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The emergence and legacy of Indian classical music

First things first, did you read our post on the beauty of classical music! Read it at http://www.janeglover.co.uk/classical-music/why-classical-music-definition-of-art

When talking of classical music, it is impossible not to mention India. A country famed for its cultural and religious diversity, India has a rich history of classical music forms. The genre is primarily inspired by two key empires that existed in the first AD millennium – the Sufis and the Dravidians.

The Express Tribune

The Sufis, and later the Mughals, inspired the Hindustani classical music, named after Hindustan, the previous name of India. It rose to prominence in the northern part of India, where it still remains the primary form of music. Hindustani places emphases on soul and improvisation. The structure of the composition is not that relevant. What counts is the complexity of the improvisation.

The second type, Carnatic music, traces its origins to the South of India. Unlike Hindustani, which has inspirations from the Persians and Islam, Carnatic music has its entire roots in India. The emphasis here is the structure of the composition. Improvisations and soulfulness is not as relevant. The focus is on the vocal rendering of a composition. Instruments are only present to complement the vocals.

Both forms of Indian classical music consist of a key concept called ‘Raga’. A Raga is in short a framework for the musician to build upon. The framework is a set of five notes that form the chord foundation of a song. Any deviation from the raga is not allowed.

The two forms have formed a part of India’s legacy. Classical rendering is still extremely popular in India, especially when it comes to children and teenagers who go through an initiation phase where they have to perform their first classical recital in front of an audience. Beyond that, it has inspired a lot of other music genres in the country including folk, medieval, modern pop, rock and Bollywood.

Bollywood, which remains the face of Indian entertainment to the outside world, places heavy emphasis on both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music. Playback singers in the industry are expected to have been initiated at one of these two schools of music. Pop songs in Bollywood often involve classical solos or melodies overlayed with more modern instruments such as electric guitar, bass and drums.

Indian classical music continues to inspire artists worldwide. Famously, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin applied an Indian touch to some of their hits such as Norwegian wood and Kashmir. It remains a relevant and dominant force today.

4 self-help tips to master the piano!

Most parents think of the piano when they consider enrolling their children for music lessons. It is an instrument that transcends genres and applies to most forms of music. On a lighter note, it is great way to impress people at a party!

While mastering the piano takes ages, there are certain self-help tips that can be applied to teach yourself the piano. These tips have the best effect if you supplement them with piano classes. However they can also be applied by non-learners. Follow these tips in the order that they follow.

Video tutorials to learn notes

Piano notes are difficult to understand if you simply look at a website or read a book. Video tutorials are more helpful to ensure the concepts stick to your brain. YouTube has basic tutorials to understand dynamics, key, tempo etc. This will be a slow process in that you will need to go through a tutorial multiple times to fully grasp the notes.

Try memorizing key positions on a piano

This will take a while, but it helps you tremendously. Once you learn the basic notes from A to G, you automatically memorize the keys that represent these notes on the piano. Following that, you memorize the position of the second octave A key, and then you automatically know the second octave of all keys higher than A. These are some memorization tricks.

Practice finger movement

Finger movement and speed are essential when it comes to playing or composing songs. The best way to practice your speed if by taking a list of 5 songs and continuously practicing those at varying speeds. Hence you may start from, say 0.25x the original speed, and work your way upwards. Try playing a song at 1.25x or higher to trace your improvement.

Practice three finger placements (chords)

Once you can read the notes, have memorized key positions and are comfortable with speed, the next tip is to practice chords. Chord progressions are absolutely essential for a beginner pianist, much more than solo progressions. Use your notes as much as possible, and get the grasp of major and minor chords. Most chord keys follow the same pattern on a piano, so knowing one progression gives you a frame of reference.

If you cannot afford piano lessons or don’t have the time for it, follow these strategies to start mastering the piano. If you have a success story, we would love to hear from you!

How race and ‘black music’ has benefitted American music

America has been the definition of equality in music. American music can be traced back to both the local black and white community. The main influences in the nation have been European classical/folk music and African-American blues, jazz, soul and R&B (we deliberately avoid hip-hop as we don’t consider it music).

If any criticism can be aimed at western classical music, it is that it was entirely owned by the white community. Other races were not seen fit to perform classical compositions. Its lack of popularity in today’s world is partly a consequence of that. But the beauty of music is that when this blatant unfairness is exposed, a new alternative appears to enrich our lives.

 

And this began jazz. It can almost be perceived that the unfairness and cruelty exposed on the black community throughout the western world led to the emergence of the soulful jazz. Some people definitely attribute jazz to such cruelty. That’s the funny thing. Even from something as inhuman as slavery and oppression, something magical began. We would like to think that black people hit out at their oppressors through the medium of music.

With all the difficult stories, there are ones illustrating harmony as well. The modern Rock ‘n roll that began in the late ‘50’s with the emergence of the fabulous four from Liverpool took its origins from African-American Blues artists such as Freddie King, BB King and Albert Nelson. While there are still controversies about the so-called plundering of African music, many think of it as the fusion of two great schools of music.

Blues rock has become the most popular form of rock, with artists such as the Beatles, Rolling stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep purple, Guns ‘n Roses etc. skyrocketing the genre to superstardom. It owes its existence to the black community that invented it and the white community that popularized it. It is the very definition of two races working together in harmony.

Another great example is the emergence of funk rock. Funk was a genre founded by the African-American community, which combined with the classic rock genre. Artists, white and, black alike, popularized this genre and produced amazing music. Such artists include the Red hot chili peppers and Leonard ‘Lenny’ Krawitz.

These great examples show the effect of the popular terminology “Black music” that has added significant value to the American music scene. The rest of the world have a thing or two to learn from their counterpart to the west.

Why classical music remains the ultimate definition of art and beauty

There are hundreds of genres in music today. The ‘80’s saw the birth of funk and the ‘90’s saw the birth of teenage pop. Continuously, music changes and adapts to its surroundings. With so many options out there, we sometimes forget the roots and beginnings, that it all began with classical music. This post was inspired by a recent visit to my chiropractor in west palm beach who had classic tunes playing during our session.

To be honest, classical music in itself is a very broad category. Its perception and definition have changed over the years. In the first few centuries of the past millennium, the Persian, Indian and Roman civilizations began classical music, as it was conceived at the time. Following that came the church and secular music, also termed as classical. All commendable and artistic, definitely.

However, what we refer to as classical music started off in the mid-1700s with the rise of prominence of the Venetian schools of music. The names in that era – Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert etc. – still remain the most hallowed and inspirational names in music. Classical music underwent a redefinition during that time, with a focus on simplicity and power. It succeeded the Baroque school of music, which was complex to understand.

With Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart, classical music began to take a tone of simplicity. Size of orchestras increased to lend more power to symphonies. Melody combined with a harmonic progression led to a clearer piece of music. On a broader economic context, music became affordable for the middle-class and common man. Women began to compose, a trend that has since picked up and can be explored in our related post.

http://www.janeglover.co.uk/music/4-legendary-female-musicians-inspire

 

In the later decades, jazz emerged and branched off into its own category. That set the trend for a multitude of genres that followed. Yet, neo-classical music remained as the father figure. We would like to think that it is the case today as well. The complexity put into the composition combined with the perceived simplicity during performance alone makes classical music the pinnacle of beauty.

To bring together an orchestra of more than 30 individuals and an incomprehensible variety of instruments requires talent, preparation, diligence and nerves. That cannot be said for any other form of art, in fact. The fact that most orchestras succeed despite the blatantly visible handicap that if one person fails, the whole group fails, is mindboggling.

We commend the raw vocal strength that goes into Blues, the sheer passion exhibited by Rock ‘n roll, and the soul present in Jazz. Yet classical music requires a combination of the three, and much more. It remains the ultimate benchmark for a professional musician.

Learn these 4 string instruments and create your own music!

Unless you want to start an orchestra, a string instrument is all you need to compose simple bits of music. We notice around us a lot of solo guitarists who do performances on their own. If you are blessed with a good voice, you can become the next Elvis Presley or Eric Clapton, who both rose to fame performing as solo artists.

String instruments are one of the best inventions in music. The mechanics is simple enough. When you vibrate a string, you create sound. You modify the pitch, volume and frequency by the thickness and tension of the string. The guitar is perhaps the most common string instrument. If you are a symphony or concerto fan, you know many more string instruments. Let us look at a few that are easy to pick up.

Ukulele

The ukulele is smaller than a guitar and easier to learn. It has only four strings as opposed to the guitar’s six. The sound produced by the ukulele is simple and applicable only to a specific genre of songs such as folk or country, unlike a guitar that is extremely diverse in terms of its application. And the best part is that once you know the ukulele, you can pick up guitar with relative ease.

Viola

Often confused with the violin, the viola can be thought of as a much larger violin with a deeper, bassier sound. Normally you sit on a chair and position the viola in between your legs. While violas were traditionally used only in orchestras, they are increasingly being used by solo musicians and composers.

Banjo

The banjo has its roots from African folk music and has extensively been used in American country music. It has a distinctive sound as compared to the guitar. You can start off with a five-stringed banjo to compose simple 4-chord songs. A banjo’s strings are much more tightly wound and so requires a pick or plectrum to play.

Sitar

For the more ambitious ones, we recommend the Sitar. It remains our favorite instrument out of all the modern string instruments. The Sitar is extremely large and much more complex in terms of finger movement, as it requires both hands on the strings. It is an Indian classical instrument and is used in the context of Indian classical music compositions with significant note variations.

String instruments are fun to learn. Try out one of these and you will soon find out that diversifying to other instruments, even percussions for that matter, gets easier.

These 5 qualities determine the perfect musician

We often get asked how important education is to music. There are many cases of traditionally untrained musicians who have produced masterpieces and established their legacies. Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Keith Moon, Louis Armstrong… these are just a few notable names who are entirely self-schooled.

If a degree and years of training aren’t the determining characteristics of a musician, then what is? It is fair to establish that there needs to be set of criteria that will determine a specific outcome. To find out, we interviewed a lot of people that we adore in the industry to find out their commonalities. These are what we determined to be essential for a musician.

Training and Education

To begin with, training and education are essential. But we don’t refer to education as per the traditional school of thought. Education doesn’t necessarily mean going to a school and getting a degree, or enrolling for private classes. The key tenet of a good student is a desire and willingness for continuous learning, from whatever sources available. If you can’t afford a proper education, find alternative means to learn.

Desire

 

Music is one area where desire trumps training. We have seen many cases of that. As music doesn’t necessarily have a close-ended means to mastery, as is the case with Mathematics or Science, each person needs to seek his own path. Desire is quintessential to that.

Creativity

Creativity can be learnt.. to an extent. As a musician, you have to be creative as music is a commodity that can be accessed by all. Your competition is immense. Thinking out of the box, blending ideas and concepts, and perhaps ignoring certain feedback that you receive, is important in the creative process. While feedback is crucial in most cases, creativity is something that is perceived differently by each individual.

Talent

Ok, we admit. This can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. While it seems unfair, luck is essential in any field of work. In music, you are lucky if you are born with talent. If you’re not, it is still possible to train yourself to be a great musician. However, you need to take the hard route.

Connections

Connections and network were not as crucial a few decades back as they are today. With music being a multi-million dollar business, it is important to find the right people by your side. This will take time and you may still not succeed. Get out of your comfort zone and seek out people. Always remember that networking is two-sided. You may need to do some favors before you reap the result.

We are aware how difficult it is to succeed as a musician in this world of paparazzi, glitter, shallow appearances and money. If you feel you have the talent, don’t give up. Also keep in mind what not to do. We have listed a few things that are wrong with music today in the post below.

http://www.janeglover.co.uk/music/3-key-reasons-why-music-is-dead

We may have the 3 key reasons why music is dead today

It seems like the current generation music is just untasteful and shameful. There is a visible lack of talent, creativity and skill. Music today seems to be more about the dazzling visuals, hipster fashion and sleazy dance moves. Meaningful lyrics are, let’s face it, pretty much non-existent.

As someone who grew up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s listening to a wide variety of categories such as ballet, concerto, symphony, blues, rock, indie and folk, I was spoilt for choice. There was just an incredible array of talent and a society that recognized and appreciated such talent. At the time, you didn’t need to follow just one type of genre. Each genre was producing brilliant and refreshingly new labels.

Music has changed over the decades, as it would be expected to. It has been periodically shaped by politics, wars, human rights and of course, substance abuse. The Vietnam War inspired Lennon to compose his greatest single Imagine. There is the cold war- inspired Bob Dylan classic A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Events forced the creativity out of great musicians and resulted in masterpieces.

We don’t see any of that happening today. But why? The world has enough, if not more than before, issues. We are faced with climate change, terrorism, ever-increasing threats to free speech, nationalism and, if that wasn’t enough, Donald Trump. Protests are increasing and a lot of secular western nations are facing new threats to liberalism. The world isn’t shorn of problems, so that cannot be an excuse.

Perhaps creativity is just not there? Musicians all the way from the 16th century used to seek for inspiration and motivation to awaken their inner creative self. We only need to look at examples such as Beethoven, who was famously deaf and willing to fight against the odds to prove a point, or Stevie Wonder, who was blind and yet used the handicap to spur him on. There seems to be none of the inner struggle and search for inspiration today.

Composition with instruments is probably at an all-time low. Guitar and keyboard sales have been reducing worldwide, to mention an example. And why won’t they! The dream of kids three or four decades back to wield an instrument, be it guitar, keyboard, harmonica or a flute, doesn’t exist anymore. You don’t need to struggle to learn an instrument if you have modern concepts such as auto-tune to electronically synthesize music.

The concept of albums, carefully composed and painfully structured to create a plethora of varying songs, is gone. With the “one-hit” craze, all you need is to work towards that one song that will propel you to fame and money. Chances are that you just follow the existing trend and appease the masses.

In short, we think these are the reasons why music as we knew it has been lost to the times. We are optimists, and hope that one day we will get back to the soul-seeking, motivation-driven and creativity-laden music that we grew up with.

3 legendary female classical musicians, and why they should inspire us.

Classical music is always seen as a platform of men. It is comparable to other male-dominated areas such as civil justice, technology, banking and so on. If we look back at the great musicians that shaped the world, we think of Mozart, Beethoven, or the Beatles. All of them legendary and influential.. don’t get us wrong.. but all men.

It doesn’t help that for millenniums, women were not seen as fit to compose or conduct classical music. Music was considered divine, and only a man was allowed to exercise the right to lead it. While female members of the royalty did compose poems, and recite choruses and the occasional hymns back in the times, there is no long-standing symphony composed by a woman that still remains in all our hearts.

While those sexist philosophies and perceptions don’t exist today, there is still a sizeable population of aristocrats and classical music lovers that don’t appreciate a woman conducting a symphony orchestra, for example. And we can understand this thinking, but to an extent. Hence we decided to educate the masses and present to you a list of great female musicians, who, when given the chance, created masterpieces.

Francesca Caccini (1587-1640)

Famous People

Francesca Caccini lived during the glorious age of the Renaissance at the hub of the movement – Florence. She underwent training in music from her father at a very young age and could play the harp, keyboard and the lute. Her pinnacle was “La liberazione di Ruggiero”, a play she composed and performed in front of the Prince of Poland at the time.

Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729)

Musiques au coeur – Overblog

Elisabeth Jacquet De La Guerre was born in Paris and is an accomplish harpsichord player. She held the privilege of playing in front of and impressing Louis XIV at a very young age. Having brought up in the royal court, she was educated and supervised by influential people. Her ballad composition, Les Jeux à l’honneur de la Victoire, considered to have been lost, is one of the great compositions of her time.

Amy Beach (1867–1944)

Wikipedia

Over at the other side of the Atlantic, Amy Beach made a name for herself in the US. Born in New Hampshire, she played the piano and was a self-taught musician. In a career spanning 25 years, she performed in symphonies, concerts, choral and chambers. She even received recognition in Europe despite being an American composer.

These are some of the great women artists that graced classical music. We will cover more artists in future posts, with the idea being to encourage and motivate women around the world to pursue music. It is never wise to keep your talent locked inside.

Aspiring drummer? Here is the breakdown on percussion instruments

At Jane Glover, we love to dig deep into musical instruments and how they are able to generate such delightful sounds. One of the amazing categories of instruments is the percussion. It is the largest family in the orchestra and yet not valued as much as Strings or Brass. We discuss here the instrument family, its scientific working principle and the complexities involved.

The snare drum and bass drum are the most well-known percussion instruments in the family, and yet they are only two of more than a dozen types of instruments. The others include the triangle, chimes, cymbals, timpani, xylophone etc. Some even consider the piano as a percussion instrument, as it does fulfil the criteria of such an instrument, which is that it produces a sound when hit.

The obvious following question is, why does it produce a sound when hit? The reason can be explained with basic physics. As well all know, sound is a wave that travels through different mediums. When you hit a percussion instrument, say drums, the force you impart on the drumsticks is transferred to the plastic outer skin of the drums. This causes the skin to vibrate, which in turn causes a compression and expansion of air molecules in the vicinity and subsequently a difference in air pressure. That creates a sound wave.

Once we know this, we can deduct that we can control the frequency of the sound wave produced by controlling the force that we impart to the sticks. It does mean that we need to estimate and exert the force needed to produce a desired sound wave. Figuring this out and mastering the movement of our hands takes strength, stamina and years of practice, which is why the job of a percussionist is the most physically taxing.

Once you have mastered it, however, you will notice that the ability to create those sound waves gives you sheer joy at what you have achieved. You also increase your body strength and stamina. Perhaps this is why musicians all over the world flock to percussions despite the inherent complexities.

3 therapeutic healing effects that Music has on health

It is often stated that music is divine. Without even believing in god, one has to admit that there is something powerful and transcending about music that stimulates our mental faculties. A lot of people have also assumed that music has healing powers, that it can be the solution when all else fails. They may not be wrong after all!

Scientists have conducted many studies to validate the hypotheses that music has healing powers. The John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, for example, conducted research pertaining to music therapy. The Centre for Biomedical research at the Colorado state university have also conducted trials related to paralysis in human beings. And we have the following results backs up by research.

Pain relief

Music therapy is able to reduce the perception of pain in patients suffering from diseases including late-stage arthritis. The music affects the patients’ brain and is able to draw the attention of the brain away from the physical ailment. We have all known for a long time that pain is simply a reaction of our synapses and that it is possible to mentally train ourselves to increase pain tolerance. Music is a catalyst to aid that.

Depression

This follows the same logic as that of pain perception. Depression is as much a function of external physical circumstances as it is a function of our mental strength, meaning that it is possible to influence depression if our brain wills it. Music enables the brain to be distracted for a brief moment, thus helping a patient temporarily recover.

Physical healing

Wait.. how can music heal a physical bodily injury!? Apparently, it has been hypothesized that our cells react to sound waves and can adjust their size and shape depending on the wave frequency. While this is yet to made a foolproof theory, it is scientifically possible for sick cells to be cured with sound.

There are many more healing abilities which we haven’t discussed here. Music’s value to our live goes beyond just pleasure and joy. We want to ensure that people understand this core message.