Posts Tagged ‘Indian’

A Modern Introduction to Music – 7

August 7, 2010

By Anjum Altaf

We are almost there, within striking distance of our primary goal. If you would bear with me just a little longer and not get psyched out by the reference to physics, you would find yourself the proud owner of a number of important insights and you would wonder why you had not been aware of them all along. Believe me, this is a short tunnel and there is a searchlight at the end of it.

We had concluded the last part knowing how sound is created and how it travels from the source to the human ear. We also described the shape of an ideal sound wave and I would urge you to take a look at the graphic if you have not done so already (just observe the shape, ignore everything else). (more…)

A Modern Introduction to Music – 6

August 3, 2010

By Anjum Altaf

I have been reflecting on the feedback from readers, both negative and positive, and it has helped me immensely to sift through my own biases and prejudices. I am now inclined to drop any remaining pretension to the claim that the end objective of this series is to increase the enjoyment or appreciation of music. This end result may or may not happen but it is not the real driver of this set of notes.

I now realize that I am addressing myself to the set of individuals who wish to talk and write about music, to describe an aural experience in words, and to critique it such that a reader gets a reasonable sense of the difference between one performance and another. (more…)

A Modern Introduction to Music – 5

July 31, 2010

By Anjum Altaf

It is time now to venture gingerly to the next stage in this modern introduction to music. I hope by the end of this post it would be clearer why the term ‘modern’ has been employed in the title.

Just as painting is the art of color, music is the art of sound. Painting is a visual art form; it is seen by the eyes. Music is an aural art form; it is heard by the ears. Music and sound are intertwined and so the first step in understanding music is to understand sound.

One thing should be obvious: While all music is sound, not all sound is music. In fact, most sound is not music; it is noise. (more…)

A Modern Introduction to Music – 4

July 30, 2010

By Anjum Altaf

I feel I should explain once again why we are proceeding slowly with this introduction. It is because we are not trying to learn to perform music. We are trying to learn to understand music. This is a difference that people are often impatient with but it is a fine difference. In music, it is possible to learn to perform without understanding the underlying theory. But, quite clearly, understanding becomes severely limited in the absence of knowledge of the basic principles. It is my belief that if we learn to walk right, we will be able to run much faster in the future.

This can seem abstract so let me illustrate with an example. A number of the readers of this series are more familiar with Carnatic music about which I know relatively little. (more…)

Music: Architecture, Painting, and Wet Clay

August 27, 2009

By Anjum Altaf 

I have something uncanny to report.

I began this series of posts on music (see here) by describing how puzzled I was by a metaphor used by Goethe (I call architecture frozen music) because I was unable to reconcile that image with the music I was familiar with. It was after many years that I concluded tentatively that Hindustani classical music was better characterized as a painting.

Responses from readers drew us into a discussion of Western classical music of which I have very little knowledge. In order to familiarize myself with the basics I bought, more or less at random, a book titled The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music by Tim Smith (NPR, 2002). (more…)

Music: An Interview with Arpita Chatterjee

August 24, 2009

By Anjum Altaf

In response to the interest in our series on music (see here, here, and here), The South Asian Idea (TSAI) is following up with an interview with Arpita Chatterjee (AC) presently in charge of the Academic Research Department at the prestigious ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata and thus an ideal person to guide us in our discussions. These are her personal views.

TSAI: We started our series on music with the quote from Goethe: “I call architecture frozen music.” Is this metaphor of “architecture” relevant for Indian classical music? If not, what would be the appropriate metaphor that could help readers visualize Indian classical music? (more…)

An Idiot’s Guide to Music – 3

August 21, 2009

By Anjum Altaf 

In the second post in this series I had proposed looking at the organization of music to see what it revealed about the organization of society. This enquiry was motivated by the very stark differences in the organization of classical music in the Western and Hindustani traditions that are immediately obvious on attending concerts in the two traditions.

I am going to rely almost entirely on the description provided by Yehudi Menuhin in his autobiography Unfinished Journey (Chapter 12) because being a musician he has a deep insight into the subject. Later I will come back to the issues that Menuhin does not address. (more…)

An Idiot’s Guide to Music – 2

August 7, 2009

By Anjum Altaf

Is architecture frozen music?

I asked this question because it consumed many years of my life and in arriving at an answer I discovered things about myself that I now wish to explore because they have a bearing on who we are, where we come from, and how we see the world.

Think back to Macaulay’s child, the babu-in-the-making, desperately looking for architecture in music. Taught only reading, writing and arithmetic (in English) with a polishing of calculus and Fourier transforms, it was natural to assume that music was music was music and it was only a matter of diligent search that would reveal to me the architecture that Goethe had seen.

And so it was a blinding (to an idiot) flash that opened up the possibility that there could be music and there could be music and that the two could differ and therefore the metaphor that applied to one need not apply to the other. (more…)

An Idiot’s Guide to Music – 1

August 2, 2009

By Anjum Altaf

I call architecture frozen music – Goethe

I stumbled upon this quote as a teenager and fell in love with it without understanding it at all, a phenomenon not uncommon as I learnt later when I fell in love with a human being – loving and hating comes so much easier than understanding.

The quote stayed with me for years – stuck in diaries, propped up on desks, hanging from walls, scribbled in notes to people I loved but did not understand – without yielding its mystery. The only thing I can claim credit for is that I did not stop searching for an answer. (more…)