Imagine a class where every student feels it is a privilege to learn, yearns to participate and be heard, and absorbs all of the material with passionate curiosity. Within the nightmare of incarceration flourished the dream of education, an unabashed, provocative insight into musical meaning and expression.
We mostly listen to recorded music, and we likely hear it alone—in a car, through headphones, maybe through a set of speakers at home. This kind of listening space is simultaneously ephemeral—in that it is fundamentally malleable—and monumental—in that its infinite repeatability aspires to cultural permanence.
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.