||[Aug. 6th, 2006|09:21 am]
|||||Dave Matthews Band - Crash||]|
I can't believe that it's already been 8 months of this year, and this research project is almost at its end. I've had great fun travelling around, talking to musicians, and wading through archives of long-lost magazines.
The final presentations happen at the end of August 2006, in Delhi. Here's an overview of what I plan to present:
Presentation Overview: Understanding Notions of Creative Ownership Among Contemporary Musicians in India
By Rajesh Mehar
Review of Proposal
The proposal for this project outlined a few key questions to be explored among which, the following two questions have resulted in the most interesting responses:
- In India, music education is still largely unregulated, ranging from the individual instructor to semi-formal institutions that impart arbitrarily designed 'curriculum-based' training. Certification (open only to classical musicians) is restricted to examinations conducted by the various state education boards. Indian English musicians operate under even less organised scenarios with no formal education and no opportunity for certification.
- How is music education imparted in India? How does this affect an Indian musician's sense of assimilating, interpreting and creating music?
- What are the implications of using oral traditions rather than written/textual traditions of imparting and assimilating musical education?
- How does the culture of learning by imitation and copying inform the sense of ownership of creative material of musicians in India?
- Relatively new concepts of ownership that inform the contemporary musician in India (through the media) are largely borrowed from the West, and gaining in prominence and aggressiveness as the entertainment industry renews its crusade against piracy. However, musicians in India are also affected by other traditions unique to their context.
- Does the musician in India approach ownership as merely possession of (and hence exclusion of others from) a creative work? Can the understanding of ownership be explained differently, by a relational proximity of the musician to the musical work?
- How do Indian musicians relate to their work of art in terms of ownership?
- Do musicians in India approach their work from a purely possessive perspective? If not, what are the implications of ownership and the exclusion that this brings with it on this understanding?
- One of the planned work-products in the proposal also took on a life of its own and made it necessary to devote a much larger chunk of time and effort than initially planned:
- Oral histories – Histories of Indian classical music are already available readily. From personal interviews and online resources, I plan to generate oral histories of English music in India, documenting the important musical groups/bands/artists that have shaped and popularised Indian English music, and the centres in each metro/small town where English music was available in the grey/black market; access to new content is a big part of who creates new material and how this material spreads.
Overview of Main Findings and Presentation Plan
The Musician’s Learning Process
Almost none of the musicians interviewed cited musical instruction as the main catalyst in their learning process. The common theme running through what most of the musicians identified as the most critical part of their learning curve is an Ekalavyan tradition of learning by observation and imitation. This observation spans across the visual and aural realms, involving ‘watching’ more experienced players perform and ‘assimilating’ the work of popular musicians of the West. The process can be likened to reverse engineering, with the accurate imitation of the results facilitating an intimate understanding of the act of composition itself. It then follows that the music one listens to for the purpose of “… absorbing the music… will obviously reflect in your playing.”
In contrast, there have been landmark cases in the West involving the construction of the idea that an act of composition has to be sufficiently dissimilar to all other acts of composition (even of the musician in question) to be considered unique. These cases have also brought into focus the idea that music that a musician listens to repeatedly makes its way (consciously or unconsciously) into music that is then created by that musician.
I will play sound recordings of the interviews of musicians, which relate to this aspect of the learning process, and juxtapose them with excerpts from documents relating to the cases mentioned.
The Early Creative Process
An interesting pattern across different musicians’ interviews emerges with them recalling their first act of composition as being an act of imitation. As Bruce Lee Mani, lead guitarist and vocalist for Bangalore-based band Thermal And A Quarter, describes his first composition, “… for me it was interesting enough, when I was listening to this music, to try and create something, y’know, similar to it.” However, there is a clear distinction made with such ‘premature’ imitation and eventual ‘mature’ composition, which relies on ‘growing up’ out of the mimic phase.
I will play sound recordings of sections of interviews pertinent to this theme and examine them in the context of existing theories on the mimetic faculty.
Authorship and the Process of Creation
Most of the musicians interviewed had spent a considerable part of their musical careers performing in groups or ensembles. One of the points of focus was an attempt to understand how the creative process and the authorship of the material composed differed between a solo compositional effort and composition within a band/ensemble structure. Different answers emerged to questions of how much ownership could one member claim over a song that was composed together and how attribution could work in such a setting.
I will play sound recordings of relevant sections of interviews and contrast them with excerpts from Anne Baron’s essay titled Copyright Concepts and Musical Practice: Harmony or Dissonance?
The Source of Creation
When speaking about the creative process, some of the musicians clearly identified an early phase of imitative composition and distinguished this with ‘mature’ composition that was not clearly identifiable as inspired by the music they consumed. This evaluation of two kinds of creativity, externally inspired and internal, and the positing of one as better than the other presents an interesting dichotomy. While musicians used words such as “influences”, “assimilating”, “internalizing”, and “absorbing” when it came to listening to their favourite music, they also used words such as “find your own voice”, “not just a copy”, “create from within”, and “unique” when referring to composition.
Sound recordings of relevant sections of interviews will be played and examined in the context of the emergence of the narrative of creativity as emerging from within rather than without.
Two Different Worlds
When the musicians interviewed spoke about the creative process, they frequently explained the act and the incentives behind it in social and cultural terms. Aspects ‘nurturing’ of a public knowledge, channeling some energy that was around them, and ‘expressing’ themselves took on great importance. Simultaneously, there was a distinct property context in discussing the finished product of the creative process, along with the attendant connotations of exclusion that this context brings with it. This contrast between the societal and cultural aspects of creation and the proprietary aspects of the commerce of music provides an interesting point of discussion.
I will play sound recordings of relevant sections of interviews to bring out this contrast.
If there was one thing that was unanimously agreed upon, it was the ‘evilness’ of record companies and their control of the creative output of musicians. There was a simultaneous expression of the desire of the creator to connect with the consumer without the involvement of ‘middlemen’.
I will play sound recordings of relevant sections of interviews and examine the alternative forms of production and distribution emerging around the world.
HiStories of Rock
In this section, I will lay out a few interesting highlights of the stories of rock music in India:
- The experiences of the first beat music (the preferred term of the time for the music we call retro-rock now) band in India to release a record back in 1969.
- India’s first female lead-guitarist, Farida Vakil, a guitar-toting diva of her times.
- India’s pioneering Raga Rock band, The Human Bondage, playing raga-influenced rock music back in the 70s.
- The Junior Statesman, the only chronicler of the history of rock music in India?
- The Indus Creed story.
- Indian rock music’s latest hopes: Pentagram, Thermal And A Quarter, and Indian Ocean.