Indian Music Skills

These workshops show how the exploration of ancient Indian music techniques can re-establish this connection, reinvigorate Western Orchestras and ensembles and inspire their approach to both new and core repertoire.

This exploration also offers some possible new directions for contemporary music and has some fascinating health benefits.

Workshop Topics include:

  • The power of sound: an Indian perspective
  • Benefits of exploring the Indian approach to intonation and rhythm
  • Creating music in the here and now
  • Musicians’ health
  • Benefits to an emerging multi-cultural society

The power of sound, and its effect on the individual is often taken for granted in Western orchestras, (unless it exceeds health and safety limits!) even though sound is the raw material with which orchestras communicate. In Indian music there is a deep respect for sound per se. The workshop will include exercises Indian musicians have used for over two thousand years to bring them more in touch with sound and achieve the elusive quality of transcendence.

Tuning issues are part of the everyday life of any orchestral musician. The Indian approach to tuning is based on a view of sound as a natural rather than manmade phenomenon (and therefore has much in common with pre equal temperament tuning systems formerly in use in the West). This approach gives orchestral musicians a more sensitive approach to intonation than is currently the norm. This concept is demonstrated with examples from both Indian and Baroque music.

The rhythmic sophistication of Indian music encompasses a concept known as “laya”. On one level laya means the feeling of the pulse of the music: a musician with an exceptional sense of rhythm is described as “having good laya”. Laya is an ancient concept rooted in the Vedic idea of an all embracing universal rhythm. In an inspired performance the musician feels the pulse of the music within this universal pulse. In a traditional South Indian music education, the student covers a progressive series of exercises leading to this goal. This feeling of laya is evident in the performances of the finest Western musicians too; one only has to think of some of the recordings of Furtwangler, Kleiber or Casals.

Much Indian music is improvised. Shown the concepts behind this improvisation, Western musicians are challenged to think along new lines and with practice are able to create music in the here and now, on an equal footing with their Indian colleagues. A fine performance of Western orchestral repertoire, like a fine performance of Indian music, sounds as if it is created afresh in the moment

The above skills are all extremely beneficial for an orchestral musicians’ health. The sound exercises for example have been shown to reduce blood pressure in addition to enhancing concentration and mental focus

Performance anxiety is also addressed as increased mental poise is experienced during performance. The Indian approach to pitch and rhythm has been shown to deepen ensemble skills and players find the act of creating music without reference to a score both physically and mentally liberating.