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I am a professional Indian Classical Singer. I hold a Ph.D. in Economics and Master's Degrees in both, Economics and Business Management; and I also work as Faculty in Economics for Management students. I have a passion for writing and this blog is a platform for me to share my experiences and express my thoughts and ideas, views and opinions, gathered while working in diverse fields.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Academics and Music: Very Similar or Grossly Different?

Reading the title of this post, one might wonder what on earth am I exactly trying to say! Academics and Music? What's the connection?

Often I am asked questions about how come I am professionally into both: academics and music?
"One a science, the other an art! One serious, the other 'entertainment'! One about books and theory, the other about actual performance!"
"Economics, oh how boring! Musicians are artistes! And associating Economics with it, oh!"
"Well, to be a musician, you must take care of the economics of it! But for an economist, what's the connection with music, apart from perhaps being a hobby or an interest?"
This post is not in the least meant to run down these questions and comments, but to address them positively. Such questions are very natural and in fact have made me think on lines I would never have otherwise and when I did start thinking, I started seeing striking similarities between the two! Let me explain how:

I was born in a family where both, education and music were present in abundance. So it was natural for me that I take up any one or both of these professionally. Hence for me it was nothing exceptional or extraordinary. I grew up with respect for education and reverence for the arts. Appreciation for music, dance, literature, painting was instilled in me throughout my growing up years. And one day, I found myself professionally involved in both academics and music! I don't even know when and how this happened and I was and will always be equally devoted to both; and can never choose one over the other.

I have used the word academics for want of a more suitable word. The Webster English Dictionary defines academics as a 'course or study undertaken at school or college'. Strictly speaking Education would have been more appropriate as education is 'the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.' However, I cannot separate education from music, because classical music is definitely a systematic instruction, although traditionally not received at a school or University, but under the guidance of a Guru. The points I want to make, will get lost if I use the term 'education', so to establish the meaning of what I want to convey, a career in academics is a more suitable phrase.

So what do academics (defined as a teacher or scholar in a university or other institute of higher education) do?

Academics generally work in universities and educational institutes and their work involves research, teaching and administrative duties. 

Now, let us understand these three terms in detail:
  • Research is defined as the process of scientific inquiry or systematic investigation for fact-finding and reaching new conclusions. It is a detailed systematic study of a phenomenon.
  • Teaching is the act of imparting knowledge or skills.
  • Administration is the process or activity of running a business or an organization.

And what do professional musicians do? (I am specially referring to Indian Classical Musicians here)

In Hindi or Sanskrit, classical music is called 'Shastriya Sangeet', which literally translated, means Scientific Music. There is a science, which governs a Raga, the notes to be used, notes not to be used, the season or the time of day when it sounds best, its impact on healing, and so on. The basis of this science is not completely explicit as there is hardly any documentation for this ancient art-form and it has been interpreted differently by different practitioners. However, the process of scientific inquiry and research remains the same. 

Research Methodology basically deals with how to study a phenomenon scientifically and systematically. Hence, it is the study of 'how to study' and applying the principle of Unity of Science, although individual methods of research and inquiry may vary with the phenomenon which is being studied, the methodology remains the same.
As Karl Pearson puts it, "The Scientific Method is one and the same in all branches and that method is the method of all logically trained minds. The unity of all sciences consists alone in its methods, not its material."
Hence, a practitioner of Indian Classical Music studies this ancient art-form and the science behind it and tries to make his own interpretations and puts those interpretations into practice. Needless to say that although not mandatory, a little knowledge of Research Methodology will always be of help in the scientific study of any phenomenon, even musical notes and Ragas! 

The second analogy that I draw is that while the academic studies, researches and teaches a science, the classical musician studies and performs this art form and presents it in front of an audience. In a similar manner, an academic makes presentations in the classroom or at seminars and conferences. The  aim of the musician maybe to give listening pleasure to his audience and that of the academic to teach his students or present his findings in front of scientists and research scholars. Hence, although the content might be very different, the medium is largely the same: that of presenting before a gathering of people and presenting in such a way that it keeps the audience engaged. Hence, along with the quality of the content, the art of presenting it in a proper and interesting manner is equally important. So naturally, if you know how to use the microphone and the stage in the most effective manner, you can use if for all those jobs which require putting forth your ideas before an audience. Music and academic disciplines are both based on a science, but to present that science effectively is an art! Similarly, as an academic teaches and trains his students in his discipline, almost every Indian classical musician grooms his shishyas.

Finally, like an academic does administrative work which essentially means sound management of his department or the educational institution, a musician too has to effectively manage his shows, concerts, his own study and riyaaz, teaching his students and of course managing the economics of his own 'business'! Here, I feel like mentioning the Greek root of the word Economics: Oikos, meaning household and Nemein, meaning to manage. The word Oikos in this context can be interpreted in an expanding scope, right from a small household economic unit, to a business organisation, to a country, to the global economy, to finally the earth! This basically implies that economic principles are required for the effective management of all these units of varying scope. This same logic can be extended to an academic managing his educational institution along with his research and teaching; and an artiste managing his career, along with concerts, recordings, his own study and teaching others.

My experience while working in these two supposedly contrasting fields has been that they are in reality quite complementary. For me personally, working in both of them simultaneously has created a balance between science and art, concrete and abstract, intellectual and spiritual, analytical and creative!
 

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