Friday, December 20, 2013

MUSIC IN THE AIR

MUSIC IN THE AIR

Whether the North East monsoon comes or not, come December and there is music in the ‘air’ and it is all over Chennai. I am sure there is no other city in India at least, where music becomes the air you breathe in every nook and corner. They call it the ‘Kutcheri Season’ or music festival which is heralded by the arrival of the Tamil month of ‘Marghazi’ and classical Carnatic music throbs in the veins of the thousands of Rasikas (music lovers) who throng the hundreds of Sabhas spread throughout the city to hear their favourite musicians and encourage the budding ones. This stretches over a period of fifteen to twenty days. Not only music but Indian Classical Dance festivals are held especially in places like Kalakshetra.

Though a music lover I am not a regular attendee at these concerts due to logistic problems – the commuting distance and car parking. But I do look for some of them in the vicinity of the area I live in and try to attend. The last few days have been special for I have been attending the concerts at a place, a kilometre from my house and near the seashore. As I listened to the strains of the flute emanating from the stage in front of me and the cool air from the sea drifting in, caressing my face, I was transported to  a another dimension. In between I got up and walked to the rear gate, which was open and looked out at the dark wide expanse lit only by the light of the moon and the silver streaks dancing on the surface of the sea. The waves were also gentle as if paying obeisance to the music in the air.

Even now I can recollect the various times that I have had these sublime trysts with music and to a large extent I can say these were a result of the situations I found myself in. Great music becomes greater when the ambience is also great. Last year I accompanied my daughter to a musical performance by a well known Indian rock band called ‘Indian Ocean’ playing what can be described as fusion music. This was held on the Elliots Beach seashore. The crowd was huge comprising mainly of the younger lot, mostly students. As the group played, the rains came down and they continued playing their music. The crowds danced and the sea roared in the background. We all got wet but it was an awesome experience. Though it was the Bay of Bengal in the backdrop it was the Indian Ocean that was playing that night.

I am sure most of you would have listened to and attended concerts of Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Amjad Ali Khan and others. I have attended many of them at various places in Mumbai, Baroda, Ahmedabad and elsewhere. But I specially remember the concerts which were held at the Durbar Hall of the Laxmi Vilas palace at Baroda. Sitting on the carpeted ground below the golden light emanating from the chandeliers and listening to the artiste on the stage, like disciples in front of the Guru is something I can never forget. As Bhimsen sang his abhangs late into the night making sure to render his favourite ‘Jo Bhaje Hari Ko Sada’ towards the end of the concert, I went back home in a spiritually elevated mood, his voice still ringing in my years as I fell asleep.

I still remember the night when sitting on the lawns of ATIRA, Ahmedabad on a cold winter night with only the stars and the moon above gracing the occasion with their benign presence and listening to the strains of Shiv Kumar Sharma’s santoor rendering raag Bagesri was sheer bliss. This was a night long festival of music which started at around seven o’clock in the evening and went on till the next morning, with performances by various renowned Hindustani classical musicians. In between one would get up to have a cup of hot ‘chai’ which was served free at the venue. I think nearly everyone who came stayed till the end.

And of course I cannot forget the concert ‘A Tribute to the Beatles’ by a group called ‘Rain’ at the Fox theatre in Saint Louis. It took me back decades to my school and college days and I relived every moment.

There have been several such moments but it is necessary to recollect them to really understand the effect of music has on us. All the arts are expressions of the human soul, I prefer to call it that, as there is too much of thought and analysis when the mind is involved and in the process the spontaneity of the moment is lost.

Kierkegaard in his book ‘Either/Or’ examines this aspect. In the chapter on ‘The Immediate Erotic stages’ while talking about an abstract idea says “our concern here is only with an idea that can become the object of an artistic treatment, not with ideas that lend themselves to scientific presentation”. He continues that the most abstract idea conceivable is the spirit of sensuality. It cannot be represented in sculpture, for in itself it is a kind of quality of inwardness. It cannot be painted, for it cannot be grasped in fixed contours. It is an energy, a storm, impatience, passion, and so on, in all their lyrical quality, existing not in a single moment but in a succession of moments, for if it existed in a single moment it could be portrayed or painted. The only medium that can represent it is music, for music has an element of time in it and it does not lapse in time. What it cannot express is the historical in time. Music exists only in the moment of its performance, for however skilful one may be at reading notes and however lively one’s imagination, it cannot be denied that it is only in unreal sense that the music exists when read. It exists really only when it is performed. It is because of this he says that music is a higher spiritual art”.

While all other mediums of self expression have space as their element it is only Language and Music that have time as their element. It is perhaps only music that can hold you a captive during the moments of its performance. I was a captive in all my trysts with music and never desired to be freed


3 comments:

GS Subramanian said...

Shumon Sengupta "As I listened to the strains of the flute emanating from the stage in front of me and the cool air from the sea drifting in, caressing my face, I was transported to a another dimension. In between I got up and walked to the rear gate, which was open and looked out at the dark wide expanse lit only by the light of the moon and the silver streaks dancing on the surface of the sea. The waves were also gentle as if paying obeisance to the music in the air."

The written word can indeed sound like music!!! Loved this post!

GS Subramanian said...

Sriram Iyer That's why Music plays an important part in Bhakthi yoga! One doesn't need to know music to love it, enjoy it.

GS Subramanian said...

Pattabhi Raman Well written.. He is blessed who has an eye for beauty and ear for music..Unfortunately, today, the techniques are stifling creativity..