The unlikely collisions between the two musical cultures I inhabit bring up so many questions for me about musical perception: What do people from one musical culture hear in the music of another culture? How much of our aesthetic association with specific music comes from repetition and reinforcement within our musical culture, and how much is simply hard-wired into us as humans?
When I began to study Hindustani music, I treated the recording of each lesson the way I would have treated the score of a Beethoven sonata, meticulously learning and memorizing each phrase, with all its subtle twists and turns. It took me years to realize that most Hindustani musicians do not practice this way.
In the West, the environment of concert music is one of transcendence. We use our music to transport our listeners from the concert hall to another private world, created by the interaction of the listener’s imagination and the music. While transcendence is also the aim of Indian classical music, it is weighed against the equally vital component of audience involvement.