The music season is almost over, and I attended only a few concerts this year.
It struck me how electronic and digital equipment have become indispensable at concerts – drawbacks and all.
Flautist N. Ramani kept his cool when his mike went berserk in the middle of his concert at the Narada Gana Sabha, like a banshee wailing. It is a fire alarm drill, whispered someone. The person in charge came rushing in from outside to stop the awful sound. Ramani had already stopped playing, and with great sangfroid, kept time all the while the feedback was being fixed, never missing a beat, and then resumed from where he had left off, as though nothing had happened. At 10 in the morning – an odd time for a person of his stature, certainly - there were only a few people in the audience, but I was happy to see that it was a discerning crowd. When two oldish men started to natter rather loudly during the concert, everyone turned round to look at them pointedly, while another oldish man shushed them. Soon the crowd increased and soon the hall was half full.
I last heard Ramani last year at the Thiruvaiyaru festival, we sat on the sands on the banks of the Kaveri under pandals and listened to him in the cool of the evening. What a difference in the ambience! There was no room at all, and it was a tight squeeze. There were mikes relaying the concert, not just at the open air venue, but in every nook and corner of the town. The town simply comes alive at this time. Here at the sabhas, you can hear nothing if you step out even for a coffee.
At the Sanjay Subrahmanyan concert of the Sri Bhairavi Sabha, I sat next to a lady, a hardcore Sanjay fan, who told me proudly that she had attended five concerts of his in this season. She had an electronic/digital recorder, fitting neatly into her palm and recorded the whole two hour concert. (Some of us in our music class use this to record our lessons.) I understand that many do this, and go back home to relive the joys of the concert. There have been debates on this – is it ethical? Is there an issue of copyright violation here? There is a school that feels that as long as the recording is not done for commercial purposes, it is permissible. A friend of ours has recorded many such concerts and burnt them on CDs, and now has an enviable collection.
Electronic pieces are now associated with music in other ways too. Musicians almost always have a small electronic box instead of the traditional tambura.(See picture.) But I understand that the Music Academy does not allow any electronic tambura on the stage. Mridangam player Umayalpuram Kalyanaraman, gave me this piece of information recently. He is the son of Tambura Venkataraman, and told me how his father’s services were always in demand till he retired.
But for recordings, so many of these brilliant concerts would be lost to posterity – science supporting art so smoothly. How marvellous would it have been had it been possible to make recordings of Sri Thyagaraja singing his own compositions.
Tambura picture: Courtesy Internet.