Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hindustani Sangeet and a Philosopher of Art

Music, Rhythm and Kathak dance visa-a-vis  aesthetics of Susanne K. Langer

Author: Sushil Kumar Saxena 
Pages: 363. Hard-cover price: Rs. 600.00
Publisher: DK Printworld Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi. 2001

 This book is decidedly the first of its kind. It seeks to weigh some basic facts and concepts of Hindustani Sangeet (music, rhythm and dance) against the art theories of the influential modern aesthetician, Susanne K. Langer, and with consistently meticulous attention to the text of her writings.

The expression theory of art has for long dominated the history of aesthetics. At the hands of Langer,however, the theory takes a new turn. She conceives of art not as a direct self-expression of the artist’s immediate affective state, but as a symbolic expression of his knowledge of what she terms variously as felt life, sentience, or forms of feeling. 

Drawing freely upon examples from the region of Hindustani Sangeet, the author accepts Langer’s protest against the popular view of artistic expression. But, he also contends that there is a good deal in our music and dance which has nothing to do with feeling, and is admired simply because of its sweetness, clarity, shapeliness, and accordance with grammatical norms.

Perhaps the most two most striking features of this book are: first, a lucid exposition of the essentials of Langer’s aesthetics, and second, abounding illustrative references to the manifestation and assumptions of Hindustani Sangeet.

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.