03 August, 2012

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Essays on Music

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

Essays on Music

By- Prem Lata Sharma (ed.)

Essays in Music is seventeenth in the series of the Collected Works of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, in the IGNCA’s publication programme. These essays were published in a few books, journals, etc., mostly in the early years of the twentieth century.

Coomaraswamy held that music in countless ways had been bound up with the Indian national culture, for it was the most universal expression of emotion – religious, amorous or martial. Music belonged to every part of life. The flute of Krishna, the vina of Sarasvati, the dance of Shiva, the Gayatri as cosmic chant or music of the spheres; the hymns of passionate adoration of the Southern Saivite, all these belong to the association of music and religion.

In addition to the art music, he lays great emphasis on the folk songs of agriculture and crafts. This is music serving to lighten heavy labour, such as the songs of husbandmen, carters and boatmen. Music remained too intimately associated with religion, with drama and with life, whether courtly or popular, and was faithfully guarded by tradition.

Coomaraswamy was much against the harmonium and gramophone, when compared to stringed instruments; even the piano, he held, was an inferior instrument. Every time these mechanical instruments were used in place of man, the Indian musician was degraded, his living was taken away from him and the group soul of Indian life injured. Among musical instruments, he gave pride of place to vina.

He firmly believed that the importance of music in education can hardly be overestimated. He bemoaned that foreign (English) education had paralyzed the living impulses of Indians, and driven India to a state of social disintegration. He advocated that the restoration of Indian folk and art music to its proper place in Indian education would result in the understanding of the self-expression of India in her music.

Prem Lata Sharma, a distinguished scholar of Musicology, Sanskrit and Hindi, was Chairperson of U.P. Sangita Nataka Academy, Lucknow (1983-6), and Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Kala Sangita Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.), (1985-8). She was also selected as Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in 1992.

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