Nick H wrote:
But Harimau's sheeple will flock to the artificiality of simply being able to sing above the land speed record. And even that is most probably not "god-given." No one (bar a prodigy or two; insignificant numbers) ever woke up suddenly able to sing at 15 speeds. The most complimentary thing I can say about that style of performance (which seems to be the word for it) is that, yes, it must have taken a vast amount of practice and hard work. Hours, days, weeks and months of it, probably ongoing until the day those vocal cords collapse under the strain. The crowd loves that stuff. Simply being able to sing well, without strain, they don't love so much. Let those who study voice technique keep it a secret!
Well said. "Land speed record". I have to remember that. In my interaction with a dozen CM teachers, only two have told me to slow down. Even if the teachers would not necessary egg me to go faster, they would not stop me if I went faster. Thinking back now, it was quite ridiculous.
Nick H wrote:
Repeating my personal feeling: music must touch my heart. Whether it is performed exquisitely well or not comes second. If the Boy Racer's music touched my heart, I could live with, enjoy even, the antics: if the stately young woman who can sing every note from hight to low with even skill did not touch my heart, then I would not stay in her concerts either.
"Music that touches the heart" -- there in lies the entire mystery of it all. There is no formula for that.
Nick H wrote:
Whether I enjoy their music or not, I remain shocked that young rising stars cannot even be heard without electronics.
I don't want to be a scold when it comes to these things, so let's take a positive tack on it, shall we? I just came back from a concert of Amrutha Venkatesh. I have the utmost respect for her craft and I think she is one of the best of the young singers, but I could not tell for sure if I would be able to hear at all if the amplifier and speaker were not present (I was in the third row). Here she was -- singing with great control and great content -- I enjoyed it immensely and yet I was thinking her music would be immeasurably greater if she sang with a full voice (dare I say it, if she sang more like a HM singer). Of course there will be many who will say "what she is singing is good enough, why ask for more" or "if she sang like someone else it will be totally ruined." Who knows. Perhaps they will be right. But somehow I feel we are missing out on something big.
Nick H wrote:
Here's something else from the random-thought stack. Instrumentalists are allowed technique. They are allowed to apply science to their instruments. They are even permitted to spend lifetimes experimenting to improve the sound of those instruments. But vocalists... apparently not.
Has UKS ever stopped experimenting with the mridangam? I doubt it. Can the students of MSG explain and pass on the secrets of their fingering to their students? Surely (I'm no musician or student) the answer is yes?
Thenpaanan, I'd be very interested to know how, in these terms, you see the instrumental side of CM?
I am not as familiar with instrumentalists' progress simply because I don't play any instruments (save for a few years trying to learn mridangam). The only instrument with which I have even a passing familiarity is the violin because my brother used to play. What I have surmised from conversations with him and others (even on this forum) is that the three violin greats TNK-LGJ-MSG have pretty much revolutionized how the carnatic violin is played. What I have inferred from my own listening is that fingering techniques have improved enormously in the last two generations. Bowing technique not so much. If you listen to even junior artists on the violin today, the quality is quite impressive. What I suspect has also happened is that expectations have risen enormously as well as a result of the generations after the big three -- the likes of VVS, Kanyakumari, Narmada, just to name a few, have made sure that the expectations don't die down and as a result the jump in quality is now self-sustaining.
As for whether the violinists have been open to learning from other systems, I suspect the answer is yes though no one ever told me explicitly. One leading violinist I was hosting many years ago asked me to take him to a musical instruments shop. I thought he was interested in acquiring a new violin. Instead he was actually interested in selling his violin! He claimed that he had a Strad! The shop owner looked inside the violin and said it may very well be a Strad except that the violin obviously had been modified with metal tuning studs (I forget the technical term). Then followed a deep discussion about Strad violins which I could not follow. Clearly this violinist knew his violin! Later on, when I asked this violinist about what all he has tried to learn, he told me that he has even tried to play for films in the background scores -- I asked him why and his answer was not what I was expecting (seeking money or fame). He said he wanted to check if his violin playing was up to par! He wanted to know if there was something to violin playing that he could learn from them. What a great attitude! Here was a violinist well on his way to the evening slots in the music season and he was trying to learn from other systems, presumably because he felt he had learned all that he could from carnatic violinists. Very inspiring.
I don't know if this is typical or atypical among Carnatic violinists. But to answer your question directly, I feel that violinists have been more open to learning from external sources. I think they can learn more from the West in bowing technique. No matter what anyone might say about the carnatic greats, I still feel that the sheer sound of an un-amplified Western violin is still leagues ahead. Just hearing them play a "sa" during the tuning setup in an orchestra practice can make your hair stand. But I am not a violin player so I may be speaking from ignorance.
As for other instrumentalists, I have no idea if veena players have imbibed sitar technique or whether guitar technique is even relevant. I do see lots of people (e.g. Jayanti Kumaresh) who talk very cogently about veena technique, so I presume that there is progress being made in imbibing knowledge from other systems but cannot say for sure. Flute and other instruments are way beyond my knowledge. As for mridangam, I have personally come across technological innovation aplenty -- metal tuning aids, fiberglass bodies, imbibing techniques from tabla etc.
All this shows up our vocalists in a particularly poor light. Where is the discussion on vocal technique? I have not seem a single panel discussion about how to sing. Again and again we see hagiographies of the great singers of the past. One exception is a DVD by SAK Durga where she actually talks to her students in a mock lesson setup about how to sing. She says for example that is easier to sing the "ee" vowel in the higher registers and "aa" vowel in the lower registers so she counsels that when singing alapana, a student should prefer the correct vowel depending on the part of the octave (actually which part of her vocal range she is in). I don't agree with everything Vid. Durga says but it is ok to disagree -- and that is the kind of discussion we need to have. There was some talk in this forum about head voice. There is I think a wrong understanding of what head voice is. To give an example, if you remember the young ARI or the young GNB when they sang at 4 kattai, they are using pure head voice. Nothing wrong in that, is there? The difficulty in singing in 1-1.5 kattai for male vocalists is that one has to use both head and chest voices but the head voice/chest voice bridge is very challenging. Western singers of all stripes spend a lot of time in their early education and careers mastering the "bridge". We don't. So we end up straining our voices when we go up into the tAra sthayi and quite unnecessarily so.