In the name of civilisation we’ve taken spontaneity out of everything in life! We are governed by a set of rules for almost everything! Gone are the days when humans lived by instinct. We’ve progressed so much in the ‘thought process’ that almost everything we do has to be governed consciously or sub consciously by the now written rules of whether it is ‘right or wrong’, ‘ethical or unethical’.
We’ve taken spontaneity out of eating. We are not hunters and gatherers anymore. We have a highly evolved cuisine. Fine dining with the best ingredients is a way of life! We’ve taken spontaneity out of ‘how we eat’. Etiquette governs how we eat. We now have rules on the right way to hold cutlery! Wearing clothes to protect ourselves is a thing of the archaic old days. Fashion has made sure that attire is not spontaneous either. We are judged on what we wear – ‘Oh how revolting. This person has no sense of style!’ We’ve taken spontaneity out of sex. Animal instincts have been replaced with ‘romance’ and cultured ‘wooing’. The animal instincts that are so natural and part of the human psyche are now hidden in the dark confines of our minds never to see light of day. And when it does, it takes the form of perversion caused by suppressed desires.
Has civilisation cultured and disciplined humans? Yes and no. As with everything there are no definitive black or white answers – there are reds, greens and purples too! Yes, we’ve learnt to use butter, sugar and spices to enhance the taste and fine dining is a victory to the human race but aren’t we now confronted with a new set of problems – diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure. So we are now re-writing the rules in light of this newly found knowledge! The old ‘good’ is not so ‘good’ anymore. I won’t delve into the rights and wrongs of everything I’ve said above because that would be like stating the obvious!
Music is another casualty of this civilisation. There is music everywhere – the sound of breeze, waves, leaves rustling, birds chirping and man learnt from nature to appreciate sound. Now there is music in the click clack sound of the keyboard, the slow hum of the coffee percolator … everything really. Man evolved this sound slowly but surely. He used his superior intellect to refine and structure sound and define it further.
What was the purpose of music? To make us go through a journey of emotions and soothe/energise our senses? We felt we had to evolve it further. So we compartmentalised and categorised music! We have now ‘regimentalised’ music to such an extent that music for the purpose of ‘soothing the senses’ is almost a thing of the past.
At the risk of offending many people, the current day Carnatic music scene is a JOKE. Historically, unlike Hindustani music, Carnatic owes its origins to devotional music. I listen to current day musicians and shudder! There is NO devotion whatsoever. In fact, I do wonder if most musicians even know the meaning or the context of the song they perform. They split the lyrics in a way that makes absolutely no sense. In the name of niraval, they butcher the devotional aspect of the song. Displaying their technical expertise has now become the true test of their skills. Who cares about the aural impact!! In its highly evolved form – does current day Carnatic music largely appeal to a layman? No. The experts say – ‘he is ignorant, he doesn’t understand the nuances of music’. But shouldn’t music by definition appeal to the lowest common denominator? There is no need to understand the finer aspects of the art to enjoy sound. Shouldn’t good music transcend all these manmade barriers?
I also HATE it when pundits get on their high horse and write off film musicians. What’s wrong with MKT’s or Ilayaraja’s Raga based songs? Why is it that their interpretation of Ragam is perceived as inferior? The way Ilayaraja has used the normally soft Kapi in a very popular ‘dappankuthu’ song ‘Thannithotti tedi vanda’ to me is very refreshing. In contrast, the carnatic interpretation of Ragams I believe is becoming increasingly cliché. It takes a very original musician to bring novelty to his interpretation. To be quite honest, there are seven notes and all the multitude of combinations have been explored, re-explored and re-re-explored. How then is novelty possible?
To conclude I’ll just borrow the lyrics from an old Ilayaraja super hit.
“paadalgal oru koadi edhuvum pudhidhalla
raagangal koadi koadi adhuvum pudhidhalla
enadhu jeevan onrudhaan enrum pudhidhu”
Sadly that ‘jeevan’ or ‘soul’ is largely missing in the Carnatic circuit these days! We’ve killed the spontaneity in music too and we don’t even realise it!!