Saturday, August 3, 2013

Appreciating Hindustani music

The joys of any art grow with the awareness of its governing principles. This is true also of Hindustani music.

A Hindustani musician  shapes his rendition under the discipline of two governing forms. The first is the Raga which constitutes its “Commanding Form”. But, though the Raga is a definitive and recognizable form, it is a “formless Form” in the sense of not being a composition. It  manifests itself in  communicable form through the appropriately sequenced movements (the architecture) of the second regulatory form – the genre in which it is performed. 

A connoisseur of Hindustani music has intimate knowledge of both these forms – the Commanding Form and the Manifest Form. Through an understanding of these two, he is able to gain insights into the individualistic manner in which the Commanding Form has been visualized by the musician for communication. It is these insights that are the source of his delight in the exposure to Hindustani music, and differentiate him from the average music lover.

The aspirant to the status of a connoisseur needs therefore to cultivate his understanding of two facets of the tradition -- Raga-ness as the principle of aesthetically coherent and emotionally suggestive creation, and of the various genres, as the principle for the organisation of musical material. Neither of these facets is satisfactorily understood by reading books on music.  They may be partially understood by undergoing a decade or two of training in music under a competent Guru.  For those who do not have this benefit, but have the sharp ears and cultivated mind as the basic equipment, appreciation can be cultivated by an intensive and extensive exposure to performances and recordings.