Musical Literacy

Combating Musical Illiteracy

Musical Illiteracy: it’s a seldom discussed problem in the worldwide bansuri community, but it is widespread – and it may be impacting you – so it warrants a discussion.

Most bansuri players these days cannot read or write Indian classical music, leaving them unable to take advantage of one of the greatest educational techniques mankind has ever created: the ability to put thoughts onto a page, or to read the thoughts of those who came before them, who in a moment of creative genius or inspiration, laid their thoughts down onto paper (or PDF!) for the benefit of current and future generations.

Kerry Kriger Bansuri India

Dr. Kerry Kriger plays a Rajasthani folk tune atop a mountain near Jodhpur, January 2018, accompanied by Dr. Krishan Kumar Sharma on drums, and the students of the Shree Sarswati Bal Veena Bharati School.

Can you imagine how much success you would have in life if you were illiterate, unable to read or write English, Hindi or whatever your local language is? You wouldn’t get very far, very fast, or with any degree of comfort or success.

Similarly, your ability to read and write Indian classical music will be a primary determinant in the quality of the music that comes out of your bansuri. A world of raga and tala opens up to the mind that comprehend the exceptionally easy to learn Indian classical music notation system. Ragas, compositions, taans, jhalas and tihais you learn now will, rather than fade away into your distant memory, become inspirational practice material for literally decades to come.

A few nights ago I wanted to remember the raga Hansa Nad, which I had last performed ten years prior and rarely practice or listen to. I opened my notebook of lessons collected over ten years of studying with Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao. There was a jhaptal composition of Hansa Nad that I had completely forgotten that I had ever known. I studied it for a few minutes while waiting for dinner. Later that night I played it (and loved it) for a half hour with Saawan Kakkeri accompanying me on tabla…and I plan to start playing it a lot more. Recovered from what may have been lost for eternity.

It is not simply that written music serves as an archive of past lessons and an assurance of present and future musical inspiration and education, it is also an irreplaceable method of understanding the music. Can you imagine trying to learn calculus verbally, without writing out the formulas and equations and seeing them in front of you? By seeing the music on a page, frozen in time, we can more easily analyze, conceptualize, and memorize the music. Our increased understanding of the music frees up our mind so we can listen on a deeper level to the finer details of the music, and when the music the music is coming out of us provides extra time to consider, plan and more beautifully deliver our next phrase.

All this results in better music and therefore increased happiness for ourselves and our audience.

Lesson On How To Read & Write Indian Classical Music With Focus On Bhoopali

In an effort to increase musical literacy in the world, I give you this video in which I can bring you from zero musical knowledge to a reasonable level of musical literacy and understanding of Bhoopali in some of the best 70 minutes you will ever invest in your musical education. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/8pzdS7RzvQo

Video Summary

In this live recording, Bansuri Bliss Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger teaches Bhoopali from scratch, on the assumption you know nothing about bansuri, Bhoopali or Indian classical music. In this lesson, you will learn:

  • The Bhoopali scale
  • How to play the Bhoopali scale on bansuri
  • The range of notes from Low Pa up to High Ga
  • How to read Indian classical music
  • The most common rhythm on the planet and how it works in Indian classical music
  • A simple scale exercise
  • A rhythmic exercise to facilitate your switching between single and double speeds
  • An introduction to gamak, which Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia calls “the most important sound in Indian classical music”.
  • The most important note (vadi) of Bhoopali
  • The most important line of a fast speed (drut) Bhoopali composition
  • How Bhoopali sounds when you put all this together into actual practice
  • Where to continue your Bhoopali learning so that you know it in depth (hint: The Bansuri Bliss Membership Site is where you will find more bansuri knowledge than you can imagine).

Video recorded live from Hyderabad, India on December 27th, 2018. Bansuri is tuned to F (+8 cents).

About the Author Dr. Kerry Kriger

Namaste! I am the Founder & President of Bansuri Bliss and have been studying, recording, performing and teaching bansuri since 1996. I spent ten enjoyable years learning the intricacies of raga and bansuri from the legendary flute player Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao. I have also studied tabla Hindustani vocal music, as well as guitar and western music. I regularly perform around the world, and you may hear the sounds of my bamboo flute on a beach at sunset or filling the air of a mountain valley.

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