible that latest ring-tone on the cell-phone. The electronic gadgetry involved in production, storage and playback of music has also affected the manner in which it is appreciated. It has also changed the way students and scholars look at music. While grand pianos interlinked across cities have for years made possible a maestro give lessons to his disciple, the lesson is also unique, as by playing on the master keyboard the teacher extends an opportunity for his student to experience a tactile feedback on his piano. The karaoke generation with a busy schedule has little time to spend on any single thing. In the age of multi-tasking it would be appreciated if one could teach a person something while he viewed the latest soap as he got a hair-cut.
So while fm channels blare to drown the remix shows on TV that hardly disturb the youngster rocking to her wearable mp3, the question whether it is possible to teach Indian Classical music through distance mode seems a far cry. However, scholars from as far as Africa, Finland, and Japan gathered to talk with their peers from almost every state of India some years back at Bhopal. For three days, they demonstrated techniques as well as technological innovations that proved beyond a doubt the feasibility of such a venture.
Before plumbing the depth any further, let us briefly examine the history and nature of Indian Classical music. The saga of Indian music is riddled with myths, yarns, aberrations and vagueness. This is very natural for a tradition of this antiquity and magnitude. When they were quizzed about its roots, the practitioners of music in eighteenth century lay bare their personal beliefs and experiences. Much of what they offered was clothed in ignorance; a few grains of factual information were lost in the generational transit. The early historians thus had a challenging task before them in setting the record straight. Nurtured during the Mogul period, speciality-schools or Gharana-s vied to establish their practice of music as the best, as the standard. The erstwhile Indian approach to arts was spiritual and impersonal; it turned individualistic as well as materialistic. Honour and wealth were ostensible goals now thrusting the age old ones of self-satisfaction and emancipation. At times these also deflected the practitioner from true art. Naturally, the unquestioning disciple digested the flaws of his teacher pride, limited knowledge, narrow thinking, flawed learning etc. considering them to be the highlights of his Gharana. Under absolute control of the teacher the length, significance, utility of his education often yielded little but physical, financial and emotional exploitation. Reared with sanctity of obedience under the earlier cast system and later the feudal system, there seemed nothing worth changing to both the teacher and the taught.
Despite Herculean efforts of Pt. Bhatkhande and Pt. Paluskar, this remained the quality of music education in India right up to fourth decade in twentieth century. However the efforts of these masters took roots and the Indian academia accepted music into the domain of knowledge. That music was already a part of formal education in the west and an increasing sense of pride in ancient knowledge of the land helped ease study of Indian music into curricula. From the fourth to seventh decade scholars like Pt. Omkar Nath Thakur, Pt. Ratan Jankar, Prof. B.R. Devdhar, Pr. Narayan Rao Vyas, Pt. Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Acharya Brahaspati, Dr. Lalmani Misra, Thakur Jaidev Singh espoused a scientific view and established the logical, well-knit structure of Indian classical music through demonstration, lecture, teaching and publication within the country and abroad. While in the renaissance period of Indian classical music, it filled them with a joy of discovering ancient truths, the scholars also bore the responsibility of coding these tenets in the modern notations of science for being understood and accepted by the west.
In its eager wait for the third millennium, the decade of nineties went leaps and bounds with inventions and innovations. Achievements a decade old would often seem archaic and insignificant. The age of information and communication technology had irrevocably changed human interaction. Riding on the back of consumerism, individual consciousness began to grow, albeit within narrow confines, egged on by vistas of unexplored possibilities laid bare by advances in communication. How could the sacred domain of education remain unaffected? Between opposing cries for and against the change the education system began gathering momentum to keep pace with times. Even as early as late sixties and seventies, spell bound by the grandeur and brilliance of Indian classical music as demonstrated by Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and others, western enthusiasts had started coming to India to learn music. Due efforts of academics in forties, music was a part of university education and thither did the western as well as native enthusiasts gather. International renown of Indian musicians inspired interest in this genre, but on other hand also gave birth to a dichotomy Excellence as music professional is possible only in one-to-one learning system and not within a formal syllabus bound one.
To resolve this contradiction, nineties employed the fast-developing communication technology. It was now possible to maintain regular contact with teacher or the artiste; at the same time, it liberated the pupil from the traditional mentor. Learning of music shifted from being Guru-centric to becoming learner-centric. This paradigmatic shift opened the gates for distance mode of education in the field of music. The profile of Indian learner too had begun to change. Instead of the tender-aged pupils forced by tradition, family or regional convention, more and more of elderly, mature enthusiasts who could not study music earlier despite talent or inclination began to enrol for music courses. The few young learners, owing to competitive spirit looked forward to learning music in easy regulated steps. Aiming to be stage professionals these learners were no longer interested in doing the whole gamut of Thata-s, Raga-s or numerous Taal-s. Their desire was never for academic depth; nor, did they cherish the un-intellectual, toilsome Riyaz. The two types of learners young and mature were united in their search to understand music intellectually. The stage artistes who were little more than iconic Dronacharya to their distant unknown Eklavya-s could now remain in touch and guide them. The teachers found the boundaries of their classroom extended to include any interested citizen of the world. Novices as well serious scholars could gain from open interaction. Exchange of thoughts was now possible between the artiste and the critic, industry and academia, media and its audience, viewers.
In the third millennium music is no longer a means to spiritual emancipation or public entertainment. It has grown to be an industry where the last word for a short term is given by market forces. And yet, the market itself needed professionals in several areas related to music. From event management to acoustics, from advertising to broadcasting, from computer gaming to telephones, music seems an integral and essential part of modern life-style. Thus academics, educationists and independent scholars are working individually and institutionally on designing, devising time-bound specific courses along with efficient mode of delivery. The distance approach of learning although yet to prove itself, fulfils all criteria for a competent cost-effective mode of instruction.
It is only through experience that one can define musical pleasure for oneself. Some learning, some patience and readiness to comprehend complex patterns once a person possesses these, the vistas of music begin to unroll. All he needs is a noiseless serene ambience and a playback gadget of his choice record-player, tape-deck, 7.1 home-theatre or a pocket mp3 player and the language of sound that crosses the greatest of barriers with ease, aplomb and harmony is within easy reach.
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