Dimensions of Enjoyment

– Music, Dance, Drama, Discourses & Lectures

Why do people love to flock to these Music season performances every December in Chennai in South India and the annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana in Cleveland, OH - be it vocal, instrumental, dance performances, stage plays, musical discourses or lecture demonstrations?Just that it appeals to people with varying knowledge, interest and perception levels at varying dimensions and for several other valid reasons.The impact a performance creates is perceived at different levels based on the listeners’ passion, interest, exposure, experience and expertise in that particular field of the art form.

The performances at the music festivals in Chennai and Cleveland can be broadly categorized under Music, Dance, Drama, Discourses and Lecture Demonstrations.There are several groups of people that wish to witness a few, many or all of the performances that come under these categories of the art forms based on their enjoyment and enlightenment criteria. Under the music category, vocal music seems to score relatively higher in popularity when compared with instrumental music performances.

Vocal Music performance, which is the most commonly enjoyed version of performing arts in the music festivals, is enjoyed by rasikas for the inherent features that it offers.Besides the intricacies of audio elements pertaining to the quality of the sound that is being heard, the inherent basic elements of vocal music are usually based on how it is presented on stage and what the audience hears – the content, while at these concerts. How it is presented solely depends on the caliber of the performer and his or her expertise in presenting it. The basic elements of vocal music content are highlighted by what the original composer had included in his work which can be classified under:

1. the lyrical element ( grammar, choice of words, phrases, rhymes, meter ),

2. the musical element – shruti (tone), laya (rhythm), melody (tune) ,

3. the emotional element - bhAva - predominantly bhakti rasam (devotional element ) in Carnatic Classical music among others.

Vocal music performances, either solo or duet greatly attract the audience based on the above features and the unique impression that the performer has on his or her listeners.

Instrumental Music, either solo, duo or trio can be broadly classified under string instruments like violin, viola, veena, mandolin, sitar, santoor etc. and wind instruments like nadhaswaram, flute, clarinet, saxophone, etc. provide all the musical goodness of a vocal performance sans the lyrical and vocal contents, which are implicit.Thus, an instrumental music performance should strive to make up for the lack of vocal element in order to appeal to the audience that has a preference to vocal music. On the other hand, instrumental music is capable of transcending language boundaries and still attract audiences from all over.

Classical Dance recitals are embedded with either live or recorded vocal music in addition to other accompanying instruments.So inherently, they have all the attributes of vocal and instrumental music in addition to the visual element and the elevated emotional content that it brings in front of one’s eyes. With the combined features of audio and visual elements, a dance recital offers many more dimensions to enjoy than even vocal music with all its built-in features.

Lecture demonstrations provide the description, interpretation, analyses and commentaries on existing works in literature, music, dance and the like. Lecture demonstrations are popular among students, teachers and general public that can gain insight into the specific topic dealt in the lecture and be able to exchange views on specific topics.A lecture demonstration on dance actually consists of all the elements of the visual and audio media in addition to the thought provoking intellectual element.

Devotional musical discourses which are becoming very popular nowadays during the season predominantly elaborate on the religious, cultural and philosophical interpretations of mythology and history. These are popular especially with older genre of people who are generally inclined towards such presentations.

Stage plays or dramas as they are popularly known, predominantly offer the humor element built into a theatrical setting.There are some serious ones that manage to pass a subtle message or two that might point out some real life scenario or other thought stimulating concepts. Usually the musical element is missing in these stage plays since they concentrate more on the screenplay and conversations between individuals.People throng to see stage plays based on their favorite performer and/or group to enjoy the humor or serious content presented in these plays.

Aside from what these live performances commonly offer, there are other reasons why people frequent these programs which might include seeing their favorite performer, his or her voice and unique style, the items that they perform, the compositions and the language of the items they perform, free versus ticketed programs etc., while there are other social reasons like getting to see their friends and family members at the concert venue which play a vital part on why people go for these live performances.Certain cliques of concert goers even consider going to these as a symbol of status and being a part of a special social network.

Whether the rasikas analyze all the above reasons before going to a performance or not, the concert venues are seen to be filling up to the brim during every music season and most of it could be attributed to the attraction created by Indian Classical music and the performance of other art forms, which seem to be well on its way to flourish well in the 21st century and beyond, without a doubt.

-          Gopal Venkataraman, Las Vegas, NV.

Gopal is a performing musician, composer, lyricist, poet, an occasional columnist and a great connoisseur of Indian Classical music, especially the Carnatic style.He works for the largest gaming company in the world, Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, NV and frequents the Chennai December Music season and the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana.He can be reached by email at: gopalven@yahoo.com or contacted via his website : www.gopalven.com.