Summary: Listening with Awareness
(The author is a mathematician by profession and a senior student of sitar-nawaz
Ustad Mohammad Shareef Khan)
This essay is addressed to listeners of Raag music who want to go beyond being
simple consumers and to students of this music. The title is inspired by Marc
Frantz's article 'Drawing with Awareness [MF]'. The comparison of drawing with
listening is not as far fetched as one might be inclined to think.
We first learn music directly, without being aware of any note names. All of us can
sing without knowing the sargam or even being aware of it; for instrumentalists, the
fingers just learn to find the correct place with sufficient practice. The direct method
of absorbing music and reproducing it is indeed the best method of learning. In
learning the music of the subcontinent, great emphasis is also placed on knowing the
names of notes. Why is it important when even professional musicians sometimes
have difficulty in naming notes? For example, one will be able to sing the melody in
Ustad Vilayat Khan's Bhairveen, which is available at Patrick Moutal's site [PM].
However, singing or transcribing its sargam will test even a professional musician. So
why and when does the ability to name notes become important?
It becomes important when one wants to learn and listen with "awareness". The
desire to know and understand is a fundamental human desire. One wants to know