Research News

Texts, Tunes, Technologies: A Scientific Review of Indian Musical Traditions

IISER Pune recently hosted an event on Texts, Tunes, Technologies: Perspectives on Indian Musics. The two-day event that included a talk, a half-day symposium, and a workshop, received a good response from the IISER Pune community as well as music aficionados from the city.

The proceedings opened with a talk on ‘Towards a “Scientific” History of Music: Understanding Music Discourse in Southern India’ by Prof. Lakshmi Subramanian (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata). Prof. Subramanian, the author of several books on history of music in South India, addressed the challenges faced by historians who endeavour to study the histories of music. She also spoke at length about the role played by scientists in developing a methodology for teaching as well as appreciation of music. This approach was intended as an effort to understand music objectively, rather than leaving it to the subjective experience of the listener. C. Subrahmanya Ayyar, the brother of Nobel laureate Dr. C. V. Raman, was instrumental in trying to approach music in terms of physics of sound. Prof. Subramanian discussed the implications that this objective approach to music had on the society.

Session I (left to right): Saroja Ganapathy, Lakshmi Subramanian, and Justin Scarimbolo

Session I (left to right): Saroja Ganapathy, Lakshmi Subramanian, and Justin Scarimbolo

Day two began with a half-day symposium on ‘Music in Representation, Music in Practice’. There were two sessions, both chaired by Prof. Lakshmi Subramanian, in which four experts participated. In Session I, Justin Scarimbolo (SSLA, Pune) discussed recording technology and its relationship with the construction of gharana identity while Saroja Ganapathy (IIT Bombay) spoke about the representations of classical music in literary fiction. In the second half, Sushruti Santhanam (University of Pune) shared her experiences on ‘Crafting Practice: Text, Technique and Technology in Indian Musics’. Aditi Deo (IISER Pune) debated about questions regarding commons, property and belonging in traditional vernacular music with reference to today’s technological networks.

Sushruti Santhanam explains a musical nuance to an engrossed audience

Sushruti Santhanam explains a musical nuance to an engrossed audience

The final event was a workshop on ‘A Journey from Swara to Raaga: The Architecture of Carnatic Music’ conducted by Sushruti Santhanam. In the workshop, various questions about the diverse styles and forms of Indian classical music were examined through the journey of ‘swara’, an important unit of Indian music. The evolution of swara in terms of aesthetics and its transformation into the Carnatic genre was used to approach questions about evolution of various styles and their influences on human emotion. The workshop had an interactive format and included explanations, music demonstrations and audio clips.

The event saw participation from senior scholars and musicians such as Milind Malshe (IIT Bombay), Ram Gambhir (University of Pune), Sandeep Bagchee and Vikas Kashalkar. The two days were academically and musically very stimulating for all participants. In addition to the formal events, a variety of academic and education-related topics were discussed informally. Altogether, nearly 70 people attended some part or the other of the event, with a lot of audience participation that led to very interesting interactions.

– Reported by Apurva Barve, with inputs from Aditi Deo
Photo Credits: Aditi Deo

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