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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Music and Technology

Today I would like to talk about music and technology. I know this topic is like demonetization now. Everybody talks about it. I would like to give the musicians a teacher’s perspective on the subject. World has changed drastically after globalisation and new technology has come to the light. Earlier we used to hear from our forefathers about how they walked from one place to another. How time has changed and we adapted many modes of transportation. If Shankaracharya or Jesus Christ was preaching in different places today, they would have flown in Air India or Jet Airways. We have to change. If I say, I will also walk 20-30 miles because my grandfather used to walk, people may think I am mad. We have to use new technology. Nothing wrong in embracing change it when requires. How much to use and where to use is another topic.

I would like to classify technology into 4 parts.
1. Electronic instruments
2. Recording facility 
3. Microphones
4. New teaching/learning tools

1. Electronic instruments: My guruji or grand guruji used to practise with live
tanpura and once in a while with live tabla accompaniment. While
teaching many teachers used to play tabla for the benefit of students.
They used to learn simple tabla thekas for playing in class. Slowly a few
companies started to experiment with electronic tanpura and tabla. In
1979 Bangalore based Radel started to manufacture electronic
instruments for the first time. In the recent years many brands became available to us. Slowly Gurus and students started using it and now it has become an integral part of teaching music. Many people think it has replaced real tanpura, which I don’t agree fully because even today we use real tanpura for our performances. There is no
doubt that it helped in music practice and teaching.

2. Recording facility: Recording started with stone plates, later rpm discs,
cassettes, compact discs and now we have reached up to live streaming. The journey
from stone to streaming took many years but it is because of the new technology
that we are getting newer medium to record, preserve and spread music. Now we can launch a new album with two artistes. One sitting in India and another sitting in California. Time has changed now. Artistes also have adapted to newer technology. We have to. People having knowledge about the upcoming technology who also have musical knowledge will excel, musicians having technical background can reach more people. Musicians and people are bridged by technology.

3. Microphones: Invention of microphones changed the musical dynamics drastically. I can say that this invention took music to the next level. Concert dynamics changed. Earlier 150-200 people was considered a  big crowd for classical music. Now a days we witness thousands of people attending musical concerts. I am not talking about quality of music or the mastery of the musician here; That is altogether a different matter. In simple words, through microphone, our music can be audible for more people. How to use a mic; which company is better for vocal; are minute adaptation we have to adjust to. Singer should learn these things along with music. I saw one signboard saying
‘we teach mic techniques’. Wah! I personally feel after few years’ basic talim and practise students must give some attention to these matters also.

4. New teaching/learning tools: Finally an important segment. With technology we are moving towards drastic change in guru shishya parampara. I am not saying that one to
one rigorous training will change into skype or video conferencing. But slowly we are adding that method to spread our student base as well as making it possible for more people to learn music. We are in a material mechanical mode of life. I am not discussing it is good or bad, but our life style has  changed.  We have to accept and move on. In spite of less available free time people want to learn music; enjoy music. Urban life is hectic. Kids are more stressed today than when we compare to our childhood. I meet very few people who say I have time. Teachers are moving towards class through Skype. Every technology has advantage and disadvantage. But I am a very optimistic person. We can handle those disadvantages and we can travel towards reaching our goal; that is teaching music nicely and effectively.
We have to learn how to reach our younger students.  Artistes express, ‘oh nowadays, less people attend concert’. If we introspect we may get the answer that we are not creating audience. We try creating artiste. That also is our illusion. Artistes are born as an artiste. You can’t create them. You can motivate, you can mould them to be artistes. Skype is very easy and handy tool for distance learners. I take classes for a student who stay in Boston or California. Through this my music is spreading and I can take my guruji s music beyond boundaries.
In summary, we can’t reject role of technology in music. How much to use is in the musicians head and heart. I am not saying we have to become technology geeks leaving music behind. By embracing  technology in our music, we can be more reachable. If we decide we won’t use technology, it is our personal lose. Music field is unaffected with this kind of rigidness.
In my case, if I use technology in my music, my guruji s music will reach to more people. It is not like I am serving the music field in a big way. Music should grow with teaching more people and at least we can create a community with guruji’s music. We will make use of more innovations and new ideas. Let us make our Indian classical music more reachable by adding more technology.