The mystique of Music
(The learned author recently passed away at 74)
Shakespeare's appreciation of music as the food of love and his invocation to give excesses of it falls short of stirring the reader. Music merits a better deal than merely being fodder to love. Read portrayal of 'Savitri' as conceived by Aurbindo, says he :
O strong forerunner, I have heard thy cry.
One shall descend and break the iron law,
Change Nature's doom by the lone Spirit's power
A limitless Mind that can contain the world.
A sweet and violent heart of ardent calms
Moved by the passion of the Gods shall come
All mights and greatness shall join in her,
Beauty shall walk celestial on the earth,
Delight shall sleep in the cloud-net of her hair
and in her body as on his homing tree
Immortal Love shall beat his glorious wings
Music of griefless things shall weave her charm
The harps of the Perfect shall attune her voice,
The streams of Heaven shall murmur in her laugh,
Her lips shall be the honeycombs of God,
Her limbs his golden jars of ecstasy.
Music is a serious matter. It is the fulcrum balancing life and death. It is the germ of creation. It is the 'Naad-Brahma' of the Vedas. It is the blossoming event of human psyche. It is the sub-terrainian passage to 'Samaadhi'. Else how would the world have been ensured of it in divine madness?
The Greek concept of the music of spheres is not a fancy. It is an endorsement of the store set it by Indians.
Be it admitted that it is in India that due tribute has been awarded to Music. There are legends galore to substantiate it. More than legends, the legendary characters whom this supreme genre of Art blessed glorify the edifice like great frescoes. Our land is fertile in this respect. Swami Haridas, Pandit Tansen, Ustads- Allauddin Khan, Faiyyaz Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali, Pt. Omkar Nath Thakur, Amir Khan and Ali Akbar, beside many others were luminary stars who illuminated the firmament.
It is the note heard a like by the kings and the commoners, wafted over the high seas (Keats verifies) for one note, tuned to the proper 'Shruti', man cringes and fawns at the feet of Minerva.
Such was the note that transported Yahudi Menuhin when he heard Ustad Amir Khan to seventh heaven. That is what transpired when the author heard Darbari sung by
Amir Khan at Jodhpur in January 1960 (Described in an article 'Reliving An Aesthetic Experience'published in Kala-Prayojana- the multi-arts literary journal being edited by Hemant Shesh for the West Zone Cultural Center, Udaipur, India ).
Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur sang 'Mishra-Kafi' at the zoo of Lahore in early 40s and the lion in the cage swung his head so long as the maestro sang.
Not only Homo Sapiens but the whole kingdom of animals starves for music.
Satyanarayan, the violinist of A.I.R, Jaipur saw dozen serpents listening to the Sarod playing of 'Vageshri' by Ustad Alauddin Khan of Meyhar at 2 AM being disturbed by the sudden arrival of the maestro pupil, they slithered away.
Satish Sharma, Delhi guitarist in classical music was at Ramgarh, Nainital hills, when he was accompanied with subdued voice by a small black bird, perched upon a tree at dawn when the maestro was playing a morning raga. The shifting of octaves followed with precision by the dove.
A couple of centuries back, at Jaipur, a few horses were starved for three days to measure the impact of classical music. The nosebags were hung round the heads but the horses spared to move lips so long as the singer performed.
Pt. Tejpal Singh and Dr. Prerna Arora, biographers of Ustad Amir Khan mention how the lights dimmed when Ustad opened his note. Another time, Ustad Vilayat Khan was anguished on hearing Ustad Amir Khan. His observation was that such transcendental notes are only angelic and don't augur well for the longevity of maestro.
The author heard raga 'Jhinjhoti' sung by a Sindhi gentleman Brahmanand Goswami, a teacher residing at 'Heeda Kee Mori' in Jaipur's walled city: 'Bansuri Kaun Guman Bhari'. The notes made way to my bone marrow and I took a full week in regaining my usual frame of mind. This haunting quality is the ambrosia that music awards.
Albert Einstein with his visionary character could not have ignored music. His mastery over Piano/ violin indicates how logical Physics and musical Meta-Physics have one root.
Music liquefies our psyche and awards it the desired shape. One is prone to the address to the musician; " How be it that you imperceptibly extend thy empire? How be it that you can dissolve my psyche by one cadence. You glide over hills and dales, wafted over feathers, and I am not my true self any more!"
George Bernard Shaw says that it is on paper that man achieved perfection. However, one has to substitute ' musical-note' in place of paper. Melody, like a gas-filled balloon, rises up to transcend the horizon. In a nut-shell, we find the true, the good, and the beautiful. This is witnessed only in music i.e. classical music!
A Vast Tradition
Classical music prides over a truly elaborate tradition which, at times, seems to be ritualistic. Every note or 'swara" has three dozens of 'Shrutis'. There are notes that are forbidden in a raga. Then above all, there happen to be prescribed parts of the day, especially in North Indian classical music, when particular 'Raagas' are to be sung or performed. A prince from Madhya Pradesh forced a singer to sing 'Kalingadaa' a Raag of predawn hours one evening and the singer went mad.
'Aalaap', 'Vilambit' (a slow tempo) and 'Drut' (fast tempo) is an established order that human sensibility accepts. 'Taraanaa' is not a hoary tradition but it has proved its worth and serves as a crowning glory. The fast tempo repetition stirs the soul right up to the roots of the listener.
Aalaap dwells upon the substratum of all sounds- 'Aa'-The singer fondles the notes as Yashoda fondled child Krishna. However, the destiny of 'Aalaap' lies in 'Vilambit' and 'Drut'. 'Taraanaa' is said to originate with Tansen, the illustrious vocalist of Akbar the great. Taraanaa is certainly the acme of melody. The one who conceived it deserves accolade. It is the super-most device to thrill to audience.
Paintings of Raagas.
Synthesis is a highly respected term in English poetics and aesthetics. The subject of a sense is perceived through another sense. You may hear through eyes or see through ears. Raaga-Raagini painting tradition is a genre of its own kind. Not much is known as to the origin of the genre. Why is a melody to be visually perceived ? There are 'Raaga"s visual presentations from all parts of India. More so in the Himalayan mountainous tract. It can be a couple's dalliance or a plain landscape. Gods are also the subject of this mode of painting.
The genre calls for a serious examination at the hands of competent thinkers*.
If repetition is permissible, we may avert to the seriousness of classical music. We have to remind ourselves of this rare achievement. Evidently, there is a dilly-dallying with classical music, especially at the hands of A.I.R. They have started marketing the old records. The frequency of concerts is low. Hindustani music is becoming a back-bencher. We are negligent towards our musical heritage. Performance before distinguished audience is much less frequent. Let us avert to this treasure of ours without delay.
*Hemant Shesh's Note: A great deal of research has gone into this subject and it is still being perused vigorously. For further studies on this subject, suggested reading- "Raag Mala Painting" by Clause Ebb ling. A Garland of Melodies or Ragamala may seem a symbolic but too abstract a concept to be pictorially depicted, but one has to only witness the magic of Ragamala paintings to change one's mind.
The rich tradition of Indian Classical music is structured on the foundation of ragas. A raga is a melodic mode, which literally means ‘to color'. It is believed that these melodies are capable of producing a pleasant sensation, mood or an emotion in the listener. Some Hindustani (North Indian) ragas are prescribed a time of day or a season.
The 'Sangeeta Ratnakara', an important treatise of the 12th century A.D. for the first time mentions the presiding deity of each raga associating them with certain Gods and Goddesses. The 'Sadhakas' (practitioners) decided to capture and comprehend the divine qualities of the ragas and these paintings are the results of that very endeavor. There are six principal ragas - Bhairava, Deepak, Sri, Malkaunsa, Megha and Hindola and these are meant to be sung during the six seasons of the year; summer, monsoon, autumn, early winter, winter and spring. There are 'Raag-putras', 'Up-ragas', and various Raginis that have been classified by Hanumat, Matang and others and symbolically painted in different schools of Indian Art. Apart from seasons the ragas are also related to different parts of the day; dawn, morning, afternoon, evening, night and midnight. During the monsoon, for example, many of the Malhar group of ragas-associated with the monsoon-are performed. However these prescriptions are not strictly followed. There has also been a growing tendency over the last century for North Indian musicians to adopt South Indian Ragas. These do not come with any particular time attached to them. In Karnataka Classical Music there are no such compartments .The result of these various influences is that there is increasing flexibility as to when ragas may be performed These melodies were personified in vivid verbal imagery by Indian musicologists of the late mediaeval period, which provided the source of the Ragamala illustrations.Under the patronage of the aristocracy, artists explored in great depth the relationship that governs sound and sentiment and the Ragamala art form soon became a dynamic, vibrant movement, making music and dance the subject of art through colour and mood. The earliest Ragamala paintings are from the Deccan and were probably painted for Ibrahim Adil Shah 11 of Bijapur, who was an authority on painting and a fine artist and illuminator himself.
It is quite interesting to note that in the entire Kishangarh school of miniature paintings, not a single set of Raagmaala has been painted.
Would someone like to explain the reasons thereof?