Generally speaking, fine arts and the aesthetics have intermingled together. The study of the fine arts is incomplete without the assistance of the aesthetics. Likewise, the concept of aesthetics is inconclusive without an analysis of the fine arts. Especially, when it comes to the study of the art of music, the significance of the aesthetics seems to be greater simply because of the two major general notions:
- It is a general perception that the aesthetics is the study of "beauty", which is supposed to be the characteristic of vision, whereas music is expressed through the medium of sound.
- The characteristic of music is pleasantness or "enjoyable to ears" and hence has nothing to do with the aesthetics which is said to deal with the beauty.
This article studies music with a view to explain its relation to the study of aesthetics.
The philosophy of "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" expresses the importance of purity and pleasure in all the fine arts. When we talk of music, nobody can claim to disagree from the fact that it has the capacity to give pleasure even in the adverse conditions like trouble and tensions. That is the reason why music-listening is now recommended to the patients of hypertension, sleeplessness, cardiac diseases etc. music has the potential to diverge the mind from the negative attitude to the positive one and thus to provide relaxation and relief, though only for a shorter period of time. It is this speciality of music which is very important. In other arts, we have to concentrate our minds first in order to appreciate them. On the contrary, as far as the art of music is concerned, as a musical sound is perceived through our ears, our mind is diverted towards the sound itself. We do not have to make an extra effort in order to appreciate the pleasure inculcated through the perception of amazing and pleasing tones. That is why, music is liked by almost all the men and women of different ages, classes, social backgrounds etc. why the human beings only! It is taken in good taste by animals also.
Music is the expression of one's state of mind through the means of the permutations and the combinations of the interesting and pleasing sound-patterns representing the tones and overtones of musical notes. Thus, it is perceived through our ears. Though on the higher levels, when we listen to the great artists, we make an eye-contact too with the performer. However, this eye-contact hardly affects or influences the pleasure which we receive by listening to the good music. It hardly makes any difference – listen to the music through a radio set [where it is not possible to view the artist], or listen to it through some visual media like the television, video etc. the only condition is that the listener should have the capacity to appreciate music. We are aware that those who are not "Rasika" cannot appreciate any arts. That is why this condition is important. This condition does not mean that most of the persons cannot appreciate the music. This only means that one has to attain certain level of understanding of the art in order to appreciate it. In the field of music, especially, Indian classical music, if one does not know the concept of Ragas, he/she is not able to enjoy it. The same thing can be applied to other arts too.
Therefore, it is very important for the audience of music that they should have the capacity to appreciate the same. This is the reason why the level of appreciation differs from person to person. Some people like a particular piece of music but at the same time some others dislike the same piece. This does not mean in any manner that the piece of music itself is defected but it shows the difference of opinion amongst the masses or the classes.
Sometimes, the question is raised about the popularity of some specific musical compositions. The compositions which seem to be popular sometimes are not liked by even the great artists. This is the reason that the insight as well as the anticipation of the masses is very different from that of the perception and the expectations of the artists. An artist can understand the concept of raga and if the performer deviates from any of the rules of the raga lakshanas given in musicology, he/she would not like it. On the contrary, it is difficult for the general listener to find fault in the concept of the art as they are not aware of it. In the compositions related to the popular music, the situations are different. These compositions are meant for the masses. Therefore, anybody can appreciate and enjoy them. However, in the classical compositions, only those persons can appreciate the music that has a basic knowledge of the Branch. Not only in the field of music but in any of the fine arts, when it comes to the Classical compositions, the rules have to be different from that of the popular piece of work. For example, in Literature, the "road-side books" are meant for the masses and hence catch more attention than the literary and Classic ones. In music the situation is the same.
Music has therefore many forms. It has many modes of expression. We can find whatever level or standard at our will. We have folk music, regional music, cine-music, popular music [Pop music], classical music, semi-classical music etc. It is for the performer and the listener to decide which form of it they wish to go to. Therefore, let us concentrate upon Indian classical music.
Indian classical music has a very great and illustrious tradition. It has passed through many ups and downs. It has developed the capacity to survive under the most adverse circumstances. It has the power to submerge music of different regions, kinds and categories. We have seen that in the medieval period of our history, when there was a total cultural invasion, the tradition of Indian music adapted itself in a manner that the chaos could not damage the beautiful and pleasing treasure of the musical tradition laid down by our great ancestors. History tells that there have been several instances when our tradition of music was tried to be changed and transfigured to the taste of the invaders who have come from different parts of the Asian region and elsewhere. But the power of our music was such that it did not succumb to the pressures and prejudices. It took all the changes in a positive manner and modified itself accordingly. That is why, in the present era too, when there are different streams flowing through our music, we see that the basics are still the same.
Before analyzing the beauty aspect of our music, let us consider the "individuality" aspect first. It is very important that we should ascertain the capacities of an individual musician to the field of music. generally, the art is patronized by institutions and hence at times, the individuality of a particular artist is hampered.
In South Asian cultures the arts traditionally have been associated with "religion," but in at least three general ways, and with varying degrees of explicitness. First of all, even when textual content is not present to make the association explicit, music and dance are implicitly "religious" by virtue of the Indian cultural idea that music and dance are paths to salvation, or at least valued vehicles of devotional expression. Secondly, they may be "religious" because the text of the performance is explicitly religious. Finally, they may be "religious" because they function in a specifically religious performance context.
These essays provide instances of each of these ways of being "religious." Bharata Natyam and Kathakali are "religious" in the first two ways. Dhrupad sung by the Dagar family is "religious" in the first and usually the first two ways. Qawwali (Muslim) is "religious" particularly in the last two ways (but to some, in all three ways), though when performed out of the context discussed here, is religious primarily textually.
In contrast with the Indian association of religious expression with music and dance, orthodox Muslim thought does not associate these two art forms with religious expression. (The Sufi tradition within the greater Islamic world view must be seen in its own terms.) Through the Qureshi article on qawwciliand the Owens article on the Dagars, (a family who were high caste Indians but who converted to Islam several generations ago), we observe the results of the adjustment of the two value systems. The process of adjustment, the results in human and musical terms, have scarcely been considered by historians of Indian music. Nor is the process at an end. Owing to shifting patterns of patronage, the hegemony of Muslim musicians in North India is presently giving way to an hegemony of Hindu musicians, with both groups functioning socially and artistically within a rapidly changing India.
Another major topic in the study of the performing arts within the broader South Asian cultural context is patron-client relationships. In an analysis of one performed song, the performance provides an extraordinarily clear example of the direct musical result of the patron-client relationship. One facet that the teachers of the Indian classical music elucidate is what the performer must learn about the audience's response (including and especially the patron's) in order to perform effectively. They also are unusually direct about the matter of financial renumeration and its effect on the music INTRODUCTION itself. Those concerns are explicit in the Sufi assembly context to a far greater extent than in the concert context, of course, but those same concerns are equally significant in other spheres of artistic life.
A dual topic addressed in several of the Westerners research is the grouping of artists and the cultivation of "schools" within an art. Owens considers a North Indian gharani, while Jones discusses sampradiyas (teacher-student descent groups) in the history of Kathakali. Similarly, Qureshi points out that qawwali musicians normally belong to a community of hereditary professional musicians who trace their musical identity through lineages parallel to, or even converging with, the gharanas of North Indian musicians in the classical music sphere. And Jon Higgins notes that in the world of Bharata Natyam, dance musicians maintain allegiance primarily to a single dancer or school of dance.
The grouping of artists and the cultivation of "schools" within an art are topics integral to the greater context of South Asian studies, for several reasons. Studies of social and/or occupational groupings are crucial to an understanding of South Asia. The relationships of artistic groupings to those of the larger society are obviously significant, involving as they do criteria of artistic achievement as well as birth. Such studies, across the arts as well as within a single art form, particularly those studies that compare Hindustani and Karnatak cultures, inevitably lead to discussion of such important matters as values, religious belief, status, communalism, and many others. The subject of groups is important for the history of all Indian arts, for teacher-student groupings have controlled transmission, continuity, and change-therefore the very nature of the arts themselves.
Groups are vital facets of Indian culture, but so, too, are individuals. Thus, in the study of any Indian art form, there must also be considerable emphasis on the particular artist, as in Owens's presentation of Ustad Nazir Aminuddin Dagar and Qureshi's discussion of Meraj Ahmad Nizami. In any discussion of a single artist we are presented with three complex matters for consideration:
1. The musical tradition with which the artist is associated-a system of training, teaching, performance and repertoire, its history over the centuries, and its expression in several contexts;
2. The family of which he or she is just one member-a group of musicians who have concentrated their lives on the tradition, who have held places in a relatively long musical history and who have maintained their tradition in various places, therefore various contexts;
3. The individual musician within the group who has viewed and therefore maintained the tradition in certain ways, lived during one phase of the history, and in several contexts.
South Asian artists and scholars certainly emphasize individuality within tradition, as when they praise a singer for carrying on a tradition (for example by showing proof of good training), but then temper their praise with a statement such as "but he (or she) is not yet free of his (or her) teacher's style." Conversely, sons of great ustcids complain that when they first try to establish themselves professionally, critics compare them to their fathers (usually unfavorably). Each new generation wishes to have its own musical individuality recognized.
For North Indian musical culture the two facets of a musician's responsibility-his maintenance of tradition and his development of individuality-must always be kept in perspective by scholars, as they are in the minds of musicians whom they study. Mention Kirana gharana and the response is likely to be: Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Hirabai Barodekar, and other distinguished individuals. Mention Agra gharana and the response is likely to be: Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Nathan Khan, M.R Gautam, and the like. Mention any other Gharana and the response probably will be the same: naming of individual singers, only some of whom belong to the hereditary family. Furthermore, particular characteristics in the style of each individual singer will readily be mentioned, along with general characteristics associated with the Gharana style. (Note: it is also important to distinguish between the view of Gharana from members of the hereditary family (gharcinedcir) and the view of Gharana from non-gharcinedcir- two views which may or may not agree in all respects.)
The importance of the individual artist is also reflected in the attention given to biography (and hagiography) by South Asian writers on the arts. Journals devote a great deal of space to biographies of musicians, numerous book-length biographies are published and there are also many dictionaries of musicians. In this way our attention is drawn constantly to individual artists. Since the individual musician is so important to music, one should ask: who is "the individual" in South Asian and, particularly, Indian society and culture? In the collection of essays on The Status of the Individual in East and West (University of Hawaii Press, 1968), several perspectives on that question were offered. P.T. Raju in "Indian Epistemology and the World and the Individual," asserts: What we know in perception is not the abstract individual, but a particular individual, not a mere member of a class, but this or that member (p. 123)
The world does not consist primarily of individuals and relations, but of individuals and
their activities, involving relations of course (p. 136) . . . . One may express the central teaching of Indian epistemology about the individual and the world thus: [With regard to the empiri- cal world] The true and significant knowledge of the individual and this world is the knowledge of the individual in his field of action (p. 137).
Surama Dasgupta, in "The Individual in Indian Ethics," asserts: The theory of karma attributes full responsibility for one's actions to the individual himself. . . . Society has tried to help the average man by mapping out for him a scheme of life and duties, but it is on the individual himself that his karma depends, and results will accrue to him accordingly. So, from every point of view, the social good or the personal, the final responsibility for actions rests on the individual alone (pp. 288- 89).
S.K. Saxena, in "The Individual in Social Thought and Practice in
India," asserts: Indian tradition has always been tied in intellectual and emotional admiration only to individuals who created and molded the society. The heroes in the Indian social mind are all individuals-sages and saints-and not schools or "isms" or ideologies. . . . What is adored in social Indianism or in any social period is not a historical process as such, but a particular individual who has brought about social betterment. Not the adoring of the age of Gandhi, but Gandhi himself (p. 348).
Perhaps the most eloquent statement in these essays about individuality in India is the following: "In fact, there is no one Indian view of the status of the individual. There are many views, each upheld by substantial Indian thinkers and by a large section of the Indian people" (Kalidas Bhattacharyya, in "The Status of the Individual in Indian Metaphysics, p. 48). In these essays we perceive that we should view theindividual (not the idea of him), and know him by his particular set of actions (then his relations), for in the end he alone is responsible for his own actions which determine his karma.
Related to the topic of individuality is the concept of authority in the Indian context. When an Indian musician tells one (or writes- the two modes of communication being more similar to each other in Indian than in Western scholarship) "the origin of sargam is . . . ," or "Raga Todi is sung like this . . . ,"one is supposed to understand that "this is the gospel according to . . . ." Authority resides in the individual and an Indian student will decide whose authority he endorses and abide by that. But there are many other views, each equally authoritative, and this is tolerated and understood. Just as "there is no one Indian view of the status of the individual," so is there no one Indian (or South Asian) view about very many things, including details of musical tradition. Thus, it is critical for Western scholars of Hindustani or Karnatak music to inform their work with this value perception and to avoid the pitfalls of unbending generalizations about a body of knowledge based on the "authority" of one performer, one perspective, or one scholar. Thus, when analyzing the Indian musical tradition, the problem of identifying the "Individual" potentials of a musician is very challenging.
Now, after discussing about the "individuality" aspect of Indian music, let us see the beauty aspect of our great tradition. We have mentioned earlier that the medium of expression in the music is the tones which are called Nada. From Nada, musical notes are formed. Nada itself has been compared by the God. The concept of Nadabrahma is present in almost all the great Works of Indian music. This shows that our music was not meant just for fun or the worldly entertainment. But it had some higher levels than that. In the great Work of Pt. Ahobal, "Sangeet Parijat", two eminent objectives of music have been mentioned.
- Music should be entertaining. It should have the capacity of pleasing the masses through various tools and forms attached to it.
- At the higher level, it should also have the capacity which can liberate the artist/listener from the worldly problems. It should have the power of "self-liberation". In Indian philosophy, this "self-liberation" has been called as "moksha". "Moksha" or "bhav-Bhanjan" is said to be very important in the four "Purusharthas". These four "purusharthas are as under:
- Dharma, 2. Artha, 3. Kaam and 4. Moksha.
One has to attain first three of them in order to get the forth one – "moksha".
Through the practice of the tradition of Indian classical music one can attain these Purusharthas very easily. That is why, in Indian philosophy, music has been praised at many instances. I do not wish to go deep into it as it does not come under the present topic. The main purpose of my describing the aforesaid facts is that music in Indian tradition has been considered very pure form of the fine arts.
It is the very famous saying, "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder". This applies to the beautiful musical tones too.
As the literal meaning of beauty relates to the sense of vision, one may raise the doubts over the beauty of musical tones. But when it comes to the expressive meaning of the word "beauty", its scope seems to have no borders. Whatever gives you the pleasure, satisfaction, relaxation of mind, enjoyment etc is said to be beautiful. The things, situations, tastes, events, occurrences etc which one likes to experience again and again and feels happiness experiencing the same, can also be called as beautiful. Thus, everything that delights us is beautiful.
However, the term "beautiful" in different Branches of knowledge like philosophy, literature, moral sciences, cookery etc has different meanings associated to it. Likewise, in the art of music this term has a specific meaning.
As the broadest platform of convergence amongst the musicians, it can be underlined that the musical compositions which are based upon the set norms follow the rules and patterns set by the musicologists, are original and authentic, have the capacity to entertain the connoisseur are said to be beautiful. Many more parameters can be attached to it as and when suitable. But the basic rules remain the same. We are aware of the fact that the term "beauty" differs from place to place and from one cultural background to another. Hence, the beauty with reference to music also takes different shapes in different sociocultural setups.
Here in India, we generally think in terms of our own musical traditions. In fact, the three basic dimensions of the arts in general and the fine arts in specific are: 1. the place, 2. the time and 3. The circumstances. These three aspects change the terminology of any concept let alone the beauty aspects of music. Therefore, while studying the aesthetical values of any musical composition, let us keep in mind these basic aspects which really make a vital difference. That is the reason why, the music of comparatively the olden times is not appreciated by the new generation. The exceptions may lie here and there but broadly, it is found to be true that generation gaps can be seen in the fine arts too like every other sphere of our social and cultural life. It is this generation gap which generates new trends and the fashion in the cultural scenario of the era. It is due to this fact that newer concepts, trends, systems, practices, habits, fashion etc keep on emerging from time to time. The famous poet Bhaas has once said, "The beautiful is that which is ever new".
This newness of the compositions makes them appealing and beautiful. There are some classics which are liked in the present era too. It is because these classics are beyond the three basic aspects of arts. Namely, the time, the place and the circumstances.
Playwrights like Kalidas, Shakespeare etc were beyond the limitations of place, time and the circumstances. They chose the topics which the masses can still identify themselves with. That is why, their plays still satisfy the readers and viewers aspirations and expectations.
Likewise, the Western composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Handel as well as the Indian composers like Tyagraja, Muthuswami Dixitar, Shama Shastri etc from the South and Vishnu Digambur Pulaskar, Onkarnath Thakur, Pt. Ratanjankar etc from the North were ahead of their times. They composed very beautiful traditional Bandishes which are still being followed by the learners as well as the teachers of the Indian classical music.
In the field of Popular Music too, there have been some great composers who revolutionized the style of composing music. Great music composers for movie melodies like S. D. Barman, Madan Mohan, Anil Biswas, O. P. Naiyar, and many other artists have contributed their skills in this field. Their music is still listened with pleasure and satisfaction. Many singing stars – the classical singers or the playback ones – have shown us the new hopes and horizons following which we can contribute to the aesthetic value of our music.
Through the above analysis, we can conclude that there is a fundamental relation between the arts and the aesthetics in general and between music and aesthetics specifically. That is the reason Naada is considered to be close to the Almighty God. In our tradition of music, music has been associated in all the religious rites. Not only that, music has been an integral part of our cultural heritage. Thus, music cannot be studied without the study of the aesthetics.