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|Article 4 - Indian Classical Music - Artistic Structure or Structured Art|
I was watching a documentary on engineering wonders in the world. It showed various structures which were built generations ago, but marvel even today's modern and technology savvy generation. There is something about those structures which not only prove the amazing power of human's left scientific brain, but also demonstrate the probabilities and power of imagination from human's right brain.
When it comes to music and art, it is widely accepted fact that artistes use their right brain more than the left as it's said that right brain is a source of creativity. Sometimes I wonder if the statement is actually true. I do not really want to challenge all those years of research and painstaking effort of scientist to come of out with neurological findings of the most complex system in the world if not universe i.e. human brain. To my mind both are equally important for the artiste and so they are for the engineer too.
Is Indian Classical music engineered or art crafted? Origin of Indian Classical music points to very structured art form, in the form of Vedic chants of "Saamveda" to be sung with specific style, notes and rules. Music compositions followed specific patterns or structure. Those were primarily meant for meditation and were sung only in religious places. The later days of "Khayal" gave rise to the component of artistic freedom and imagination which grew with strong roots in Indian Classical Music. It was well accepted in common audience and got frequently performed in public and Maharaja's (king's) courts. Many new melodies (Raaga) were developed and many new rhythmic cycles (Taala) were developed. Overall music started moving towards more of art than the structure.
Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Pt. Bhatkhande and others in that generation to my mind made the first attempt to put a structure around teaching and learning of music and overall engineering of Indian Classical Music. For the first time they brought the idea of notations and written music compositions. These structures around education teaching and learning seep through the generations and became de facto of musical grooming in the current society. Sometimes to my mind, though it tends to be rigid around structure, it definitely offers a strong foundation. Now there is a new trend in this education system too to be less prescriptive about the presentation.
It is important to note the concept of 'Gharana' at this point as this is directly related with the subject. Though with 'Khayal' days, came the freedom of musical expression, it also brought the trend of a performer associating to a particular style of performance, based on his musical grooming, giving rise to lineage of performers called "Gharana" (Which literally means Family lineage). Strong guidelines built around performing as per particular Gharana, to my mind were again putting structure or specificity and style around art. The olden days of Indian Classical Music saw the strong adherence to the 'Gharana' system by the respective performers. With world coming closer, that boundary around "Gharanas" is fainting rapidly and more and more artistes are adopting best of all "Gharanas" which appeals to them into their music creating their own unique style as individuals.
With that said, when I hear the recordings of great masters of yesteryears and masters of today's world, I can predominantly hear either artiste or the engineer in the performer. I absolutely have no bias against one style or another and both sound equally enthralling. Let me also clear that these observations are my personal and are not intended so compare any artistes, or their style. Though the ratio of art and engineering may vary in every artistic performance, depending on the mood of the artiste at the time of performance and the Raag itself, there is a basic prevalent trend in the development of Raaga and over all presentation of the concert. The performance is sometimes beautifully engineered or some times just wonderfully abstracted. Avoiding the obvious allure of comparing the two styles, restating that it is purely my opinion, South Indian Karnatic Music is more engineered compared to North Indian Classical music is more art crafted.
At the conclusion of this thought-ware (stealing the word from the field of software), I feel Indian Classical music is both, the structured art and artistic structure and it is the choice and perspective of the audience and the artiste himself in terms of adoption and experiece. Both are very important aspects for creating the lasting impact of music and performance.
I would like to encourage the reader of this article to hear every performance from now on with this thought in mind and try to identify if you hear an artiste or an engineer in that performance.
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