My obeisance to my Guru on Guru Poornima

Musical vocalization has two centres of activity, one psychological and another physiological. Although musical sounds, in terms of notes, are made in the area of the larynx, it is the mind which is the centre of conceiving the notes. The vocal organs need to vocalize these notes conceived by the mind. Then the ear has to decide whether the note produced is the same as the one conceived by the mind and the diaphragmatic breath has to manifest it by vocalizing.

In the case of the learner, conceiving the note has to happen through a live demonstration of the Guru. If the vocal organs fall short of producing the correct note, the Guru will have to demonstrate it vocally for the learner to hear it properly. That is, the Guru and not some text book has to reinforce the right note by repeating it constantly until the learner gets to conceive it. And this is the most difficult stage of teaching- learning. The guru has to ensure that the learner is able to conceive the right note. If the learner happens to be a novice, the Guru will have to work hard to instill correct notes. If the learner is not able to produce the note as conceived by his mind, it only means his conception of it is wrong.

Hence, the Guru’s insistence on correct conception of the note and the need for his repeated demonstration. Sometimes the learner may think he is vocalizing the note correctly and the Guru is unnecessarily correcting him. But the Guru knows better. No mechanical gadget can come to the help of the learner in this process. A live demonstration by the Guru is very much needed in this phase. My father would prohibit his students, including me, from using the harmonium for this purpose because the instrument can only act as reference point to only twelve notes, but the shrutis and the subtle ragaswaras cannot be produced by the harmonium. Hence the learner has to depend on the Guru’s untiring demonstration. It is a very tricky situation both for the learner and the Guru. If the guru were to get annoyed with the learner for not being able to get the right note or were to encourage the less correct notes, it could be the end of the musical journey of the learner.

For the learner to be able to conceive the correct note, he should listen intently, carefully and consciously to the Guru’s repeated demonstration. And the Guru has to have immense patience in imparting music. The more the learner hears the correct notes, the better can his mind conceive it. I see no better way in this endeavour of conceiving the correctness of the notes. The learner may not realize the Guru’s efforts until he himself becomes a Guru later and begins to teach. A Guru teaches not just the notes, but the right emotional power involved in the notes of the raga (ragaswaras). Ultimately, it is this emotional quotient of the ragaswaras that makes your music effective and touches your heart and that of the listeners.

I pay my humble obeisance to my Great Guru on this Guru Poornima.

By Panditji