I think the abstractness of classical music is more to do with unfamiliarity….and the awe and mystique attached to it!
All day long, we keep hearing lots and lots of music which is just out there all around us. How much of it is of the classical variety?
Those of us who listen to it (go to concerts, buy CDs , search for it on the net etc…) do so since they are initiated into it, either within the family, or friends, school, college etc.
Even after initiation, there are quite a few factors which make this music seem abstract:
· There is not much of a lyric, very little words, and in case of instrumental music, no words at all.
· Very little orchestration, there is just the harmonium and the tabla to accompany, besides the tanpuras ( god knows what that does!)
· No finite length…the song (?) does not end in 3 or 5 mins, but goes on, seemingly repetitive.
· No visual image back up, like say a movie song where I can imagine the heroine dancing or emoting otherwise to the song.
All of this means that the recall value is very low, so the unfamiliarity and abstractness..
Finally, the concept of Raag itself, which is at the core of Indian classical music ( we also call it Raag Sangeet), is quite abstract.
In fact both the concepts of the Raag and Taal are uniquely Indian, and one needs to familiarize oneself with these to get initiated into Raag Sangeet.
Further, this music is highly codified, in the sense that there are set rules and do’s and don’ts, which apply for presentation. In spite of this seeming rigidity of the structure, the artist has complete freedom to improvise and create the effect which he wants. Understanding this paradox is essential to be able to appreciate this music….
Left to oneself, one will of course figure out all this over may be 20 years of listening….
But having a defined structure also means that this music is explainable, even without referring to any particular artist. So putting in some effort and time, one can cut short these years, and get on to the fast track of appreciation…..
Which is precisely what we will do here, exploring the concepts and the structure of this music…