Sunday, February 3, 2013

Perfect Pleasure: Cigarette in 'C' Minor

Like wintering ants, in December 2012, we set up another ‘प्याड', mince another abode or घरकुल  in the warmer climes of Guwahati, leaving Shivani, our 180 kg. , 4 feet tall teak Gaur, our lady of Bokakhat, Kaziranga to guard our Shillong residence at 2/149, Lummawrie, Laitumkrah, basically due to the कृपादृष्टी , benign gaze (?) of our employers, God bless them. Therefore the Guwahati-Shillong trips become a weekend ritual, and there are plenty of hours on hand, this Saturday affording opportunity for us to play Devil’s Advocate with Missus, on the issue of “the ascendancy or otherwise of  Western Classical Music over its Indian counterpart”, a subject to which we had proposed toast earlier in “Mathematics of Kalawati” of May 2012. There are times Missus becomes a stickler for basic principles,  the end result today being the lady sitting indignantly, her sight fixed on the endless procession of areca nut and teak trees whirring past Ngampu Kuki’s Scorpio, the Sun setting, hills and clouds taking on a succession of VIBGYOR hues, for it’s around 4.00 PM. We chant रुसू बाई  रुसू ....and she energetically joins issue again.

Missus becomes ‘technical’ and points out the flaws in the 12-note ‘chromatic scale’ on which Western instruments like the piano or the harmonium are based. The ratios of frequencies between any two adjacent notes have to be identical..sez she.... the chromatic scale cannot reproduce the exact puritan frequency demanded by swaras, say the pancham....then...gamaks or meends can’t be produced. Wagairah, wagairah, wagairah....At times the Shillong Road is so bad that we can hardly hear each other, thanks to Ramky Infrastructure Ltd. Somajiguda, Hyderabad, for the inaudibility saves the debate  from becoming acrimonious...Her technical armoury leaves us gasping, but we feebly protest “ हो हो माहित आहे अब्दुल करीम खान साहेब पेटी ला बारा स्वराचे खोके म्हणायचे, आणि त्या तुमच्या केसकर मास्तरांनी  All India Radio मध्ये पेटीवर बंदी लावून सारंगी घुसवली होती, आणि त्यांची पाठ फिर्ताक्षणी पेटी परत आलीच नाही का? शेवटी ऐक्ण्यार्यांच्या आवडीचा आणि कलाकाराच्या सोयीचा विचार करावा लागणार नाही का हो?" Missus gets academic and rues that the new generation of musicians is bound to miss a lot due to the currency of keyboard instruments all over...आणि पेटी वर ban मूळ इंग्रजांनी लावला, काकांनी नाही …. Unable to respond, we dig out our ipad and furiously start Googling...हे पहा ...किती तरी foreigners experiments करत आहेत आपल्या संगीतकारान सोबत,cross-pollination ani fusion सगळ्यांना कित्ती कित्ती आवडत्ये...

आणि हे पहा...Richard Feynman हा फार थोर physicist, Nobel Award मिळालेला...याने हि आपल्याच प्रमाणे तबल्याच्या harmonics वर बरीच research केलेली....

मला हि बघू द्या तो ipad, आणखी she takes out a hare out of the hat...बघा...शिका ..see what Yehudi Menuhin writes in his book ‘Unfinished Journey’. The words dance and jive before us on the bumpy road reminding us of the class-room scene from Tare Zamin Par where Tare (ha,ha,ha) complains to the teacher that the letters in his book danced...or something like that..

Despite predisposition in India's favour, I have to acknowledge that Indian music took me by surprise. I knew neither its nature nor its richness, but here, if anywhere, I found vindication of my conviction that India was the original source. The two scales of the West, major and minor, with the harmonic minor as variant, the half-dozen ancient Greek modes, were here submerged under modes and scales of (it seemed) inexhaustible variety. Even the arcane rules of dodecaphonic composition had been anticipated and surpassed, for where the dodecaphonic system requires- somewhat arbitrarily, in my view - all twelve notes to be sounded in a given sequence and forbids their repetition within it, any given Indian raga chooses five or six notes, never more than seven or eight, while the hundreds of ragas between them exploit all possible notes in permutations of a subtlety and flexibility we can scarcely conceive. Melodically and rhythmically Indian music long ago achieved a complex sophistication which only in the twentieth century, with the work of Bartok and Stravinsky, has Western music begun to adumbrate.

The YF vs. Missus debate does not get anybody anywhere, आणि या जीवंत  दिव्य वाटे वर नेहेमी प्रमाणे काही नवाच बोध हि झालेला नव्हे ...शिवं , शिवं , शिवं .....but finally we settle on a small but concise topic on which we can but agree, agree and agree- “The house today proposes that every Hindustani/Caranatic composition, light or dark, he,he,he, is like a song..aims at compleation, whereas a Western Classical composition does not harbour any such ambition”. No, we are not supposed to lisht all points of difference between Magrib and Mashrif and tabulate them-harmony banaam melody wagairah, wagairah- only this small spotlight focus....compleation...

No spelling mistake बरका, we tell Missus....Compleat is a ‘completed’ complete..the Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “having all necessary or desired element or skills..."

Missus elaborates: every Hindustani composition will end with the  artiste intoning the sthayi swara samooh thrice, with the tabla also doing a tihai. The composition will have a beginning, a middle and an end piece, be it vocal or instrumental. It’s blasphemy to  leave the ends untied or the composition left unrounded...wo afsana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin, use (bhi) ek khoobsoorat mod de kar chodna accha, we note..all our compositions will be close-ended, while some of the best Western compositions will be open-ended. In fact we all hate cutting off a song, however lousy, halfway.....

Well well, YT is, as always, sniffing out analogies...we suggest a piece of Western Classical is like a कपडा का थान -thaan, whereas in our case, compositions are more like a suit length, or maybe a Blackberry suit, duly packaged. With MRP? Ya...and that’s why our Music Directors can cut out pieces from thaans and pack them into suit lengths slash suits, unbeknownst to the man on the street..You’ll find the thaan seamless, but tell-tale motifs will definitely be there, for the benefit of the Directors, who of course stitch out attire in a clever, inventive manner from the thaans....quite a taaks, not easy at all. Witness how the opening of Oscar Straus’s Danube Love waltz tune was used to great effect by Shankar Jaikishan. It was the theme of their own life, bedrock of their existence I would raise it’s mubarak sar in every single movie scored for by them, for instance Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan was stitched out of this thaan. Then how Salilda stitched out itna na mujhse tu  pyaar badha out of the thaan called Mozart’s 40th Symphony in G minor has been chronicled by no less a person than Salilda himself...whattusayyy....much of what we see around us today is stitched out of thaans called British Raj, Brownbabu Raj, Macauley,  wagairah, wagairah...

We then play an excellent composition from our ipad, Saxophone Concerto by Hector Castillo and Eduardo Larez, from the album Glass must listen to it maan I is 

Missus is just floored. All the 4.16 minutes of it, you get a delicious feeling of anticipation and then anxiety, as if something momentous or epic, is imminent..but doesn’t happen at all, till the music flags off in the end...It’s like Waiting for Godot, ‘without getting bored’, one may add...a sneeze that stopped midway, minus the ominous sensation....

The composition ‘shews’ (Hall and Knight’s Algebra?) it’s not as if compleation is a virtue the one has and the other does not...We quote Oscar Wilde from ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’:

“You must have a cigarette. A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”

(Statutory Warning: Cigarette smoking is...wagairah,wagairah,wagairah...)

And then look at the following, words vis-a-vis ensemble, forming Dorian's musings. Displays the IK style, and justifies our wordiness:

Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather another chaos, that it created in us. “Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”

We just saw English Vinglish- delighted! We tell Missus- that’s Marathihood- शिंदेबाई  नि मराठी गाणे शिरवलेच  कि नाही? mince ज्या प्रमाणे IK  मंदी आपल्या भाषे चा बी समावेश आहे?

Reference: We have used the first 5 words of our beloved Bhopali shayar Dushyant’s ghazal in आमची अस्मिता  in the context of IK- peshey khidmat hai mukammwal ghazal:

मैं जिसे ओढ़ता-बिछाता हूँ, वो ग़ज़ल आपको सुनाता हूँ
एक जंगल है तेरी आँखों में, मैं जहाँ राह भूल जाता हूँ
                                          तू किसी रेल-सी गुज़रती है, मैं किसी पुल-सा थरथराता हूँ
                                          हर तरफ़ ऐतराज़ होता है, मैं अगर रौशनी में आता हूँ
एक बाज़ू उखड़ गया जबसे, और ज़्यादा वज़न उठाता हूँ
मैं तुझे भूलने की कोशिश में, आज कितने क़रीब पाता हूँ
                                          कौन ये फ़ासला निभाएगा, मैं फ़रिश्ता हूँ सच बताता हूँ

Dushyant was a passionate and virile poet who died at 42, and is known to have slapped a Congress Minister during Emergency. His family gave shelter to YF during his homeless days in Bhopal in 1980.

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