Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Music for the masses

Music has always been an integral part of the human civilization. Has it been the East or the West, music looks to have a universal appeal. Many archaeologists and anthropologists recognize it as a dimension for the cultural upgradation. Historians consider musical skills as one of the most important conditions for the intellectual growth. That is the reason as to why the developed societies, more often than not, evolve more delicacies and complexities in their musical genre than those of the less developed ones. In fact, music is the most powerful tool for the hypnotism. It not only spells its charm upon the human beings but the animals too fall prey to it. The scientists concluded after different experiments that cows are milked easily while the suitable music is played during the process of milking. Likewise, elephants respond to music too. Not only have the animals, the plants also responded to music. In the paddy fields the specified instrumental music was played as the crop was growing. There was a visible increase in the per acre produce. Thus, it looks that music has a very soothing effect on living bodies.

During the festive times, on joyous as well as the depressing occasions, in religious/cultural functions, in every sphere of life we see the use of music. Therefore, it is not without reason that one should try to look into the meaning of music. We have to be clear in our minds as to what really is the actual meaning of music. This article tries to find out as to what the masses think of the concept of music and also what the classical definition of the same is.

What is music?

Generally, singing a song, or playing its tune on some instrument, is considered as creating music. There is a saying, "singing and sobbing is known to all." Most of the common masses think that singing is music. They associate it with singing songs or playing the same on an instrument. In "WordWeb Dictionary", the word 'Music' is explained as under:

  1. An artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner

2. Any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds

3. (Singing) musical activity (singing or whistling etc.)

4. (Music) the sounds produced by singers or musical instruments (or reproductions of such sounds)

However, when it comes to the musicians, music is a well defined concept. The artists consider it as a fine art. In the list of the five fine arts, music and literature come on the top. The Indian philosopher and thinker Bhartrihari reveals the same as follows,

"साहित्य संगीत कला-विहीनः, साक्षात् पशुः पुच्छ-विषाण-हीनः।"

Meaning, those who live without music and literature, are like the animals without the horns and tails.

For more on the concept of music, please visit, http://www.musicalexpressions.myehome.in/thesis/ch1.mht/

As in this essay, our main focus is upon the understanding of the views of common people about the concept of music. Therefore, we would not go into the details of the definitions etc of the same. We would Endeavour to think of music in terms of the masses rather.

Dr Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher/teacher and the former President of India stated in his famous book that a poem expressed perfectly and charged with the sentiment, becomes a musical genre. ("Jeewan Ki Adhyatmik Drishti" published by rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.)

There are many identical definitions of the term 'music', well-versed amongst the music community; hence, it hardly serves any purpose to make of the repetition of the same here. The conclusion of almost all of them is as under:

Music is a fine art which relates to singing, playing of a musical instrument and dancing. It is expressed through the medium of sound. The pleasing sounds or 'naada' is expressed through a variety of musical notes which have been evolved over the ages. These musical notes create music. We can use the vocal chords, which is gifted by the Nature or the man-made musical instruments available in different shapes and sizes to create music. Sometimes, the musical notes are created just by whistling; here one can adjust one's lips to create different musical notes. At present, the western world considers the art of dance unique and separate from music. However, here in India, the trinity of vocal music, instrumental music and dance is treated in the same art of music.

Now, let us reflect on what the masses think of music. Generally, the common men and women do not need a definition to appreciate, understand, adjudge any concepts, ideologies, arts, philosophies etc. the common people use the 'common sense' to understand even the most complicated situations. It is the job of the scholarly and the intelligent to play with language and more often than not, to prove nothing but their capacity of analyzing the concepts. One needs to be a connoisseur and not necessarily a scholar, to enjoy or appreciate music or any art for that matter. One needs commitment, rigorous practice [Swara Sadhana] and the love and appreciation to be a musician. Of course, after a certain level, a reverend teacher is also required. But in any case, we need no reasoning or logic for us to excel in the art. In fact logic is helpful in the branches of science and mathematics etc and the stream of arts has nothing to do with the logic. We can elaborate it by adding the following fact:

The artists try to communicate with his/her audience with ever new expressions. [Different arts have different media]. But the main condition of creating beauty through art remains the same. This condition is the newness of the expression presented to the audience. Bhasa the great classical poet of Sanskrita stated this very romantically. That image, which attains newness every second and hence remains ever new, is the real beauty. (क्षणे क्षणे यन्नवतामुपैति तदेव रूपम् रमणीयतायाः।)

Any new composition, expression, invention, discovery, poem, play etc cannot be created just through the logic. Dr Radhakrishnan supported the same in his book. ('Jeewan ki adhyatmik drishti' P34) He explained, "We can elaborate upon any given idea through the power of logic but logic does not help in leading our ideas to new inventions." He presented an example from the world of science. Many persons before Newton had seen the apple falling on the earth. However, it struck in nobody's mind [before Newton], that the fall was due to the reason of the earth's gravity. Sometimes, we try our level best to find the solution to a problem and get none. As we accept the defeat, sometimes it occurs that suddenly the solution strikes in our mind like a lightening. We get a smile and think that answer to the said problem was so simple and still so far away from us. It is through the genius and ignited minds that such newness takes place incessantly. The orthodox God-fearing persons believe that it is through the grace of the God.

It is for this reason that the masses consider music as one of many gifts of the Almighty. We, the logical men and woman, often ridicule the faith of the common people and condemn such thinking on the basis of not being logical. For instance, many rationalists question the thinking that the Swaras [the musical notes] originated through the 'Damru' of lord Shiva or through imitating the voices of different birds and animals. Some of such scholarly persons also question the association of gods and goddesses with music and other fine arts. They suggest that the gods have nothing to do with the evolution of arts. But the common men and women beyond cultural barriers and geographical boundaries are united and firm in the view that it is the grace of God which showers the hypnotizing drizzle of arts upon us. That is why; they say that the artists are born naturally. They cannot be evolved. Many artists too submit that one can polish an artist to the perfection but the artists cannot be created; they are born through the grace of the God.

Conclusion

For the masses, arts in general and music in particular, make the artists glamorous. Everybody is infected by a genuine and pleasant music. Subsequently, everybody wants to learn it have a mastery over the art. But in the opinion of Shri L. K. Pandit, (former lecturer in the Department of music, Delhi University and Programme Executive, All India Radio), in the music Institutes we do not create 'Tansens' but 'Kaansens'. Every learner of music cannot necessarily become an artist but he/she surely can become 'Kaansen' [the appreciator of music].

On the basis of above description, the art of music can be associated with two basic components: 1. the creater of music [the artist] and 2. The listener or the audience. The linking medium which connects these two is the art-form. There are numerous forms of music which have been categorized by musicologists in different classes. Some of them, for instance, are: popular music, folk music, film music, light music, devotional music and last but not the least, classical music. Classical music is further divided into classical and semiclassical music. There are different classes and types of musical forms. However, it is beyond the limits of this article to address the issue of the classification of musical forms. Our focus would be to understand as to what is the scope of music as for as a layman is concerned.

In music, the medium of expression is the sound. All sounds are not musical ones. Musical sounds are said to have certain characteristics like softness, pleasantness, clarity etc. the sounds used in music are thus called 'Naada'. Naada is expressed through the musical notes. These musical notes do not have any substantial relevance for the laymen. The masses do not ponder over the minute ideas like the accuracy of musical notes, the pitch, the composition etc. they just like or dislike the musical composition they listen to. Therefore, the concepts like the composition, 'Swara Sadhana', purity of Raga, perfection of certain techniques etc which are very important to a music critique, do not have much significance to the masses.

The musician and the audience are linked [as stated above], through the musical sound which is expressed by the musical notes. These notes do not have any substance for the common audience. Therefore, we stop talking of them. The main objective of the artist of music has to be to focus upon the melody. Melody is composed through the musical notes. However, those folk people, who are not aware of musical notes, also compose folk songs. Therefore, we should rather say that the melody is based upon the musical sounds. All the features of the musical sounds [pleasantness, softness, soothing effect etc] are hence transferred to the melody. Melody may or may not have poetry or words. In the purest form of music, only musical sounds are used to convey the feeling of the artist. But in the oral tradition and the folk traditions, the melody is composed of both the two: words as well as the musical notes. In Indian tradition, the former is called as 'dhatu' and the latter one is 'matu'. This fascinating mingling of two great fine arts [music and literature], leads to the composition of songs. These songs vary from region to region and from culture to culture. We can submit that "the song is poetry composed in musical notes and balanced with rhythmic patterns." Any literary work, when decorated with musical notes and the rhythm, transformed into a song. Such songs are also played upon various musical instruments. In that case, the listeners enjoy the same song as with words. In Indian tradition, it is believed that the musical instruments should follow the vocal music and the dance should follow the instruments. (SangeetRatnakar: Chapter 1, Pindotpatti Prakaran).

To conclude, music is the melody (or melodies played together - harmony), composed of musical notes and balanced with rhythmic patterns. The main property of any musical composition is that it is pleasant, fascinating, interest-provoking and above all full of freshness or newness. Such compositions are appreciated by the audience and hence easily gain popularity. The acceptance of the listeners is also very importand for a musical genre for making an imprint. Marketability, presentibility etc come afterwards.

For Further Reading

Music of the Indian Subcontinent

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Watch this short documentary on Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam prepared in connection with a school competition. This movie was adjudged 2nd amongst around 40 entries. To watch the movie, click the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTNtsiwt1nc

Friday, August 6, 2010

Music, as an alternative therapy

I found this article on Hindu, the Online Edition. As I keep on finding new research on music therapy, I thought this article might prove to be one of many examples of the same. Maybe, the medical fraternity would pursue music therapy more vigorously. Hence, I thought to produce the article which is as under:


 

Music putting her back on feet

Dennis Marcus Mathew

6-year-old coming back to life from somatic brain injury

Radhika, who is recovering from coma with the help of music, with her mother Manju at hospital.

Music has much more than rhythm, beats and series of notes. Any doubt? Ask six-year-old Radhika, who is collecting and piecing together the missing notes of her life with music after being in coma for two months.

Radhika, born to Ambalapuzha fisherman Raju and Manju, was admitted in an unconscious state to the intensive care unit of the T.D. Medical College Hospital in Vandanam, 9 km south of the Alappuzha in Kerala, on May 30 after suffering from a somatic brain injury. The injury was caused by an accidental tightening of her neck by a shawl she was playing with.

Head of the hospital's pediatric department Girija Mohan says Radhika lost sensation and memory, suffered from respiratory problems and was in need of ventilator support.

"We had absolutely no hope of her recovery. Medicines and intravenous fluids kept her alive, but she was in coma. She also suffered from seizures. We tried every mode of treatment. When I began searching the Internet, I came upon music therapy for such cases," Dr. Mohan told The Hindu.

Coupled with inputs from Raju and Manju that Radhika enjoyed songs, especially those on Lord Krishna, Dr. Mohan got busier on Google, Yahoo and all other search engines. Low and soft music, instrumental music and Carnatic music, without rap or loud music, was the feedback she got. Listening to music over an earphone, Radhika began responding slowly - first by opening her eyes, then being attentive to music, smiling in between, and then responding to her name. Dr. Mohan added environmental simulation to the neuro-rehabilitation therapy. Radhika's parents took her out on the verandah and started talking to her and showing the people around. Physiotherapy became a daily routine.

After Radhika took her first steps on Saturday after two months, Dr. Mohan is happy.

For Further Reading:

Sensation of tones

Changing society through Music

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Common Wealth Games and the prospects of India

Since the very commencement of our independence, our country has progressed in all spheres of life; be it science and technology, agricultural and the industrial development, arts and entertainment, or the games and sports – our advancement has been phenomenal. It is in this context of our all round achievements that we have got the pride moment of conducting the commonwealth games to be held in October, 2010. Not only that we have the challenge to accomplish the mission with perfect precision, but the much more important thing is that we emerge victorious in as many events as possible in the grand ceremony of the sportsmanship. The latter is the greater challenge. Therefore, it is mandatory to us that we look into the prospects of India, our country, in these games.

In the present scenario, most of our countrymen are obsessed with cricket when it comes to discourse about the games of any kind. But in the last Olympic Games, our shooters and boxers made us proud through their commendable performances. Very recently, Saina Nehwal electrified the Badminton Court by winning Singapore Open Badminton Championship. Our wrestlers have not only been able to sustain their consistency in skills and agility, but many of them have improved their performances. The weight lifters are also doing pretty well. All these achievements present a hopeful environment for us to think that in the upcoming commonwealth games too, our heads will be held high.

Games have been the integral part of our education system. The policy-makers have always tried to incorporate the sports in the curriculum. At the school as well as the college levels, the faculty of sports have been established. However, there is a lot which needs our attention.

A lack of proper infrastructure has been the matter of concern over the years. The players express their apprehensions in this matter at various levels. Questions have also been raised over the functioning of various sports Federations. Recently, a dispute between the Hockey Federation of India and the National Hockey team has been in the Electronic as well as the Print Media. The appointment of the foreign Coaches has also been the point of contention between the players and the administrative bodies of many sports. In short, there are a variety of problems which demand a timely and the satisfactory solution, not only from the government but from the players' side also.

In the nation of such great diversity as ours, we cannot expect that everything will come our way without any hassles. Sure, we have problems but we have the capacity to solve them too. Such obstacles have never deterred us; on the contrary, they have inspired us to work more vigorously to achieve the targets. Therefore, we need not afraid of these petty problems. Let us work together for the execution of the event with the perfect precision. We have the capacity to win numerous Golds if our players are given the proper environment and the infrastructure. Our players are second to nobody. They have proved this time and again. India has dominated the game of hockey from the Fifty's to Seventy's of the gone by Century. The magical Hockey-stick of the legendary Major Dhyan Singh is still in the memories of the hockey lovers all over the world. Sprinters like the great Milkha Singh, the shooting sensation Captain Rajvardhan Singh Rathore, the flying fairy P. T. Usha and many more exemplary personalities inspire millions of us. We have the courage and the commitment, capacity and the will power; we just need the ignition to blast our energetic performance. Therefore, it is the duty and the sacred responsibility of the Government and all concerned to create a barrier-free atmosphere in which our contingent for the occasion can perform to its level best. Let us give our players the required weaponry and the moral support. Let us encourage them. This is not the time of finding the faults but the occasion to show our talents under whatever circumstances our destiny has brought us in. There is no time left for the criticism or the leg-pulling. Let us forget everything else and concentrate upon the targets. We have the potentials to overcome any kind of odd situations that may arise. We have been victorious in the past and we can again overpower the sophisticated and technologically more advanced training of any sports-troop. I have the full faith in our players and I am sure that they would earn more medals than ever before. Let us join our hands to support and encourage them.