Indian music in intercultural education – ISME Glasgow 2016

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Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin – Rabindranath Tagore*

During this presentation, musical figures from several distinct traditions were explored in a practice-oriented manner. The figures selected are appealing beyond South Asia where they originated many centuries ago and continue to play a key role in classical and applied music.

Our shared goal was to enable young and old to collaborate in a memorable learning process that blends seemlessly into any chosen subject, academic and otherwise.

The criteria for selecting a particular figure were (1) its flexibility as for combining it with another subject, for instance mathematics, geography or history; (2) its appeal going by prior experience with learners from different age groups; and (3) its scope for variation, movement, visualisation and analysis in accordance with learners’ specific needs and abilities.

Click on the above image to view or download and print a sample lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)
Click here to view or download and print a sample lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)

Scope

As part of integrated music education, Indian music enables even complete strangers to share a useful learning process. This calls for a natural and playful approach to melody, rhythm, hand signs and body movement. In this manner we are prepared to include newcomers – children and adults lacking a common language – to instantly participate in music.

Indian music is valued for fostering memory, analytical thinking, concentration, and cooperation among peers. Its basic concepts are exhilarating and liberating whether or not there is scope for studying Indian culture in its own right. This is a boon in circumstances where verbal or written instructions fail to engage learners. Rather than resigning in the face of such formidable challenges, educators are free to experiment and spread solidarity through instant inclusion – the essential joy of “creating” music oneself. This aspect addresses a common fear among learners, namely to be left behind (again!), be it in music or other subjects – a fear that is all too often justified in competitive modern society.

To help educators to overcome such fears, we build lessons around simple figures that bind tunes, rhythms and movements together into a rounded whole. Some of these may appear familiar enough to “break the ice” if needed; and others are so fresh and mind-boggling as to trigger further experimentation among peers in informal settings – anywhere and anytime. For this to happen, we dispense with technical resources of any kind.

Adaptation is the key to rapidly changing learning scenarios wherein cultural stereotyping, a known stumbling block for educators all over the world, must be overcome. This is easily achieved by integrating Indian music into discussions of academic concepts, or by letting its rhythms enrich social and outdoor activities. Such activities are by definition location specific and all-inclusive.

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Educators from Canada, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Singapore and Switzerland were among the eleven participants in this one-hour session. They explored a time proven method suited to the needs of a wide range of abilities and learning goals; and this irrespective of participants’ cultural roots.

Date: 28 July 2016 | photos by courtesy of Dr. Tony Makarome, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Singapore

More information

*Rabindranath Tagore in a letter to C.F. Andrews; quoted by Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. London: Penguin, 2005, p. 86.

India Inspiration – Tropenmuseum Amsterdam

For ten years this exhibition celebrated the sources of inspiration shared by Indian and Western artists; and at the same time, it traced the role of migrants from India via Surinam through songs, memorabilia, and documentary film footage.

Concept and research: Ludwig Pesch (www.aiume.org) in collaboration with museum staff and Architectenbureau Jowa (www.jowa.nl).

Photographs © Ludwig Pesch

This exhibition was one of the five themes in the exhibition “Round and About India”: Wanderings

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Storytellers and actors brought their stories to every corner of India. Today their narrative boxes, scrolls and performances are increasingly being replaced by modern mediums, but they have not yet disappeared.

India is a country of stories and storytellers. Opportunities abound in the exhibition Round and About India to watch and listen to narratives about people, ideas and objects. Every item has a tale, every person has something to tell. Whether it is festivals and processions, commerce and history, gods and heroes, pilgrimages and wanderings.

In this exhibition these stories are the central features of performances in dance, theatre and music.

On display until 2017

Visit the Tropenmuseum

This museum is one of Amsterdam hidden treasures. Located off city centre in a beautiful old building in East Amsterdam (Amsterdam Oost), Tropenmuseum often remains forgotten, like an old collection of post stamps. However, if you are interested in other cultures, other countries and distant lands – do no miss it.

Amsterdam Tropenmuseum exhibit is modern, fascinating on many levels and inspiring. […] Modern and intelligent presentation makes the visit pleasant to a larger public, including children. | More information: www.amsterdam.info/museums/tropenmuseum

Some notes on Rabindranath Tagore and his role in fostering “sympathy of the East and West” during his visit to The Netherlands in fall 1920

In his poetry, for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literature as Asia’s first awardee in 1913, Tagore uses musical instruments as metaphors for self-realization and transcendence; notably the vina (or “veena”, often translated as “harp”) and the flute. In a letter to Frederik van Eeden, his Dutch translator, he wrote:

“Very often I think and feel that I am like a flute – the flute that cannot talk but when the breath is upon it, can sing. I am sure you have seen me in my book and I shall never be able to make myself seen to you when we meet; for the body of the lamp is dark, it has no expression, only its flame has the language.” (signed in London, 9 August 1913) [1]

This recurring motif may excuse the amusing blunder by a cartoon character (the alter ego of the museum’s former Curator for South Asia), who hails Tagore as “India’s greatest flautist”! [2]

In an earlier letter to Van Eeden, written seven years before visiting the Netherlands, Tagore wrote:

“Still I cannot deny that this award of the Nobel Prize has been a great thing. It is the handshake of sympathy of the East and West across the water – it has proclaimed the oneness of humanity.” (signed in Shanti Niketan, 12 December 1913) [1]

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Rabindranath Tagore in Amsterdam (Vrije Gemeente 1920) © Spaarnestad Photo – click on the photo for more details and to zoom in

In 1920 Tagore spoke before packed houses including the “free congregation”: the humanistic and cosmopolitan “Vrije Gemeente” whose highly placed members had built a magnificent church at the Weteringschans in Amsterdam. (It now houses Amsterdam’s prime pop venue, known as “Paradiso”.)

Tagore’s lecture tour made a lasting impression on countless listeners:
“Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and the Dutch writer, psychiatrist and Utopist Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932) exchanged correspondence between 1913 and 1928, and met in Amsterdam in 1920. When Van Eeden discovered Tagore’s poetry in 1913, he experienced a feeling of profound recognition and went on to translate a considerable amount of Tagore’s poetic work into Dutch, starting with Gitanjali [Wijzangen]. Van Eeden’s translations became very popular in the Netherlands, also among composers.” [3]

Van Eeden’s father (the elder Frederick van Eeden) was in fact the co-founder of what later became the Tropenmuseum, established as the “Colonial Museum” in nearby Haarlem in 1864. The grand building in Amsterdam dates from 1923. [4]

 

[1] Learn more about Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932) and the spread of Tagore’s educational ideas through Noto Soeroto in “Tagore in The Netherlands” by Liesbeth Meyer:
www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pMeyer.html
(visited 14 March 2016)

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“As Blind Minstrel in Phalguni” by Abanindranath Tagore (detail); title page, Sangeet Natak Centenary Number (New Delhi 1961)

[2] For the record: it is a well known fact that Tagore did not play any musical instrument other than the drone:

“I practiced my songs with my tamburā resting on my shoulder.” (My Boyhood Days, p. 38, Calcutta: Visva-Bharati 1997).

Later he was depicted as playing a similar string instrument, namely as a participant in his own music dramas (see the detail from Abanindranath Tagore’s painting reproduced here). So if you visit the exhibition and watch its audiovisual contents, kindly ignore this blunder by an over-enthusiastic museum team member. Here you may enjoy the rare and instructive media contents supplied by many contributors including the Embassy of India in The Hague.

[3] More information is found in the English Abstract by Rokus de Groot for his article titled “Van Eeden en Tagore. Ethiek en muziek” in Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, D. 49ste, Afl. 2de (1999), pp. 98-147. The  abstract and article (in Dutch) are found here:
www.jstor.org

[4] In 1923 the building on the corner of Mauritskade and Linnaeusstraat was completed and the collections from Haarlem could be moved to Amsterdam. On 9 October 1926 Queen Wilhelmina officially opened the new Colonial Institute. The history of the Tropenmuseum is outlined here (in English):
www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?/en/instellingen/tropenmuseum

Tip

Listen to “Tagore: Unlocking Cages” from the series of podcasts by BBC 4 titled “Incarnations: India in 50 Lives”. Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore. The series is found here: http://bbc.in/1KVh4Cf

Veröffentlichung von “Raum für Ideen? Zeit zum Spiel! Zum Sinn eines unbefangeneren Umgangs mit der ‘klassischen’ Musik Indiens”

Der Vortrag mit dem Titel “Raum für Ideen? Zeit zum Spiel! Zum Sinn eines unbefangeneren Umgangs mit der ‘klassischen’ Musik Indiens” von Ludwig Pesch wurde in Über Europa hinaus – Indiens Kultur und Philosophie: Disputationes 2015 veröffentlicht. ISBN: 978-3-7065-5522-7
Umfang: 152 Seiten (kartoniert, durchgehend vierfarbig mit zahlreichen Fotos) und ist beim Studienverlag Innsbruck  erhältlich.

Mit Beiträgen von Bettina Bäumer, Heidrun Brückner, Erhard Busek, Veena Kade-Luthra, Karl-Josef Kuschel, Ludwig Pesch, Helga Rabl-Stadler, Claudia Schmidt-Hahn, Walter Slaje, Alarmél Valli, Michael von Brück und Annette Wilke.

Informationen über diese Veröffentlichung und alle hier genannten Autoren finden Sie auch auf Worldcat.org >>

Angaben aus der Verlagsmeldung:

MYTHOS INDIEN
Künstler, Religionswissenschaftler und Indologen begeben sich auf die Suche nach der indischen Spiritualität und ihrer Ausprägungen in Kunst und Kultur, erklären Kunstformen und Rituale und gehen der Frage nach, warum die Vielfalt der indischen Mystik und Ästhetik den Westen seit jeher fasziniert.

Der Bogen spannt sich von der wissenschaftlichen Abhandlung bis hin zum persönlichen Erfahrungsbericht der indischen Tänzerin Alarmél Valli, die ihren Körper als “tanzenden Tempel” versteht. Neben Erläuterungen zur Gestensprache hinduistischer Epen wird die spannungsvolle Wechselbeziehung von Musik, Religion und Lebensphilosophien beleuchtet und ermöglicht einen facettenreichen Einblick in Indiens Kultur und Philosophie. Literarisch wird die Annäherung an den Mythos Indien durch Texte von Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse, aber auch von Nietzsche und Beethoven, gewagt, die alle den Mythos Indien mit seiner spirituellen Vielfalt zum Inhalt haben.

Dieser Sammelband umfasst die Vorträge, die während der Disputationes im Rahmen der Ouverture spirituelle der Salzburger Festspiele 2015 gehalten wurden. Diese Disputationes wurden vom Herbert-Batliner-Europainstitut in Kooperation mit den Salzburger Festspielen ins Leben gerufen, um den spirituellen Prolog der Salzburger Festspiele mit Diskussionen und wissenschaftlichen Erörterungen zu bereichern und zur Reflektion über interkulturelle und interreligiöse Themen anzuregen.

Zugriff: 27-2-16