Saturday, September 11, 2004

Indian Traditions

I think that it is fascinating that Indian musicians have so much stamina. They will sing for hours without even complaining. It makes me wonder how much of the "tension" and "technical problems" we experience with our training are natural or if they are actually a result of environment. Perhaps the total freedom and confidence with which Indian musicians perform is the catalyst that takes them to this musical level. I think that the most important aspect of this class is the new thought patterns it can teach us. Some of our bumps might be smoothed over if we simply tried approaching things a different way. Also incredible is the incredible diversity of the pitch organization in Indian music. This course has been absolutely fascinating!

Friday, September 10, 2004

So doing all those definitions was good after all.

So while reading the book about Southern Indian music I came across the words, idiophone, membranophone, and chordophone. I was very excited when I saw these words because I knew what they meant! Thanks to doing definitions I was able to understand the descriptions of Southern Indian instruments. So now for some deeper reflections.
This portion of the First Year Seminar has been extremely interesting. Sometimes as Westerners we forget about the rest of the world. We also sometimes feel that our way of doing things is superior. However, this week I have learned how beautiful and complex other types of music can be. I have learned that other cultures place just as much reverence and dedication upon their musicians. And I have learned that their is a huge world full of music for us to explore.

Update: Sept. 13th, 9:04 pm
I think that music could help solve a whole bunch of the problems in this world. Through music one could learn to appreciate another culture, thus losing the pompous attitude many people have. However many people are too closed minded to even think of the possibility of exploring another culture. Things that are unknown are scary and so many lose the opportunity to see beauty. And nothing is better than the beauty of this world, its peoples, and their creations.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

South India and RAGAS

So this week has been quite interesting. I must admit that I wasn't quite prepared for the craziness of the Indian culture. But i suppose "craziness" isn't the most PC word though. It's definitely different. I really like the idea of ragas instead of scales and the concept of having a guru is just awesome. That this person is basically your mentor, your protector, your companion and pretty much your life for the majority of your eduactional years is a completely new concept for us Westerners. By far, however, I think the instruments are the most enjoyable part for me. They are so different from the instruments that I have known my whole life. Even though some instruments are the same as our culture (the violin), that's the only thing that is shared- the instrument. It is tuned differently, held/played differently and doesn't even sound the same. It's kind of sad that now days all the instruments have to be amplified... Even the nadaswaram, which seriously doesn't need any amplification, AT ALL, gets amplified. Maybe some is needed with the larger sized concerts and such now, but it seems like it would take away from some of the history of... well, not being amplified- tradition, maybe. Another point I thought was interesting was that the Southern Indian culture prides the voice above all other instruments, but they don't judge voices the same as our Western culture does. There is no such thing as vibrato and people dont have any idea what good tone quality or anything is. My favorite instrument is the konnakkol, and the concept of learning an instrument by using the formation of your mouth is awesome. These percussionists learn how to make the different sounds of the drum with their voices before they actually play the drum and it sounds AWESOME. When I grow up, I'm going to become a famous konnakkol... player?

If you want to learn more about specific Indian Instruments, click here
The instruments we've learned about include: Nadaswaram, Ghatam, Violin, Tabla, Kanjira, Tavil, Veena (on this site: any of the Vina), Tambura, Mridangam, and Morsing (vibrating metal... thing, looks like pair of pliers, and is played with the lips.)

Ragas are the coolest!!

Wow...this class has been so much fun. I had no idea that the Indians were so talented. I find it very interesting that they just learn from hearing what their guru does and then they repeat it. I personally would like learning that way because it's easier for me to hear something then to try and figure it out on my own. Plus the instruments they use are so authentic and unique sounding that it makes our instruments seem boring.
Learning the ragas has been a lot of fun. With Josh carrying around the sruti box, we had no problem practicing and annoying others around us. No i'm just kidding. The sruti box is so neat to listen to. It just looks like a regular wooden box but really it's kind of like an accordian type thing that you pump with your hand to keep the pitch going. The sruti box acts like the drone to help you sing the Indian scale. The scale is so much fun to sing you have no idea.
This class has been very good for me because I haven't been able to experience any other culture then that of the U.S. Plus, listening to Dr. Johnson's stories has been very interesting and very educational.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

First Few days of class...

When I first realized I'd be taking this class, I had no idea what it would be like. Well now its started and I have to say that I'm loving it! We have already started singing some of the songs that they sing in South India. I find it informative and great for me, as a new singer, that when the indians are singing these songs/pieces, having a pretty voice has nothing to do with it. Whatever the sound of your voice, it is unique in its own way. When singing these songs, the indian's focus is on pitch, rather than tone color or having a beautiful voice. Hearing Professor Johnson talk about his experience with living in India was VERY interesting to me! I can't imagine such a culture shock! I really enjoy learning about how different their musical lifestyle is. The Indians will start very young, living with his or her Guru. The Guru will teach him by ear, with nothing written down(oral transmission). As the years go by he or she will learn more and more, and the hours will get more intense. He or she will spend LOTS of time with their guru.
Another thing that was very interesting to me was how they have their concerts. During a concert people will be walking around, talking, singing a long, tapping the beat, or yelling things at them such as, "nice!", "beautiful", etc. Also, there are no pieces written down on a program. Everything is just played by the musician on the spot. Sometimes people will also make requests.
Although we have just began this class I find it very interesting and really enjoy singing the raga exercises/scales. They have a VERY unique and cool sound to them and I am looking forward to learing and singing more!

Learning From a Guru

Learning about music in other cultures is necessary to understand our own music and enhance our musical knowledge. Thus, I believe that learning about the culture and ragas of South India is very intriguing and is an essential part of our first-year seminar. After reading David B. Reck’s India/South India (pp. 209-226), it was apparent that the music of South India is very expressive and soothing. Reck describes the musician as “both an interpretive artist and a creator”. (223) The concerts of South India are very informal and the music is a mixture of precomposed songs and improvisation. This is quite different than concerts in Western society. Familiarizing our class with Indian culture is a unique opportunity, and I am very eager to see the results.