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Varnams: How they help with Manodharma or Improvization

If you would like to contribute an article or suggest an idea towards "Topic of Month" page, please send your thoughts to durga.krishnan@gmail.com

Mrs. Shuchita Rao is a very well reputed and respected Hindustani vocal artist who lives in the Boston area with her family. She is a very popular Hindustani vocal teacher who is part of the strong music community in the Boston area.

December Article:

From Being a Novice To Becoming An Expert.

By Shuchita Rao
A wealthy woman asked a famous millinery designer to design a hat for her. He placed a canvas form on her head, and in eight minutes with a single ribbon, he created a beautiful hat right before her eyes.
The customer was obviously delighted. “How much will that be?” she asked.
“Fifty dollars,” he replied.
“Why that’s outrageous,” she said. “It’s only a piece of ribbon.”
The milliner quickly unraveled the ribbon and, handing it to her, said, “Madame, the ribbon is free.”

One common perception of novices is that experts “wing it.” Little do they realize that a lot of work goes into getting to a stage where experts supposedly “wing it.” Artists start out with a deep love for the art form. They begin learning early in life absorbing details from the environment around them. They observe carefully and take lessons directly or indirectly. They also spend time trying things out on their own. It is a lot of disciplined practice that finally gets them to be very good at what they do.

What goes into making a complex idea simple to understand?

It is years of study, guided learning, contemplation and disciplined practice that can take a person from being novice to becoming an expert.

Take for instance, the art of singing. What goes into mastering music and becoming a good singer? To understand that, we must first understand what a song is. A song or melody is a unique combination of musical notes that goes with a cyclical beat pattern. To be able to sing a melody means to be able to discriminate between several pitches and to see how the pitches are being organized to create patterns. It also means recognizing what beat or rhythm pattern is working with the melody. While it appears to be time consuming, learning to sing basic 12 notes at the right pitches in an octave is absolutely essential as the first step in singing. Learning the structure of the underlying beat pattern is an equally important step. Then, combining the understanding of both melody and rhythm aspects, memorizing the melody and practicing it till it becomes second nature to you becomes the remaining part of the task. To top that, if you can recognize the aesthetic beauty in the musical composition and are able to convey it to your audience in a manner in which you can invoke a positive response such as joy from them, you begin to show potential in becoming an expert. That becomes the point where your journey to becoming an expert starts. Hours of practice and repetitions with attention to minute details help you learn and perfect the science behind the art.

The journey can be a long one.

Are you are a wine drinker and cannot forget an expensive wine you once had? Ever wondered what went into developing that smooth and subtle flavor? Some special wines literally take multiple centuries to age in oak barrels, starting with good quality grapes soaking in the woodiness of the barrels for years. Their cellar masters tend carefully to them, spending countless hours in picking the right grapes and creating the perfect environment for them to mature into unique tasting wines. The irony is that the cellar masters sometimes never live long enough to taste the fruits of their labor.

Profile of someone who aspires to be an expert.

It is said that the wisest mind has something yet to learn. Master architects, doctors, film-makers, engineers, lawyers and artists – experts in every profession spend countless hours learning and perfecting their science. They learn to sift thru myriad possibilities and use acumen to narrow down to the very best. They also cultivate curiosity and develop an open mind that is always willing to learn new things. They persist in their quest to master concepts.

Finally, it is not the destination that matters – it is the journey.

While the flight from being novice to becoming an expert may seem daunting, it is never too late to start the journey. All you need to do is to create a goal for yourself and set your mind on accomplishing it. If you open your eyes and ears, seek knowledge with ardor and attend to it with diligence, you may find that whether you reach your destination or not becomes secondary - the journey itself becomes rewarding, as it comes guaranteed with discovery of great beauty and fulfillment all along the way.