Asia Society presents; 50
This is a series of interviews with experts from Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of people and ideas. Your most on the transcribed series has been noted author and award winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. A new concept in music seems to be spreading and it is a concept that music belongs to the womb and that no matter what part of the world music becomes an important and valuable and worth knowing about and perhaps even learning we think in terms of western music I'm afraid still to this day. Think of the music of the European composers and might be those of American composers. The music of the far east of Asia has some fascinating sound and I think this program will be an excellent opportunity for you to hear what some of it is like and to understand why it is becoming more popular and creating a bridge between East and West. Our guest on this program is Robert E. Brown
and Professor Brown is associate professor of music and director of graduate studies in music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He has students who want to learn Asian music. He's brought some examples of this with him and I think you will find this out of a kind of program. Now Professor Brown why are you and just did it first of all in the music are you a world music student. Well I consider myself a world music student at this point. I'm interested I think through the sound originally not through descriptions of the music but through hearing records. In 1949 I think I first heard that Indian music on records and that stimulated little interest. Later on I went to University of California at Los Angeles and had a chance not only to hear my music but to participate in making it and eventually went on to do my doctorate there and to become very involved to go to India and other places to study. Now I'm trying to bring some of that music
here and to bring artists as teachers and performers and to spread the good news I guess you would on just as well out of a farm. Do you sing or play several instruments. Well I did my degree actually in piano and organ and I've studied Eastern and I don't sort of artist that a student in that case. What would you say might be the basic difference between the music of the east and west. The question of rhythm. There are rhythmic differences but I don't think it's easy to categorize western music and non-Western music we find really that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of different musical systems each having its own particular scales and instruments rhythmic patterns and so forth so that if we talk for instance about the music of India I have some idea about that and then approach the music of Indonesia and we find very little in common. They really come from a
different basis altogether. I think many of us who might not be too informed about this is it is a concern. I think it is a difference in sound. And yes you hear Asian music no matter which Asian country and you see almost immediately know it is music of that part of the room yes. And that's as far as I'm going to have us go to this pub where maybe we'll go further. Professor Brown you brought some interesting tapes with you and I thought we might get into those as soon as possible. Now what is the first excerpt we're going to hear. Well actually I brought along some examples of students learning Asian music so that I could. Demonstrate some of the problems and some of the rewards really. And talk about the differences in learning that music. It's not like learning piano when Where you that are generally presented with a notation and the teacher teaches you to read the notation but it's a very direct experience in most cases where the student sits facing the teacher and the
teacher sings at the student the student sings back at the teacher in a very close personal kind of relationship evolves. In India and traditional teaching the student became part of the family of the teacher was accepted with the ceremony into the teachers family and the teachers supported him entirely while he was learning and taught him perhaps for hours on end and whenever he felt in the mood for it over a period of years and we try to preserve that Wesley in this style of teaching as much as possible in the academic framework of course its not so easy to do. Good point right about here then. He's an example of a class. First of all it's class experience. It's just a single student actually learning on a South Indian classical vocal piece and you hear him making some mistakes and being corrected by the teacher and I think you can get the impression of the
teaching method in this very short example fine.
So it's a very painstaking kind of teaching. The teacher leads the student very carefully through each phrase of the song over and over again until he's memorized it perfectly. If they take you in this case in this example it's Mr. Tagg Rajan who was visiting a parrot in South India. We have several artist in residence from both North and South India. This department established to teach me not to ask the music Nazi and Wesley and I came there in 1961 bringing along some tapes of Indian music and before that Dr. David McAllister was a well-known ethnomusicologist had started a course and was teaching American Indian music. So we got together and worked out a program which would try to cover several main styles. World Music and out of that develop Japanese music and Japanese. And this year African music Afro American music so we have a rather unusual kind of department out now I think.
Is it unusual to the extent that there are a few others like it in universities in the United States. Yes there are some other programs for instance at UCLA where they bring artists from Asia and the University of Washington and a few other places. But nowadays there's a great interest in this kind of program we have a lot of visitors coming to Iceland to find out how to do it because it seems to be one of the latest things. And I hope that the idea will spread. Suited to the male voice in the female voice. Not necessarily but since Wesleyans and men school I have been up until this year but I don't want to know. Actually now we've gone coed and you have to bring a female vocal teach you about how you should say it that way. Be very happy about what I meant was the male has dominated in many ways India has the music been written primarily for his voice. No I don't think I mean that's the situation in music actually at all because some of the most
prominent and popular singers are women and I've seen women playing even drums which are generally considered to be very masculine kind of instrument or every kind of powerful oboe in South India and I saw a lady playing that one day much to my surprise sound because they certainly star in the dance. Yes and but I didn't know about the singing. Thank you so much. When students come to enroll in this course do they have to qualify on the basis of having a fairly good voice to begin with. Not necessarily because according to the Indian way of thinking about music the quality of the voice is not so important but the musicianship is important. So we've had many students who have had really little musical background but who went quite rapidly into a kind of which is a very good style of music and advance very quickly.
This is students mostly by imitation then. Yes. What does he learn though through studying composition. Is there much written down or is it mostly done by ear. You know it's done almost entirely through rote training although they have a notation they don't teach that way and it makes a great difference I think in the way the student thinks about his music and in the way that improvisation for instance is taught and comes out as a very natural result of the teaching method. Now with us about I know that you have another example of your music. And now is this a class also that country and which instrumental music is being taught. This is another student having had a lesson on the south Indian classical drum called Madonna which is a very developed instrument with a very difficult technique. One of the most difficult dumm certainly in the world right and we would like to have that now.
This man actually he was my teacher. You see they have a way of speaking through syllables. When this instrument plays in concert it improvises constantly hundreds and thousands of kind of training. And we now have several students who are becoming proficient but so far we haven't had anyone who's reached the standing of one of our former students. John Higgins Yes whom I have the pleasure of interviewing on the side lab with Dr. Malcolm Pitt and later we will hear this a song which he apparently sings my beautifully I have never heard him sing I've only heard him speak. Oh I think that in itself is quite nice. Professor do you do any teaching yourself. Yes I do and I do the theory and history part of Indian music and I also I helped organize our world music survey course in which a number of people lecture and many of the
artists demonstrate it's a kind of. Broad based survey of different kinds of music around the world and has become very very popular with the students how about Asian students who might come here to get Western music. Is there a group like that. Yes we have students from India Indonesia and Japan at the moment and we have an interesting young fellow from South India who learned Western violin and South Indian classical violin there and they're very different. You know all the instrument in a different way tune it differently and play a completely different music. So he arrived last fall and is now performing chamber music and the violin concertos on the one hand and accompanying the artists from South India. And other nights. Do the students tell you when they enroll in this course why they're doing it. Sometimes they have a clear idea that they want to teach or they become interested. Elsewhere perhaps in a summer school or something like that very often we find student general students at West End who don't know
about these musics before they come to us and get interested and we have now I think more than a hundred students studying Eastern instruments. Well how long did Jon he can study or is the thing I was doubting is that unless you guys study Well he's in the last stages now of writing his Ph.D. dissertation on South Indian classical dance music and he's in in India collecting material. I think it should be a very good thesis because he's learned to perform all of the music that he's analyzing and talking about. And we like to think that our approach to musicology is is a good one because it is based on music itself and not just talking about it or reading about it and analyzing it from a distance but out of a real come from trade confrontation with the music. Well if he's an example I can think that you have a very good run now I suppose we hear now. Now what is he saying on this ranking. I think the first composition is of Rainham which is a kind of technically difficult piece that used to open concerts much to our surprise he became.
Rather famous in India and is given concerts all over the country made recordings and has all of the Indians I think originally came to hear him as a kind of oddity. They stayed to hear the music because he's a good musician and he's studied very hard. He was at West Wing for three years and then went to India for a very intensive three years of vocal training. And at the end of that time I was able to perform a three hour concert with improvisation and we were very pleased to find that the plan worked and that we could teach people to perform even as difficult in music as Indian classical music. And now this is. A.
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OS that I have listening to that one does have a feeling it's very difficult to mask the noise and if they don't come from out yes yes and you say that anybody was interesting out there. I think anyone who has a good sense of pitch and rhythm even though he may not already be much trained in music and who has a very good teacher that's extremely important. Yes but he certainly would have to have a good sense of pitch. There's only one you lost me down yes I think the Indian sensitivity to pitches is really greater than ours A require an extremely fine adjustment of pitch and in performing their music. Do you think that the music prod of the road is having a similar effect in the east as their music is increasingly here. I was perhaps establish they had before me. We knew about the great beauties of music here.
I think you almost have to discuss that by country for instance in Japan there are many symphony orchestras opera companies ballet companies and so forth and western music is now one of the branches of Japanese music. In India there has been relatively little Western music in Indonesia. There's a great influx I think of popular music of rock and so forth and very little in the way of classical music mostly where there are many cases where music has penetrated its It's been on a popular level. And I think what's happening here is that we're listening more to the classical music so those areas although they often have their own pop their music too. How about the popular music of let's say India does it have much in common with the popular kind of songs that we have here. Sometimes it does it's really a kind of conglomeration of many things they don't hesitate to use any musical idea from anywhere so you can hear for instance that something that sounds very much like a rumba with this entire background of maybe a few piano arpeggios or
something like that they mixed mix things together and you hear that music everywhere in India it's regionally disseminated through the films it's a film music but it. It was the same place as our popular music does. One doesn't know how many people let's say in the United States enjoy classical music. Perhaps the number is larger than it used to be but the concert managers keep complaining of a concert also not filled up and in the opera houses say they don't have enough money. Some people must enjoy it I don't know how many how does that apply to a country like India. Do the people in general prefer classical music because they've been more or less a brought up with it. Or do they prefer popular music. Situation I think is somewhat the same but you have to talk about North and South India each has its own classical music and the whole concert apparatus is very different. You know I think the music has belonged to the courts until very very recently and there's still a very small public for classical music
although there are. Cultivated people who are very discerning listeners nowadays performers who are becoming popular here like Ravi Shankar also become popular in India in the same way. But in South India which has its own branch of classical music and its been a public music for perhaps 100 or 200 years and they started having concerts I think it temple festivals and so forth. So there is now a very big concert industry if you like. It doesn't run in the same way as ours but you can hear many concerts during the season in a city like the drops are even in smaller cities in South India. I knew that the game going on is one of the popular instruments of India and I'm looking at a photograph so no one can say that me. But it's you know it was a group of students playing backgammon and it looks a very attractive and exotic and I believe that you have. I'm still on a tape and accent. Yes I miss music so I didn't know him. Yes this music is from Indonesia actually and headlines are very different.
So to get him on Indonesia Yes it is. This happens to be a job he's got and the Balinese going is different in style. And has a very different concept because it involves a large group of people playing together each playing his own part. I am.
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am. I'm afraid that we have to at this point because we wanted enough time. Some up and say goodbye. Would you say Professor Brown that slowly the music of the East is making headway into the music which is composed in the West so that we are really creating cross currents. Yes it certainly is affecting composers to some extent. But also I think holding its own as. A. As itself being bowed but still holding true to form that's true. Well this has been an all too short lesson in the music of a road music as you prefer to say. We very much appreciate your being part of our Asia Society presents series and you have been listening to Robert E. Brown. He is associate professor of music and director of graduates to Princeton University in Connecticut. If you'd like with information about Asian performers. Do write us at the Asia
Society and perhaps we can help you and give you further information. Thank you very much and goodbye. That concludes tonight's edition of the ancient society presents with Lee Graham a listener it comes to you through the cooperation of the engine of society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham out w NYC New York City 100 0 7. I make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the engine full siree prevent.
- Asia Society presents
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-50 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- APA: Asia Society presents; 50. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5d8nhc1j