It's been a little over two weeks here...

And I feel I've gotten into a nice routine. I've found a gym and have found a nice practice schedule that works for me and for the classes that are going on here. Brhaddhvani is a really exceptional place. It doesn't look like what I would traditionally think of as a "school." it's basically a three bedroom apartment with a number of musical instruments where classes are held. Because the classes happen while sitting on the floor there are no desks. Because the music is largely taught aurally there are no music stands. But there are classes here for people as young as 2 and as old --I'm guessing here--as 75. There are people who take 10 hour train rides (seriously! both ways!) to come take a lesson here once a week. And there is a general atmosphere of positivity and love for music.

I am practicing a lot. Probably more than I ever have in my life. I am working a lot on the Carnatic music but my studies actually integrate really well as a continuation of the jazz studies I was doing at Oberlin. Most of my lessons isolate two features of music that I think we fail to address as specifically as other features in the US pedagogically. These are phrasing and rhythm.

The food is killing.

I live about a five minute walk from a concert hall that holds Carnatic music concerts almost every night. I've been a couple times. It's really amazing. The room is full and there is a culture of support that is really different than I see in the US. At the same time tons of people leave in the middle of the show which I also don't see in the US. Plus the shows are like 3 hours. Back in the day they were like 12-15 hours so they've tightened up the program since then.

I have yet to meet many people my age. There are no students in their twenties here as far as I can tell and I have only a few connections in town. This evening I am going to see a performance of some more western music with some new people and I'm thinking that will lead to some new faces. 


Here's this lesson. It's in a tala of 10 counts. clap pinkey ring middle intex thumb pinkey clap clap wave. Try saying it with the first few syllables as eighth notes and then double-time with the syllables as sixteenths. The picture of my notes is attached. Message me if you have questions. This is some seriously bad shit.


There is a very extensive library here and I have been reading a little from it each night. I found this quote from Siddhartha very very insightful and I wanted to share it:

"He reflected deeply, until this feeling completely overwhelmed him and he got to the point where he could recognize causes: for to recognize causes, it seemed to him, is to think and it is through thought alone that feelings become knowledge and are not lost, but become real and begin to mature."

Some features I find especially interesting are this idea that knowledge comes not from external observation but from processing internal feelings. It reminds me of an interview of Steve Coleman's (a Brhaddhvani alum) where he states categorically that "there is no such thing as objectivity." Check out that interview here: 

Usually objective observation is what is credited as the source of knowledge. If there is no objectivity a prime candidate for the source of knowledge is feelings.

Second that this process of attaining knowledge comes only after deep reflection. Which puts "knowledge" in a somewhat different category than just information, memorization, or facts.

Third that there is this transience of feelings but a permanence of knowledge. I recognize this in myself. I can often recall the lessons I've learned from certain memories but the precise feelings are hard to re-create. I always see them through an extremely foggy lens of how I feel about things now.

Fourth that this process of "recognizing causes" and allowing this feeling to "overwhelm" oneself is what it really means to "think." I'm still mulling this one over... I had this idea that I was thinking all the time... but maybe I'm not? If so, what am I doing? and when do I switch? I also find that my mind is often trying to create causal relationships where there are none to be found. A lot of times our world is just chaos and our brain just wants to make meaning out of it. If I find a cause and I'm wrong am I thinking then? This all somehow reminds me of how Billy Hart always says "look at Television" instead of "watch TV." 

Last--and to me this is the most important as it relates to music--is that thought alone is what allows feelings to "mature" and not to become "lost." I feel a thousand things in a day. Probably more. Probably a million. And by the end of the day I can recall maybe one or two of these feelings. But when I listen to Coltrane play "Dear Lord" I feel something so crystalline that it almost transcends feeling. This piece of music is at the confluence of thinking and feeling and it is somehow more "mature" than one of these things by itself. This is about as close to "knowledge" as I really get.

When a lot of non-musicians talk about music they talk about the way that it makes them feel. They aren't looking for something that makes them think. They figure "I've been thinking all day! I need something to speak to my heart not my brain." But I wonder if this is an impoverished idea of what feeling can be. Feeling can mature and become knowledge. Herman Hesse (the author of Siddhartha) might suggest that, in fact, you have NOT been thinking all day. That in fact, you've been feeling all day! And these feelings have been lost and have failed to grow into knowledge! So there's something about music that is not just feeling but also thinking.

But of course it's both. When most musicians talk about music they're usually talking about the technical aspects form, rhythm etc. And we've all heard music that sounds nerdy or brainy. I often think my own music sounds this way. So you can't just have thinking either. Gary Bartz my saxophone teacher at Oberlin often talked about how "you don't have time to think" when you're soloing. But he would also say "I'm always thinking I don't want to go out and hear guys just playing." 

I don't really have a grand conclusion to all that. I just found it interesting and wanted to share. Maybe I'm becoming real and beginning to mature myself...