Final Frontier

I am entering a Final Frontier..

A Frontier that's been talked about enough through stories of legends.. Enough to the point that its considered fashionable just to pretend knowing it all through some easily available jargon irrespective of you actually know the subject or not..!! Now, did that sound like a confession !!?

(In a larger context) I am talking here about the the system of five horizontal lines on which the musical notes are "written" as opposed to the traditional Indian way of rendering music straight out of heart and head... And in the specific context of this blog, its about Raaja's knowledge of writing Western classical music in staff notations at the blink of an eye. (No.. wait.. I am not going to talk about it anymore.. But do something about it.. Check the next post.. )

My fascination to the staff system of Western classical goes a long way back to my school days. The Physical education teacher of our school is also easily the best Western classical violinist of our town (we call him the PT Sir.. PT for Physical Training). PT Sir used to have a small team of school boys who played violin and because of my interest in music I also joined that team. But there was one problem.. He plays Violin the original western classical way of playing by notes while I knew it by the Carnatic way.. And I couldn't read those notes for nuts.. But thanks to my Carnatic background, I could easily memorize the song by head if I hear it a couple of times.. A temporary refuge that I then took instead of learning the notes.. A huge mistake as it still haunts me by stopping to learn the system the way it is...

So I used to happily accompany his troupe and play on all christian marriages, deaths, Church inaugurations and Christmas carels. While playing, I was always told to pretend as if I am playing by the notation so as not to disturb the stage presence of the team where as only PT Sir and our team knows I had converted the whole song into Carnatic swaras, mugged them up already and was playing by head.. So there we were.. A team of 4 trimly dressed young boys in white shirts and bow, lead by a brilliant master, playing so many songs from the score sheets.. Except that one of them was a black sheep :-)

While playing in those days, I have always watched this frontier from distance with awe and never really made an attempt to learn the art. How can everything, i.e., absolutely everything including the articulations and dynamics can be so methodically expressed in paper? How can someone read and process it simultaneously to produce music? Why don't you call 'Sa' as 'sa' or 'C' as 'C' instead of putting a round on a line. Especially when there is a treble and bass clef to be played in parallel, how is it possible for someone to "read" it differently that are made with same symbols...? For instance can you imagine a book where you have to read two sentences simultaneously.. One sentence is in English and the other in French.. made of same alphabets but mean completely something else.. All these simple unanswerable questions fortified my fear towards the system...

Further to that whenever we used to hear about the rich history of this system and all about the great western Virtuosos like Bach, Beethoven and Mozart from PT Sir, all the more the frontier would move in to a land of mythical surrealism.

Then I started seriously listening to Ilaiyaraaja.. and all the stories about his prowess in writing notations... How he is one of the few (or rather the only one) in this part of the world who can write, say an invertible counterpoint up the 10th (as quoted by Guitar Prassana)... And that too writing the manuscripts from his head without the need to use an Harmonium or a Keyboard or... err ... a computer these days....

An opportunity to understand Western Classical system a bit broader (but not deeper) and to appreciate Raaja's musical richness was presented at the music club of CIT. For 4 years we would learn music intensely (wasn't that an engineering college !!?) and play countless number of Raaja songs on many many occasions. Finally I could understand the basic concept of Western Classical system, realize all the chords, understand the time signatures at a practical level and so on. But still the ability to read and write the notations was elusive and remained a final frontier.

After College I made serious attempts (twice!!) to learn the Western classical, taking regular classes from a master. But I could only go as far as learning the new symbols and the conventions. The moment I got to play a song looking at the notes, damn it on my Carnatic instinct, I was memorizing the melody and decoding it to "Sa Ri Ga Ma" paradigm. On subsequent playings only the eyes are looking at the notes while the 'note processing engine' of the head was already switched off. However lengthy the passages where, it would render only the 'unprocessed swaras' as output!! ..!! So the real problem is, If you give me a new score that I didn't knew before, I was caught like a Rabbit in front of the headlights. Besides on both occasions I couldn't continue the lessons beyond 3 months each time for personal reasons.. Thus its honest to say that my efforts to learn Western classical formally were still born.

So, neither could I read the notes with fluency nor write a song in staff notations.

Until now ...

With Love

Labels: ,