Music has the power to transcend language, age, gender, geography, culture and socio-economic standing. Music allows a deeper understanding of culture and history and can help us to connect the past with the present. It is a part of our identity. In India, classical music – Hindustani in the north, and Carnatic in the south – is rich in heritage, but as globalization spreads, that identity is likely to be blurred, particularly in the younger generation.
Innovative and inspiring at every level, Brhaddhvani is a research and training center established by Dr. Karaikudi S. Subramanian in 1989, with the support of Dr. S. Seetha, “to fill the lacunae in music education in India. With a unique outlook and ambitious goals, Dr. Subramanian combines the strengths of the traditional Gurukula and the institutional systems of learning by virtue of his long lineage as a vina player, his formal education in science, literature and musicology and his services in Universities around the world. He strongly feels that while the traditional music is nurtured in some institutions by a minority, of course, with care and concern to retain its value, music is yet to become firmly a part of the school curriculum in order to benefit the wider section of the Indian society.
Underpinning the organization is Dr. Subramanian’s ability to foster the interactions with music genres and the cultures from which they originate. With foundations firmly rooted in Carnatic music, Dr. Subramanian believes that a balance can be found between global and national music, for the benefit of all.
THE BIG BANG
As the ninth generation in a lineage of vina players, Dr. Karaikudi S. Subramanian has a vision to extend his musical learning through structured music education for everyone from the kindergarten to graduation.
His innovative approach in music education comes from his intensive and extensive experience as a performer and an educator in the field of music for a span of more than six decades including nearly a decade long living in the USA to complete his PhD in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.
With a thirst for philosophy and a ‘critical’ and curios mind, throughout his life’s journey with his music, he has sought to find meaning for tradition in a modern world. His answer is Brhaddhvani, a place where he can share, teach, inspire and facilitate the joy of music, in all its incarnations.
The ‘ida’ (introvert) of Brhaddhvani breathes the ‘tradition’, which he imbibed, cherished and nourished from his own family, coupled with the values he augmented from his intimate associations with the legendary Indian music maestros of the past and present, such as Mysore Vasudevachar, Budalur Krishnamurthy Sastrigal, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.D. Ramanathan, K.V. Narayanaswamy, Prof. T. Viswanathan, S. Kalyanaraman, Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Prof. Trichy Sankaran and the most respected erudite musician-scholar Dr. S. Seetha.
Dr. Karaikudi Subramanian’s contribution to music education is a pioneering attempt in music pedagogy. I have used his svarasthana notation in one of my publications on Pallavi singing.
Dr. Sripada Pinakapani
The ‘pingala’ (extrovert) of Brhaddhvani breathes the contemporary through the valuable academic associations with the finest of world music minds such as Professors John Barlow, Mark Slobin, David McAlleser, John Higgins, David Reck, Harold Powers, Eero Hameeniemi, Pia Srinivasan and Hans Neuhoff.
Dr. Subramanian’s research in music lead him to develop a new structure in giving music to everyone, known as Correlated Objective Music Education and Training (COMET).
MUSIC FOR EVERYONE
Traditional Classical music is not available to everyone, something Dr. Subramanian has been attempting to change since Brhaddhvani’s inception. Dr. Subramanian has worked to bring traditional music to a large number of people. Classical music as a genre revealing and exploring the sound of aesthetics with a balance of intellect and emotion should not be difficult to communicate to any one at any level through proper educational methods. Subramanian believes that this way we are more likely to appreciate, value and preserve our indigenous music irrespective of the geographic locality. Using a grass roots approach, Subramanian has visited villages to spread the joy and the value of music whenever and wherever he can.
His music educational program reaches out to children even from the age of two years. He insists it is not so much about creating maestros (which is at the exclusive tip of the pyramid in music education) but more about having a widespread understanding of the music among the masses (at the bottom of the pyramid which we tend to ignore), which is what would preserve a culture.
A greater appreciation of music, Dr. Subramanian believes, helps people feel connected to their culture and identity. It brings a sharper and finer intelligence to create and recognize the beauty in everything. Music enriches people’s lives, makes them beautiful and provides an effective tool to help communicate better.
ALTERNATIVE TO GURUKULAM
Mostly, resources available in Indian universities do not permit the required space and infrastructure to nurture the traditionalism and absorption of music in an intimate way as in Gurukulam. There are rare exceptions to this observation where one would find the near gurukula climate in some private institutions. But seldom you find a system meant to combine the best in both. Brhaddhvani strives to make this learning landscape feasible. Dr. Subramanian believes that in the spirit of the gurukulam way fully trained and well informed faculty should constantly be nourished with inputs from great maestros in order to conserve the collective values they represent in music rather than just borrow ideas from them.
The traditional Gurukulam way of learning music in India, is service oriented keeping intact the devotion to music and tradition in mind, body and soul.
Having trained in this way under his guru Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, Subramanian carries on this tradition, while also acknowledging the merits of institutional learning.
I am deeply impressed by the new and scientific approach to the great tradition.
Pandit Ravi Shankar