A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

"Feeling" classes with a new teacher

I've generally been feeling quite confused about my practice recently. Indian classical music can be so overwhelming sometimes; having to improvise on a raag full of rules whilst having to forget about those rules enough so you can let go and play with your heart. On top comes the cyclic rhythm system inside which you'll also have to improvise, faster and faster as you progress on your musical journey - alternating parts of a fixed composition with your own improvisation. In the process of course you must care to listen to the rhythm cycle so you'll start your improvisation on the right beat of the cycle, and end on time to start the composition again (say in a 16-beat rhythm you must start or finish on beat no.1, or no.9, or no.12 etc.). Add to that those evil (for me anyway) "tihais" (the repetition of a phrase three times) which you must sprinkle here and there at the end of your improvisation cycles before starting the composition. Yes, that's a maths exercise within your improvisation - and yes that makes a lot of things to care for whilst having to let go so you can play with your heart!

Each raag you have to internalise, practise exercises within it so your fingers and ears and heart will internalise it, its feeling and colour, its typical phrases, its forbidden notes etc. In order to achieve this you listen to your teacher and play, everyday for months or years, and at home you try and improvise yourself for hours or days or months or years so you'll get the raag down from your head to your heart.

Exercises have always been my strength because I'm geeky and whenever I feel too emotional about practising improvisation or working on my weakness (rhythm!) I take refuge in practising familiar, risk-free exercises. I guess it's not all bad, because I've practised exercises and scales so much that I'm good at sliding on the violin strings to produce meends and gamaks. However I know that I cannot just work on that, and generally what has bothered me most recently is that - forgetting about rhythm for a bit - I've been feeling very confused about raags. I know many compositions in quite a few raags, but when it comes to slow (rhythm-free) improvisation, I can play but I don't really like what I play, and mostly I feel like a copy of my teacher stripped of the feelings. Alone, I just can't seem to create the feeling of a raag. Things take time and I've made huge progress in four years, but. but, but BUT, feeling is the most important, that what moves me the most anyway, and ignorant people may not know when you're not respecting the raag's rules or when you miss a beat but they'll tell if you play like shit.

FEELINGS. PLAYING WITH MY HEART. I want it desperately, and I know I'm good at it, I have an AMAZING ear for melody, but it seems I need something else that will help diving into raags... I came to realise that "copying Guruji's violin" prevents me from diving into Indian notes, because when I hear his violin notes come to me in French, and it also prevents me to listen fully with my ears because I can look where his fingers press the strings and do the same. Seeing prevents me from listening deeply. So I also needed to learn with a singer, a singer who'd sing Indian notes and whose voice my fingers couldn't just copy; a singer whose voice I, myself, me, would listen to and interpret through the violin.

I started singing classes at the end of last year which helped me in many ways, but after a while I found the teacher disappointing, so I stopped the classes. A good friend of mine, however has a great teacher who is a sitar player and singer. His soul is so pure and his love for music is so deep, he makes people shiver and cry. My friend has been studying with him for four years - and boy, how she feels when she plays. I met her teacher a while ago through her, and it was the first time after meeting Guruji that someone else truly tickled my heart to learn with him.

And so finally I did. Guruji came back last week from Europe and I came back from Khajuraho especially to start classes again with him, but the very next day he was off again on tour for another two weeks. There was no way I'd sit on my bum doing nothing for two weeks so it was a good opportunity for me to try out my friend's teacher. The next day I took my first class with him. I have to cycle 30 minutes to get to his place so to avoid the traffic (but at this time of year I can't avoid sweat) I'm taking classes at 8am, every two days. The next day I also (at long last!) bought myself a sound recorder to record the classes.

And wow, how refreshing. A totally new approach to dive into the intricacies of a raag... a new person, a new approach, forget about the rhythm for now, just take "feeling classes". How to approach the note, to touch onto it in different ways, and to feel them more directly through the body and voice... and relax, forget about everything, unlearn for now and be, just listen and enjoy, listen and feel, listen and play. Be you, play what you hear, and dig, dig into the beauty...

This morning I had my second class with him, I came home and listened over and over again the class, singing, playing it, one, two, three times. Then I put the headphones down and played; there was a lot more feeling in my heart... I feel and hope that learning with another teacher for a while and in the future from time to time, through voice - and new instrument, will help me take my practice from a new angle, deepen and colour it...

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