Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Role of the Computer in promoting Indian classical music

Indian classical music has a long and illustrious tradition. From Vedic chants to Raga music, the tradition has to undergo many changes. We hear of Deepak Raag,  which could light lamps and Raga Megh Malhaar which has the capacity to cover the skies with black clouds, resulting in showers. However, we do not have any clues about those Ragas as we did not have any means of preservation of music. Through books only theoretical knowledge can be preserved. But music, being a practice based fine art, cannot be explained by theoretical means only. One needs practical knowledge of each step in music. It is only through practical demonstration that one can explain various secrets of musical skills. It is in this context that the modern technologies of recording music prove to be very useful in the preservation of musical art.
Although music scholars like Bhatkhande,  Vishnu Digambar Paluskar  etc., tried their level best to preserve our traditional music, but initially, in India, All India Radio  took the cause of preservation and promotion of music. It was only with the establishment of radio broadcasting under official auspices in the 1930s that music became a matter of administrative attention. David lelyveld  points out that, for the British authorities in charge of creating a broadcasting system for India, music was at best a lost leader, a device for getting customers into the store.  According to Lionel Fielden,  the first Controller of Broadcasting, music was "'padding' because it does not instructor inform," even if it made up about most of all broadcast time.  They were basically concerned about the political content of news and radio talks and therefore music received very little attention.
All India Radio employed two European musicologists, John Fouldes in Delhi and Walter Kaufmann in Bombay,  to administer Western musical programming but also to experiment with a new Indian music.
All India Radio remained under Department of Communication, Department of Information and Broadcasting, Department of Information and Arts for periods ranging from 1 to 4 years and finally has been under the Department of Information and Broadcasting since September 10,1946 which  became an independent ministry after independence. At the time of independence, there were a total of nine stations in undivided India, five others being run by princely states.  There were six radio stations in India located at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Tiruchirappalli and Lucknow covering 2.5 percent area and 11 percent population. The remaining three went to Pakistan at Peshawar, Lahore and Dacca.
Presently, All India Radio is doing a good effort in preserving and promoting classical music. Although most of the time dedicated to the classical music has been diverted to other kinds of music. Previously, there were several classical music programmes but presently, many of classical music features have been stopped.
Advent of computer:
Now we come to the point of computer in relation to Indian classical music. Every sphere of life has been influenced by computer. Music is no exception either. Through computer, now it has become very easy for us to preserve the artistic skills of music. Digital recording has come to be very cool and handy. Anybody can record audio/video presentations just through a click of mouse. Although the era of recording began as Thomas Alva Edison  invented the recording tool called phonogram, but it had to go through various stages before becoming so handy and effective.
Let us begin with the description of an experience of a common American family and some other neighbours during the initial stages of the music-recording technology. The episode has been taken from the book titled, “Music in America Imprint.” 
Any town, in the United States of America.
Time: any evening of the year 1905.
The family and several neighbors stand in the parlor of a modest home, staring with equal parts of curiosity and skepticism at one of the technological marvels of the day. Staring back at them is the unblinking eye of a megaphone-shaped brass horn. It protrudes about two feet from a small wooden cabinet with a crank on one side and a felt-covered metal plate on top. The marvel is a phonograph, or “talking machine,” as it was commonly called in those days.
The gentleman who is the master of the machine, and perhaps the owner of the house takes a heavy black disc, grooved on one side and smooth on the other, and places it over the spindle with the label facing up. He turns the crank several times, gingerly sets the needle on the outermost groove, and hurries back to his chair. Everyone stares at the phonograph in eager anticipation. The disc spins quickly, and above the whooshing and crackling the machine begins to sing. It sounds to them like actual voices and instruments, although in miniature. It is hard to believe that little more than a needle and a record can bring the performers to life, just as if they were right there in the parlor.
After three minutes of rapt attention, the small audience breaks into spontaneous, unselfconscious applause and calls for more. Before the man can replay the record, a small child runs to the machine, peering under the table and jumping up to look into the horn. Everyone laughs when it becomes clear that the boy is looking for the musicians. After each record is played several times, the crowd disperses, with everyone wondering if wonders will never cease.
This old-time experience of some Americans may seem unremarkable, but it reveals a revolution in the making of recorded music. Those gathered around the phonograph were experiencing music in ways unimaginable not so many years before. They were hearing performers they could not see and music they could not normally bring into their homes. They could listen to the same pieces over and again without change. And they ultimately decided what they were to hear, and when, where, and with whom. All of this was made possible by the distinctive characteristics of sound recording technology.
In around 1906, recording machines came to India through different recording companies. When the technology of capturing music first was invented, the audiences took it with amazement and wonder. Some amount of disbelief was also associated with it. Many musicians in India thought that it would steal their voice; and on this very account, many great exponents of music, initially did not give their accent for recording their compositions to big recording companies. Gradually, they came to terms with the new invention and the recording Industry flourished. Many great musicians were aware of the fact that the recording Industry would permanently preserve their compositions. However, this fact was taken in two different manners by most of the musicians. Some thought that by recording the composition, it would become immortal and shall remain even after their lives would be no more. People would remember them through these recorded compositions. Others thought that their relevance would decrease after they gave the composition to the recording companies – whatever money the company might pay in return.
Those were the days of moving cylinders, compact cassettes and rolling tapes. But now all of these things have been outdated and obsolete. Now all audio/video recording is done through computers. We have computerized digital studios where high quality recording takes place.
Simple recording for self-learning or memorizing music lessons can simply be done through smart phones and tablets. The new generation of music learners is using mobile phones very frequently in order to record musical compositions, taught in the classrooms.
Music on the Internet:
Now let us learn a bit about the basics of the internet in short. Tim Berners-Lee  developed the World Wide Web (WWW) for the CERN.
You would have heard the phrase used “surfing the world wide web” this refers to browsing the net and retrieving information. To browse the net one needs an Internet connection and a web browser.  The web browsers that are mainly used are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Netscape Navigator etc.
How does the Web works:
What was initially developed as a language of the internet, was a language called “Hypertext Markup Language” (HTML). Presently, many more internet languages have been developed. For example, Java, XHTML etc. The protocol that is used is “Hypertext Transfer Protocol” (HTTP). The protocol facilitates the transfer of data between the server and the client.
HTML or java, whatever the language is chosen, tells the browser how to display the page, including the design of the displayed page and its various parameters like what type of formatting, how the graphics are placed etc.
Let’s say you wish to access One types the address in the Title bar. The browser requests for information from the server for Data is sent and received using the HTTP protocol. The web browser interprets the HTML code and displays the web page.
This is how the internet functions.
Hence we can say that internet is a network of numerous computers through a network called World Wide Web or WWW. This network uses a protocol named as hypertext terminal protocol or HTTP in short. Through this protocol, the data is sent and received. Various computers exchange the data through the languages available, like Java, HTML etc. Data is defined as the input we give into our computer through different input devices like the keyboard, the mouse, the microphone etc.
The data which is exchanged is displayed through various output devices like monitor, printer or speakers.
After understanding in brief, as to how the computer and internet functions, let us now come to our basic point. How musical compositions are preserved on the internet?
This question can be answered in more than one ways. However, here let us limit only to the topic.
On the internet, there are various websites which provide you space for archiving musical compositions. This space is provided in two ways.
The first kind of providers provide the free space. However, we have to abide by their terms and conditions. The second kind of providers are those who give you space on demand. They charge an annual fee for the space provided. On this second kind, we can develop our own website. Many of our music maestros have their own web space and hence their own website.
Pundit Debu Choudhury, PT. Ravishankar, Tabla maestro ZaqirHussein etc. have their own website.
However most of the music lovers are dependent upon the free space provided by various websites.
First and the foremost of such website is the YOUTUBE.
 On this page, we can create an account or login through our google account and upload the music of our choice. We can share the uploaded link with our friends through th3e social networking sites like Facebook,  Twitter  etc. thus, the music uploaded by us can be heard/viewed by millions of people worldwide.
It is through this facility that we can popularize our music or our compositions. YouTube is full of so many compositions of classical music. Record your choicest music on your personal computer and upload it on the YouTube. Share it with as many people as you like. And you’d see that your composition is very popular. You can also have the facility to know as to how many times your uploads have been viewed.
Many musicians have created their own channels on you tube. By subscribing to these channels you can always be in touch with the new uploads.
Other sites also give you sharing facilities. Drop Box,  Send Space,  Googled rive  etc. give you varying amount of space to upload your choicest composition to create an archive.
Thus, we see that computer and the internet have given us various facilities whereby we can preserve our tradition of Indian classical music. We can digitally record music. We are aware that digital recordings are very good in quality. The tapes/cassettes can betray you over a period of time but the digital recording is very handy to use and very easy to preserve. It takes very little in comparison to the previously used methods. On a small pen drive of 32 GB, about 4000 hours of audio recording can be stored. This pen drive can be taken easily from one place to another. Presently, we have very small chip sized memory cards which can be installed to your smart phone and thus any kind of music can be stored and reproduced.
We can record a lecture in the class and can share it with the students or our friends who were absent from that lecture due to a variety of reasons. Just record anything and instantly share it on Facebook only if you have an account on that site. It has become very easy to share, store, record and preserve our music in these days.
Problems relating to music on the internet:
Now we come to the problems one encounters on the internet. We are aware of the fact that no system/method is free of fault. Every method has some side effects. Howsoever beneficial it may be, every system comes with some of the obstacles as well as hurdles. Internet and computers have also some of the problems which we need to know about.
Gharana system has collapsed now-a-days. Many reasons can be told on this. But one of the reasons is the recording facility that comes so accessible and handy.
In olden times, music teaching was very private. After very rigorous tests only, the music maestro would give you the Mantra of the art. But now, we can easily record whatever is taught to us. And the Guru would never have the least doubt. Thus, one has not to go again and again to his Guru. Initially, this doubt was expressed by many artists when the recording companies came to India. But after the institutionalization of music, the teaching has become very transparent.
Secondly, there are copyright issues. When one launches a Music album or CD in the market, just one person buys it and uploads on the YouTube. Now, everybody can download the CD without any cost. Thus, the marketing of the music Album is hampered and the musician is not able to earn even the initial cost which he had invested in making the music Album.
Many Hindi Movies/feature films are shared on YouTube and other data-sharing websites. Thus, most of the people watch the movie in the comfort zones of their respective homes. Now-a-days, we have large-screen Televisions which give us the effect of home theatres. Thus, many films are suffering heavy losses.
Thirdly, people copy tunes from the musical compositions and sell them as original tunes. We are aware of many copy-cats in Hindi cinema. Gulshan Kumar, the former owner of Super Cassette Industries LTD., began copying songs of the then popular playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh etc. many court cases were also initiated against T series Super Cassette Industries but no solutions can be availed.
But on the whole, there are more benefits then side effects of the new technologies like computer and internet.
Through these technologies, we can preserve the traditional Gharaanedar compositions and thus contributing to promote and popularize our rich heritage of Indian classical music. Learners can take advantage of recording music lessons on their mobile phones. We have online music tuitions these days. Through computers, we can earn foreign currency for our country by giving music tuitions abroad through different chatting applications like skype  etc.
We can share musical compositions with anybody howsoever far away he/she may be, through a computer and internet services. We can popularize our own musical compositions through internet sites like YouTube etc. we can download many traditional classical music compositions through YouTube and many more music download sites. Almost all the movie melodies are available on the internet. Most of the classical compositions are also available on different internet sites. Great music legend like Ustaad AmeerKhan, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Bheemsen Joshi, Kumar Gandharva, Kishori Amonkar etc. can be heard and viewed on YouTube. Sitting in the comfort zone of our drawing rooms, we can listen to these classical composition.
Music of India has benefitted a lot through the new technologies like computer’s digital recording facilities and the various musical sites on the internet. After the advent of these technologies, the preservation and storage of musical compositions has become very easy. Now-a-days, most of the music archives use these technologies. Cassettes and tapes have replaced CD’s, USB Pen Drives and microchip memory cards. These small cards can be inserted even in our mobile phones and thousands of classical music compositions can be stored over these devices.
But of course, every technology has its good and bad effects. Computer and internet are no exceptions. But we should try to find a solution to suppress such bad effects and utilize the benefits. We should not afraid of some shortcomings which certainly are yet to be resolved. We should rather use these technologies to exploit the benefits. Even a small knife can be used both ways; we can use it to chop vegetables or it can be used to stab somebody. It is for us to decide the usage. Hence, we cannot blame technologies if we use it negatively. Nuclear energy can be either used to produce electricity or to make atom bombs. It is for us to decide as to how we use it. In case of music also, it is for us to take corrective measures if some of us are using the technology in the unacceptable and inappropriate manner. Therefore, we should use the technology to get advantages and not to misuse it.
To conclude, we can say that computer and internet can be used in a judicious manner and all the benefits can be exploited to enrich our great tradition of Indian classical music.