5 Pivotal Moments of Modern Music

Etched in time are certain moments that struck a chord with the world. Certain moments that were set to change the face of the music industry forever. Chronologically speaking, here is a run-down of these milestones…

#1 The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (1964)

Raucous crowds, swooning fan girls and 73 million viewers are just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about the prominence of this moment in musical history. It is often touted to be one of those ‘Where were you when…?’ moments similar to the moon landing. Shortly following the assassination of JFK, The Beatles landed in New York to begin what the world now refers to as the British Invasion. Riding high on the popularity of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, the Beatles’ arrival in the United States is exactly what both the band and the crippled superpower needed. A whooping 60% of the TVs turned on were tuned to the show as the streets exploded to the whirlwind choruses of “She Loves You” and “I Saw Her Standing There”.

The Fab Four left no stone unturned

The music industry would never be the same again as the gates were symbolically thrown open for touring bands and musical and cultural exchange between nations peaked. Mop-tops became incredibly fashionable and music sales hit platinum all across the USA. The baby boomer generation picked up their instruments and the Rock and Roll scene of the 70’s and 80’s flourished.

#2 Woodstock (1969)

Overflowing crowds, overflowing passions.

Dubbed as the concert of a lifetime, it witnessed stellar performances from names such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Neil Young. Held in the outskirts of New York as “3 Days of Peace and Music”, Rolling Stone often refers to it as the moment that changed Rock and Roll history. Close to half a million people attended the concert and an additional 1.5 million people crowded the streets to soak in the atmosphere. In addition, the fence was cut the night before, thereby making the concert free. The 60’s had never seen a rock festival of such proportions and the musical revolution of the 70’s is what followed.

 #3 MTV airs the first music video (1981)

This lethal combination of audio and video only begin its broadcast in 1981 by MTV. And quite ironically, The Buggles’ hit tune “Video Killed The Radio Star” was first to ever be played. That iconic moment shaped the path of the music industry, allowing them to expand their audience and incorporating visual elements into their music. Unfortunately, music channels of today neither recognize nor appreciate talented musicians. Reality shows seem to be all these channels now have time for, thus alienating a generation that rocked their socks off to the TV set.

#4 Auto-tune (1997)

Never hit a wrong note again

After the dawn of the millennia, technology begin to get the better of musicians Andy Hildebrand, an engineer in Exxon, initially used this software to detect oil reserves in the ocean floor. However, he later realized it could be used to correct a singer’s notes and make him sound pitch perfect. It was first commercially used in Cher’s “Believe” and the success of the song carried over as the success of auto-tune. Hip-hop and pop thrived, as talent no longer seemed to bar artists from commercial success. Rappers such as T-Pain and Kanye West rely almost entirely on auto-tune, making one wonder where the beauty of music has gone. On the flipside one could say that as long as the listener enjoys the music, its one giant leap for musicians.

#5 iTunes & Digital Downloads (2001)

The years of the vinyl records were long gone. Cassettes were booted out and it was about time CDs were shown the door too. Enter the era of digital downloads. With Apple’s ingenious marketing ploy and its technological capabilities, listeners gobbled up 99¢ songs in the luxury of their own homes. The proliferation of pirated music was still at its peak amongst the Walkman generation. The introduction of legitimate means to acquire music over the Internet led to its insane popularity. The iTunes Music Store recorded 10 million digital download in its first few months of operation. Albums and bands spread like wildfire across the strata of the Internet.

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The Quintessential December Season experience: A sabha’s perspective

A sabha is an organisation that conducts carnatic concerts. They usually have a tie-up with a concert hall, and all their concerts throughout the year take place there. The trials and tribulations that sabhas go through stem from the fact that they are an organisation in a creative field- where there is none. Steady revenue is a long forgotten dream. The sabhas make more than 50% of their revenue in December. This month is a time of frantic activity, with concerts going on throughout the day. The challenge faced by the sabha is to merge the requirements and expectations of the artists and the listeners.

Apart from money, artists have other expectations which have to be met. The sound system needs to be managed professionally, by someone who is knowledgeable about music, and knows his way around a stereo. Many senior artists are only available on their own time, the sabha has to prepare schedules accordingly. Artists also demand respect, which is something that sabhas have to be very careful about. Hurt egos and sentiments can go a long way in ruining a reputation. Sabhas have to look after these needs while handling hundreds of applications from budding artists looking for a slot in their tight schedule.

setting up mikes is a perpetual headache for the sabhas…

On the other hand, there are the listeners who demand the complete experience. It’s not only about the music- It’s about the hall, the food, the atmosphere. Sabhas are forced to keep morning and afternoon concerts open to all, partly for promotion but mainly because of peer pressure. Most listeners are not ready to pay money for short concerts performed by upcoming artists. Then there are the evening concerts, where crowds in the order of thousands have to be managed efficiently without incident, day after excruciating day.

All in all, the role of a sabha is as difficult as it is important. After all, they provide the crucial interface between the artists and the listeners.

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Men of Might

There are more than a few instances when history has given us a fragmentary version of the people and their nature. Like in the previous article Genius and Madness, the success or failure of a leader’s plans tend to make an impact, a grave one at that, on his so called “image” that is portrayed to the generations that follow. It turns out, in the face of success shrewd nature, selfish motives, unjust behavior and other vices can be overlooked. This peculiar nature of History dates way back-begins with the Mahabharata and is carried down till date.

Let’s take a more recent example. Winston Churchill. The inspirational leader, an outstanding orator, the man who led the British Armies in times of need and got them back on the shore safely after the storms of the World War. There is no doubt that Winston Churchill was a class above normal human men when it came to his skills, be it politics or public speaking. But, there is a side of him that remains ignored.

He is on par with Adolf Hitler in the atrocities committed and easily makes it to a list of Top Ten worst military decisions ever taken. To begin with, he was a racist. He believed in employing tear gas against, putting it in his words, “uncivilized tribes”. He also preached that the Jews have forsaken the faith of their fathers and well, did not really consider them to be a dignified race of their own.

He was a great egoist and an extremely shrewd politician. He let the Covetry Cathedral burn just to protect his secret intelligence. It was in his reign that India saw the death 3 million of its own people. The emergency food shipments were used up by Churchill to build stockpiles for his men who would return tired from war.

He enjoyed stiff drinks and it is believed that he had one too many when he made the decision of invading Gallipolli. It was a perfect plan in theory but, the heat of the place, the lack of naval artillery support led to the loss of thousands of lives on both sides. The Allied forces were trapped for more than a month when they attacked what Churchill called “the soft underbelly of the central powers”.

Despite all this, there are qualities in this man one can admire and stop our admiration at that quality. Admiring men as a whole always tends to make room to overlook their flaws, defend their blunders and magnify their victories.

Though serious (and ruggedly handsome) he is in most of his recorded pictures, Churchill had a sense of humor. Probably a nice way to end an article pointing to his imperfections.

Lady Astor: “If you were my husband, I’d put arsenic in your coffee.”

Churchill: “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!”

 

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Pathos of Ritualistic thinking

It’s often said that a prolonged or ritualistic practise will not only make one a perfectionist but also make one forget its practical purpose. For example, If we provide milk to a man in large amounts to consume he will eventually not realise its value and he will fail to understand the reason that one needs calcium and fat  content for health but monotonously drink it out of habit.

In the same manner, the various practices in these religions have indeed led to not just a sense of belonging and uniqueness but have given its people a sense of ego and superiority over the others. Yes, in the present scenario, these monotonous and robotic methodologies that make people over look the true reason do have the propensity to become evil. Many a times, people often disregard the human touch in preference to religions/ rituals. What they do not introspect is that every set of rule/ practise is time bound in this highly metamorphosing world. When the rule becomes obsolete, it must be eradicated. This is the point where science plays the big daddy in making the people more rational and open minded and brushes their complacency away. Let us understand with an example.

Communal riots- pathos of religion

Most of the religions are engaged in this particular practise where the men at home aren’t permitted to touch / allow the women of their house into the kitchen when she is experiencing her menstrual cycle. When this practice was introduced, the world was very naive and in the field of healthy living, the people were novices. In such a situation the onus rests in the hands of religious leaders to establish a foundation to make people avoid sexual diseases that might spread if the husband was intimate during her reproductive cycle and to also provide the wife with enough physical rest during her strenuous cycle, which the male mentality will otherwise fail to understand. Now that science has advanced so much and you know the reason, will you tend to a helpless woman who might need some physical massage / sweet talks or completely avoid her presence? While you think about that also ask yourself if you would feed a hungry  destitute/animal  that asks for food at the door or make them wait while you ritualistically offer it to the lord who you fail to see in the living world around!  It is this sense of compassion towards the living beings that has gone missing, making us impetuous beings leading a hasty life.

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A world of similar(identical) people

Racism was and still is a problem in various places across the world. So are sexism, caste-ism and slavery, among many other forms of biased segregation based on ludicrous differences such as skin tone, birth and gender. These attempts at forcing subservience have for long centuries prevented freedom and equality among people, and it was the work of many thousands of leaders to give people equal opportunity. Its taken quite a long time for us to realize that we’re on the same boat, that irrespective of anything, we’re all closer related to each other than 98% to the chimpanzee and 50% to the banana. We came to a stable society where equal dignity was given and diversity of skill and personality were appreciated and celebrated.
As the days went by, this call for equality has taken a new face: That all people are equal and can do all  things equally well with a little practice. Nothing wrong with it you say? Well going back to my previous analogy, this means that everyone on the boat can be captain, and so they should take turns at captaincy, and all the other jobs on the ship, including cooking and navigation.
Feminism states that women are in no way whatsoever different from men, that ‘social conditioning’ has created this difference. It means that brought up in the same way, a man and a woman, given the choice of watching die hard 4.0 or twilight: breaking dawn part 2 would go watch the same movie, though for the sake of my sanity I would rather not speculate on which.
Indigenous Africans on average will beat people from other parts of the world in athletics because they have stronger lungs and increased capacity. This is just one instance of how people are fundamentally unequal and differently qualified. perhaps instead of insisting that all can be great captains, we should find what we’re good at and excel there.
I certainly hope someday no one points out the ‘evident’ fact that all of us are of the same height and weight and the variation is a machine fault. But then, perhaps its quite likely.

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An Obsolete Worship ?

The chimes of the church, the bells of the Hindu temples, the prayers of the mosques, the chants in the Buddhist monasteries:  All of them have one thing in common. The sounds create a sense of belonging to this institution.

I am analysing the concept of religion in today’s world. The concept of plethora of religions existing in the contemporary world is to let man freely choose the one that matches his personality closely. Their origin is based on the same concept.

One of the largest followed religions, Christianity had originated after the crucification of Christ. Thought there is a well proved conspiracy of Christ visiting and wandering India, the church dismissed these theories and complacently stuck to propagate otherwise. The birth of Christianity is mostly based on the sympathy for the Lord and little on devotion towards his mercy and miracles.

Many people say it was a way of life that gave birth to this form of religion. Hinduism is the only religion that has a million Gods. The concept as understood now is to respect every living being and force in nature. This not only helped create a better living standard during the uncivilised times but also gave people hope and fear to be righteous.

Not everyone has the patience to meditate under a banyan tree while its roots hang loose and invite a mischievous swinging play. Gautham Buddha is said to have attained nirvana under the banyan tree at Bodhgaya. A prince who was disturbed by the vices of life on earth; he chose to meditate and seek answers to the mysteries of life.  Many true followers of the principles Buddha used to propagate would probably tell you that he never wanted him to be worshiped as an idol but wanted his followers to just pray to the infinite.

The reason we have religions still flourishing in today’s world is merely because of the sense of social oneness and hope in despair they provide. But are the very same religions that cause such social rifts and skirmishes worth the existence in today’s world?

 

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Surrealism Masterminds

Let me satiate your quest to know the various contributions of the artists. There were two types of artists during the phase of Surrealistic movement. The first comprise of surface thinkers while the root thinkers correspond the second. The root thinkers are the ones who keep the people thinking more. Their paintings are not facile to comprehend. One often can draw multiple interpretations corollary to the debate of zebra having black or white stripes. The surface thinkers are the ones who provide a much easier and decipherable concoction of hue. The patrons can easily understand the simple meaning the artist intends to convey and yet be baffled how convincing it can be.

One among such eminent artists is Salvador Dali whose domicile was Spain during the early 1900’s. Identified as a “retard” in school and by his painting institute, he was forced to spend time in the jail. He often drew strange and horrifying objects that could not exist within this world’s paradigm. Over his 85 years of life, he became one of the important contributors of surrealistic form of art. Some of his famous works include the evergreen “The persistence of Memory”, “Crucifixion” and “The Sacrament of Last Supper “.

The Sleeping Gypsy

Henri Rousseau was one such other person whose contributions were widely appreciated. A French man by birth in mid 1800s, he took to music and art which were his cup of tea. He not only played and taught the violin but also took art classes. Though he was a person of no training whatsoever in art, his work was passionately admired by famous men like Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin. His contributions however were much earlier than Dali’s and some of them are “The sleepy Gypsy”, “The happy Quartet” and “Jungle with lions”.

Max Ernst and several others like Dali and Henri were solely responsible for the evolution of this beautiful form of art that targets the subconscious. It is as if their subconscious is speaking to ours in its own language and makes an irretrievable connect with the artist. This connect can be so intense that it can leave you questioning the credibility of existence of strange images in this world. The ideas are real, the mission was real, the artists are real, the painting are real but as long as we don’t find them around to perceive it will be Surreal !

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A real surreal movement

As the passionate thinkers began to pour in their subconscious and add paradoxes to the real world, their surreal forms of contribution in art had taken the world by storm. As many people continued to ponder if they were “For real or surreal? “, this form of art took a voluptuous turn and gave rise to a new movement called Surrealism

This cultural movement sprung up in the early 1920′s due to the Dada activities in World War I. Paris was the epicentre for this movement and it became a very flourishing point of cultural exchange.  During the war, Andre Breton who was well trained in medicine and psychiatry served in the neurological hospital. He used Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic method for soldiers suffering from Shell shock. His anti social attitude later attracted several writers such as the famous Salvador Dali, Joan Miro etc, to take him into their association in Paris, where he continued to write and contribute his new artistic style. They soon came up with a surreal manifesto for this new rising concept of Surrealism for which Andre Briton was declared the leader.

Once the idea was strongly framed and its objective: “To resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality” was affirmed, the practitioners did all they could to keep it alive and spreading. Eminent men of literature and art met at cafes in Paris and discussed important matters on the theories of surrealism and even developed the technique of automatic drawing. The irony here is that, Breton felt that art / sketching is limited in its ability to be an epitome of the Surrealism’s motive and is not an infallible approach. To this day, Surrealism is best associated with art forms like sketching as they take lesser time to capture ones attention and leave a mark in their imagination.

From a mere necessity to a movement in the 1920′s , Surrealism has stood the test of time and proved  to be one very effective and strong form  of art. It exists not only in the field of literature but also in paintings, poetry and music too. After knowing so much about surrealism it does make us curious to know about the work of its practitioners, doesn’t it?

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The Quintessential December Season experience: A listener’s perspective

Any Chennai-ite worth his salt will know that, come December, there is a buzz in the air. And it is not the unusually cold weather. It is the constant chatter of housewives pouring out of concert halls, the whirring and whining of strained motorcycle engines, their owners frantically moving from one concert to another, instrument in hand and clad head to toe in sparkling white traditional attire, unmindful of the dusty roads that surround them, and the muffled sounds of music, emanating from ‘soundproof’ concert halls throughout the city. It is the onset of the December Season, and the excitement that surrounds it.

One can spend the whole day, immersed in Carnatic music, performed in over 100 concert halls spread throughout the city. If one is comfortable with the age old system of public transport, with it’s rickety buses and dust-laden trains, all that is required for a complete experience are a wallet (with money) and a well adjusted pair of ears.

A typical day would start with an early concert- as early as 7:30 AM- for those who can wake up as the sun rises. These are usually unconventional ones, like lecture demonstrations, where everyone from a new listener to a seasoned performer stands to learn something or the other. This is followed by breakfast at the famed ‘sabha canteen’. These canteens offer a wide variety of south Indian delicacies- each canteen different from the other. From Mountbatten Mani to Nyanambika, there is a vast array of options. This food is as important a part of the December season experience as the music- these is a class of people who go concert hopping just for the food!

Canteen food is a very important part of the experience!

A short bus ride to ponder over the events of the morning is followed by a series of mid-morning and afternoon concerts at the same hall, separated by lunch in a different canteen. These concerts are usually performed by less experienced and budding artists, and are typically pretty short. One can sit through two or three of these after lunch, and also catch up on some much needed sleep in the dark, cozy, air conditioned hall. So far, the money spent only involves travel and food, since most of the morning and afternoon concerts are not ticketed.

Reinvigorated after a nap and strong filter coffee, the next step of the journey takes us to one of many premier concert halls in the city- Music Acadamey, Narada Gana Sabha etc. – to witness the highlight concert of the day, the one with the biggest stars and popular faces in the music sphere- this is the Super Bowl of the music season.

It is here that the December season explodes into life. The huge crowds that throng venues leave you wondering whether this is a concert or a cricket match. Halls fill up beyond capacity, with people even sitting outside to watch on TV screens. It is a sea of colour, followed by the captivating tunes of seasoned experts, followed by the smell of well seasoned canteen dinner. Overall, an assault on the senses.

The last item on the agenda is a final ride on the bus, amidst the constant chatter of people discussing everything from T.M Krishna’s pallavi to Bombay Jayshree’s red saree.

After a good night’s sleep, rinse and repeat!

 

 

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53

There is something very unique about the number 53. It’s inconspicuous in existence but these 53 dwarfs (like the ones in the story of the shoe-maker) work together and produce very magnificent results. Wondering what I am talking about? Let me entice you more.

These 53 dwarfs are responsible for so many events in our lives. More than knowing how to swim, research shows that babies are born with the ability due to those dwarfs. It’s something that is very unique to mankind alone. It’s very surprising to know how they can change a sentence and its expression at ease. People generally wear these 53 dwarfs as a common display of acceptance, generosity and attraction too. These dwarfs are pretty mischievous as well.  You invite them at an incongruous moment and you are doomed!

Scientists have shown its benefits too. These 53 ones conspire and help in immune system improvement. At the social level, it appeals to the human psychology and rewards you with an easier acceptance. What more? They are even known to help you achieve promotions in the cooperate world. Having an infant at home, a mother spends her entire time with the child to make him espouse those 53 little elves, because they are the only indication of one’s true state of happiness. They somehow bring the spirit of the soul into your eyes they channel and reflect on the others around.

A walk with children.

A child uses these 53 numbers when he might see an ice cream van. A mother might when she picks her child up from school. A girl will use them when she sees her love around. An old lady might when you help with her groceries. A teacher will when the students greet her.

These 53 profound ones influence our emotions, stress and are the very fact we are human beings. To make these 53 elves of yours work it needs only a second of thought! So why wait? Why don’t you make your lips slightly taper at the ends, let the spark glow in your eyes and put those 53 MUSCLE of your face to work at this very moment and SMILE?  (Now that’s better!)

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