An evergreen debate on tradition versus modernity in Carnatic classical music has been revived with the music season on in full swing in Madras.
Last Sunday, T.M. Krishna, while arguing for preserving the integrity of the Carnatic tradition, wrote in The Hindu that instruments like the saxophone and keyboard were just not cut out for the south Indian classical form.
This has drawn a response from the pianist Anil Srinivasan in the Sunday magazine of The Hindu:
“Tradition has become indelibly linked with the past. This is where the problems begin. We get autoregressive when discussing the preservation or conservation of a tradition. Trapping it in a time capsule and not allowing it to breathe or acquire newer characteristics is antithetical to the very notion of an intergenerational transfer….
“Historically, traditions were largely oral and were passed on from one generation to another….
“Music cannot be classified. To the human mind, the illusion of control or self perception leads it towards instant and automatic categorisation. We want to label everything we encounter because it makes us feel at least temporarily in control of the environment. And hence terming Carnatic music a tradition becomes a hook on which we hang our approximations of what we think South Indian classical music ought to be.”
In the same issue of The Hindu, Aruna Sairam tells Dr Srinivasan:
“Tradition exists to show you who you are. Innovation should be encouraged to show you who you could be…. Innovation is an approach to an existing body of work that has not been thought of before. In that respect, each of us is innovating constantly…. Only two things matter: be true to who you are, and be sincere in what you want to articulate. If this happens, the music will transcend categorisation and analysis.”