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Asia Society president this is a series of interviews with experts on aging that they are designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. You're a host on this transcribed series of the noted author and award winning broadcaster Ligue Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Recently an American jazz group called the Charlie Byrd Quartet played in New Delhi before audiences which were largely Indian. And although the music was unmistakably American There was this subtlety about the phrasing in a color to the music that reveal the fact that Asian music is having an increasing effect upon the west. You also pay tribute to the fact that Charlie beard who was an American guitarist has been studying with Ravi Shankar. And this is just one example of the impact of the music of the great country of India upon the west. But it's an exciting and vigorous trend and we'd like to explore it further. On this edition of the Asia Society presents and to guide us in the exploration is our distinguished guest Mr. Norris Symon.
Mr. Norris salmon is both chef to the United Nations Secretary-General and as well as being the undersecretary general for general assembly of Sonora Symon in fact has been at the United Nations since September of 1956. In addition to his concern with world affairs he manages to have time for letters and for music. For example he has translated the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata. In doing lish and he is extremely interested in south Indian classical music. Now Mr. Narasimhan Is there much of a difference between North and South Indian classical music. The answer is yes and no. The basic principles are much the same in South Indian music. We use their fixed tonic and use the temple as a drone. They do the same thing in art and in music in Soudan in music a
combination of of of Mozart's for us. He's used to produce their AGA. They use the same system in the north. And by and large there is some similarity between that Uyghurs of the South and the north. They may be called by different names had the same time in the treatment of that I got in the way in which he had a subtle develops that is a considerable difference between the north and the south. And I would say in the South for example the standard recital is usually vocal music with a song has the central point around which the artist builds up his music in the north. It is not a complete song. It is usually a phrase or a line out a couple of lines which is turned around and about by the artist and the use of the instrument as the main the solo
instrument is much more common in the north than it is in the south. But apart from that I would say it is like saying that the grammar is much the same but the idea is very different between the north and the south. Is improvisation a characteristic of Indian music in general. Indeed for example the elaboration of our AGA at the beginning of a song. Which is called in the south and all up in the north. It is common to both. And then the use of notes starts for us for embellishing that is again common in the south and in the north it is called static dome in the north it is called for singing in the south and the whole business of improvising the lines themselves it is called. It is common to both systems it is called Neville in the south it goes by a different name than art but the use of improvise ation of the artist's individuality in the treatment of the raga and in the brain was that Uyghurs developed. This is a common point of both the north
and the Southern systems. It would rather is almost a part of our vocabulary by now our age. But how would you define it as a song. Eragon is a mode rather than a song. It's the combination of notes in a certain ascending order and in a certain descending order but it is much more than that occurs the personality of its own in fact for example certain drugs are supposed to be in tune with certain times of the day. For example the morning the midday the evening late in the evening in the night and so on. But here again there is a similarity of North and the south. But in the north they go even further. They call certain drug law guineas that is the female of the area. Certain male and female and depending upon the way in which they are developed their choir Essex even in the northern system we don't have this distinction in the south although by the name of Iraq you could say that it should be considered a masculine
feminine rug. I see one of the characteristics of the West can gather Indian music is the subtlety and the complexity of the way the notes are carried forth the themes something elaboration. It's a highly developed highly sophisticated music requiring great skill at least it seems that way to me. And also their training their main point to remember is that in the in the western system for example and are very happy to make a comparison as to legal systems by and large. The emphasis is on harmony on a number of instruments for example in our crystal music a number of instruments of different families. The strings there would be in the brass the percussion and so on all combining together using of course on melodic theme of some kind but all combining together to produce a variety of sounds which it is in harmony with each other so that you have a kind of
ensemble of sound in the southern Indian system. This is true of both the southern and the northern Indian system. Usually the performance is centered around the soloist and the soloist performs the melody and he turns that I've got around according to his ideas of what that I should be like how it should be treated. A second difference between the Western system and the system is your music is almost all written down very complete directions given in the composition itself as to the speed at which it should be played sung at the finesse with which you should be sung and variety of instructions is given as to how the performance should be conducted. And a very large extent the success of a performer and that is judged by the extent of its fidelity to the composer's intentions.
But in the Indian system it is not so that the composer of course is there. He sets out the broad outlines so to speak but the filling in is done by the artist himself and that is improvise ation from beginning to end. Human than ever and whenever the performer is playing a song which is a set that there will be subtle differences between the way he plays it on two successive occasions even and then of course when it comes to the ALAT for example are the setting are the turning around which we call in the revel in the south. Of course every artist has his own style and his own approach and to that extent there is a certain similarity between the treatment of the same theme yesterday and today and say tomorrow. But it can never be identical even if it tried to do it it cannot be identical merely because it is element or was that comes into it. So these are some of the main
differences between the West. And the Indian system. First the difference between what you might call the emphasis on harmony and emphasis on melody. The difference between a concert made up of a team of players and a concert out of the saddle built around a solo artist and then the difference between a watch made called the written word and what you might call the spoken word. Is any of the of the music of your country used in Nora's Symon recorded at all. Now of course much of it is recorded on tape and record so that however an artist performed at say on Tuesday it will still we will have it for years to come. But aside from that is nothing ever written down a great deal is written down. But what is written down can be only an aid to memory. If you have forgotten the words are if your forgotten approximately how the music goes you can approximate. Yes I see but you do not have anything like that example the complete score of. There for an artist for example love of a symphony. How are an opera. We don't
have anything like that where it is written down exactly how each team of players should play it how the violence should handle it or how the the would be intruder and that other blogs should handle this kind of thing is not written down or talk. How about say quickly this is true of all kinds of music even at it at a religious festival. The music might be basically the same as last year's festival but there are differences there are variations depending upon the musician. Indeed there is. Yes and this is I mention this because this is in some respects an answer to the question that you raised. Take for example it is made up of a certain number of notes in a certain combination. There will be another which uses some of the same notes but the notes are not the same in each case because their son just that little differently to suit the personality of the particular mode of the particular raga it miss the notes. There are two elements in the singing of a note what you might call the kind of
tremolo the to give note and the power the expression of that of the note. And this differs from ragout Ruggles the note is the same that is why it will never be for example in the piano striken orders the same. But in this vision plays it the same note. Say for example that the note in Wonder will be played just a little bit differently from the same note. Another When I think some of that is true in Western music. One thing I will interpret an operatic groan in one way ending upon the shading her voice her facial expression and another will do it differently. So you won't always have exactly the same performance but the music of course has remained the same. Some day interpretation can make that quite different. That is quite true. But here in addition to the interpretation is the fact that even in the singing and element of improvisation comes that you don't have to sing it the same way as you did the previous time they are complete freedom as to how you do it.
You certainly allow for the individual in India don't you I mean an artist can be himself at all times. Well that is part of the of the answer the other part of the answer is that Indian music is very largely learnt individually from a master disciple from a girl. This relationship is very important in Indian music. Ravi Shankar for example learnt his that are playing at the feet of the Great was allowed in Han many of you have seen the vision. Here I've known for a very very large number of years. I have also seen him in the presence of his master. And the respect to the reverence the homage he placed his muster it's very touching to see and the same is true of tight clever Indian position so that what is learnt is by a process of constant listening and almost osmosis absorption by rubbing off than by learning by hearing more over and over again. Learning by reading what is written on a manuscript and this is the reason why the treatment of a raga by each individual varies so much because he has learned to trust his master and his masters the
rendering of a dragon for example would be different from any other Masters and I am so over a period of time you have a whole series of people who play the same Dragon and it is not the same and it is this variety that gives it that gives the Indian music its appeal both in India itself and outside that. There's the one of the main elements in the fact that that Indian music has had on the West. I have been irresponsible in my time for promoting a certain number of these visits because I believe that this kind of cultural interchange is very useful. And one of the things that I have found is a great handicap is the lack of people who can interpret Indian music. In Western terms in other words you can act as translators for example in the United Nations. We have followed a sparkler to say making the most eloquent audition in French of the day speaking in Spanish there are both great orators. Now that orator is just sound meaningless sound. If you can't have someone translating it word for word for you as you
have in the process of simultaneous interpretation as we have in the UN the same question of interpretation arises in respect of this music and the astonishing thing is that although there has been this lack of interpretation there has been this great impact on the West on Western ears so to speak of Indian music. Yes the impact has been extraordinary because as you mentioned Ravi Shankar who still regards his teacher with great reverence worship a soul Ravi Shankar has that effect on many people in this country particularly those in their teens and 20s who look to him with an operation which they don't because bestow upon anyone else I can think up. Now what. Can one analyze the effect that a man like Shankar or other great Indian artists have upon the west. What is it that draws Western people to him. I think the main reason will in the case of Ravi Shankar is that he is not led great artist a great virtuoso with considerable qualities of musicianship
and imagination but he has also a very nice personality and is that articulate and he is able to some extent to do this job of interpretation that I refer to as one of the things that is lacking. He is able to do this job as he goes along for example in his concerts nowadays he starts with a little exposition of what he is trying to do and what effect he believes it would normally have on an audience and then of course the audience is in a mood to try and see if it can have that feeling that he is talking about. They close their eyes and they listen with a kind of total concentration in an effort to see if this the result could even be simulated. But perhaps because the comparison is that a vision is not quite fair because he is somewhat of a unique phenomena and the success that he has achieved in Western times during during this in two years. But if you take any system of Indian music I think the reason for the fall the appeal of Indian music is the differences that I was talking about the fact
that for example that is not this kind of dependence upon a whole team but on the performance of a soloist with some with some with some people to accompany him. The emphasis on on a melodic line rather than on harmony and the emphasis on on individuality and improvise ation and your own imagination rather than upon a set pattern which is written down for you I think. These are the main differences and these are the main reasons for the appeal. That Indian music has to the best and to the best in years especially to the trained Western ears. Because people you know tend to rebel against the system and when used to it for so long and they find that it is a thrashing to be able to get away from their system. And to be able to observe a system where they have the freedom which they lack in the present system although some people are quite provincial about that and they reject any new system and only want the system to which there is a been trained and accustomed. However them there
must be something about a new system like Indian music which does not upset people or make them or make them feel in a negative way about it. They seem to accept it without too much difficulty. The same is true I think of Western music in my country. I think the basic problem is really whether you have got a trained musical ear or not. Just as the difference between appreciating a great speech whether it is in the English language or the language or not appreciating it is the difference between whether you are yourself cultivated enough to say oh great it is and whether you do not have that level of cultivation to appreciate the level of the of the of the other tree that you're hearing. I think a very large extent the fact that that Mr like many on the violin could play with revision as it did on the 10th of December at the concert of the United Nations on human rights David. I was to some extent as possible for enjoying the way in which a man like many can could pick up the threads of system totally different to that in which he has been brought up shows that this
difference is in space and in time and in systems can be can be overcome provided the artist has got the technical equipment to begin with. In other words. How interested you might be in Western music if you cannot play the violin you cannot play western music. Our industry is 10 ms If you cannot play an instrument you cannot play Indian music. But if you have the training then it becomes easier for you to make the transition. And it also becomes easier for you to understand what it is all about. In other words an interpreter has got a better chance of making you understand the differences. And this I think it's explained to some extent why the Jazz Quartet like the Charlie Bird just quote it to Jennifer at the beginning of your introduction why it is finding as ready acceptance in New Delhi here as there is Shankar is finding in Lincoln Center. I think this is part of the whole pattern of cultural interchange that is coming about. I mention this only because this is not just one way traffic. To some
extent our music has also been influenced by traditions from from abroad. You asked me for the difference between the South Indian system of the North Indian system to very large extent of the North Indian system has been affected by the conquest of the north. Much more than the south by outsiders. For example the audience in the first instance and then the mugger's at a later stage in history and so on. The South has been less affected by such by such influences than in the not but it. The system that is now followed in the south is a system of somewhat recent origin. It is certainly not world than three to 400 years. So there are all these contradictions of course in the way in which a musical system is developed. But as I see it there is the influence of the Western system on our music for example so much for film music these days they play the room and the Sambo and the whatever is the latest dance step for example they introduce it and feel music. It has already become part of our film music I wanted reciprocal.
Whether our music was having some impact upon us because that is true cultural exchange. When West goes to eastern east coast to west and disloyal to a large extent I think the other thing is also happening in other words this is a process which by that the purists like a lot is going to happen. I do not say that therefore you say you should start playing Ragozin Western in Western music. We should start playing jazz. Dance visit in our system I'm not saying you need to go that far and cultural intrusions does not mean that our music becomes part of us are indistinguishable from us our music becomes in the church of ours. There were large extant cultural and agenda I think even consist in the fact that there are people in our system well-versed nervous system who can appreciate your music and vice versa I think this is also a very important aspect of culture literature and even if our music takes on the characteristics to some extent some of the charm and talent of the other. I don't think we lose our identity. And maybe in the long run that's the best thing if we all would lose our identity and perhaps also have the same music that is centuries away.
Another thing that we wonder about is how concerts are given in public in India you have a large concert halls many people attending or people of a certain type attending. How does that work. Well it varies of course many of the concerts in India are of course given in modern concert halls with a capacity of seating capacity of between 1000 and 3000 literacy. But equally there are tensions being what then in the open air concerts are also fairly well-known. And the fact that we have got modern electronic equipment which is capable of amplifying the sound and capable of carrying even the small human voice a very large audience. This is to some extent affected the listening capacity and then the audience that you can have at a concert I have a very dear friend in south India a very eminent musician one of our greatest vocalists with disabilities me. She sang at the United Nations on the 23rd of October 1966 at the invitation of session with her and I was also responsible for the engine that drove
that. I had a letter from what has been only a few days ago and she performed at the holy moley on a certain holiday at a concert that there were 10000 people listening to her but it was all in the open air. So this is this is one of the factors that do that that you would like the open air concert that you have in Central Park this one of the aspects that is common to both Western and Eastern music. A final question do you play an instrument yourself. It's an arson. I sing a little. I have I give a little concert at the United Nations on the 1st of October last year and it was it was fairly well attended then it was the little disappeared but. I am essentially an amateur not a professional and I cannot hope to come anywhere near professional standardizing as a means of self-expression more than any other many people who express themselves through music in India in this way without being highly trained. Well I am somewhat highly trained I would say well then I am not a very confident performer in the sense of a professional. Would you mind if I don't accept that.
I imagine that everything you do you must do with a high standard as you have done in your work since at least that we know of since 1956 the United Nations and our guest on this program who is the most distinguished man among that we are honored to have paid us a visit. Is the NRA Symon missed in our stamina as you probably know is both a chef to go to the United Nations secretary general. But in addition is the undersecretary general for General Assembly. The thing is he's a translator of the great Sanskrit Epic MRA Botha. He says he's not a professional in singing but I suspect that he is. Thank you very much and goodbye. Thank you. You have just heard the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. This program is produced by members of the staff of the Asia Society. This transcribed feature of your city station comes to you through a public service grant of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on this program or would like further information about the work of the ages as I do you are
how you can become a member. Please write to Mrs. Lee Graham on WNYC New York 100 0 7. We hope you enjoyed this broadcast and we invite you to join us again next week at the same time for another edition of Asia Society prays that. This program was distributed by the National Education already your network.
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Asia Society presents
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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
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