Friday, August 2, 2013

Hindustani Music and Aesthetics Today

Sushil Kumar Saxena
First Edition 2009
Sangeet Nataka Akademi
in association with
Hope India Publications
Pages: 471. Hard cover: Rs. 995/-

This book has no precedent.  It is a pioneering attempt to look at Hindustani music in the way of contemporary aesthetics. The ways we talk about experience, or evaluate music. as also its  composition and overt performance, have been given due attention in this work.

In other words. reflection on music here proceeds along the three major ways in which aesthetics is being pursued (in the West) today - that is. not only the linguistic-analytic and phenomenological approaches, but the one that looks at art as a kind of world-making.

Correspondingly. the contents of this book can be put under three different heads: (a) an attempt to determine  the full aesthetic significance. as against the  traditionally specified (verbal) meanings of the key words that are used in respect of the elements and different genres of our music; (b) discussion of concepts like aesthetic attitude. experience. and point of view as they relate to Hindustani music; and (c) analysis of the devices through which the structure and actual singing of a Dhruvapad, Dhamar, Khayal, or Tarana is (or can be) invested with some extra appea l- all duly buttressed with notational analysis of some actual compositions.

The author is incisive in his discussion of problems such as: (a) Is musical time different from, or identical with, time as we experience it in daily life; (b) How can we distinguish the form from the content of a work in the region of an occurent art like music or rhythm, (c) Can rhythm be regarded as an autonomous art and (d) How can our music be said to be spiritual?

This book may be expected to encourage readers to think about Hindustani music along lines that have not been systematically explored so far. 

Sushil Kumar Saxena (1920-2013), formerly Professor of Philosophy  at Delhi University, was amongst the most respected and original thinkers on the aesthetics of Hindustani music, rhythm and Kathak dance, with several pioneering works to his credit. He was a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research. He was also decorated with the Padma Bhushan by the President of India.