21 March 2005

Hearing is learning

As I mentioned before, listening to music is the best way to learn it. Learner drivers in Sydney have to clock up 50 hours of on-the-road driving before they can even sit for their practical driving test. A similar rule is in place for learner-pilots. However, this aspect is not usually applied for students of Carnatic music. In yesterday's Thyagaraja Aradhana, I could barely see any children listening to the music of the seniors, rather they were busy playing games outside.

Often we read in artistes' biographies sentences like "she hails from a musical family". I would think such a line is true for about 80% of the musicians. The effect is obvious. Children in musical families have a headstart in music because they are constantly exposed to music. In other words, they are listening to music a lot. It doesn't have to be sitting studiously in front of the tape recorder or next to a singer. Even if music is going on in another room, or is on when some other activity is taking place it helps.

Where did I clock up my listening hours? I didn't come from a musical family and music wasn't constantly being played in my household. Well, my trip to university by public transport took one and a half hours each way. So in the round trip I had three hours to listen to music on my walkman. I could hear an entire concert recording of Madurai Mani Iyer or D. K. Pattammal.

People have asked me how long do I practice a day. The answer is – not enough, but the time I spent listening to music on the train really paid off!

Addendum: In this morning's Sydney newspaper there is an interesting article: http://www.smh.com.au/news/Technology/No-more-songs-in-their-pockets-school-bans-iPods/2005/03/21/1111253959952.html Although I suggested listening to music a lot - I didn't really mean kids should be doing this during school too!