I was born in January 1981 in Kolkata. My journey with music started back in 1987 when I got a small two-octave electronic keyboard as a gift from my father. Little did I know then that the music would become a necessity in my life instead of a mere hobby. I started playing guitar in 1992. Gradually I started taking interest in Western Classical Music and specialized in classical guitar and composition.
I started both, teaching in school as well as working as a freelance composer almost at the same time. Eventually, I felt that teaching was more creative than working in a commercial music industry. So I focused on teaching.
The interconnectedness of music always fascinates me. Though I am formally trained in Western Classical music, Indian Classical music runs in my veins. And taking my students to a world where Astor Piazzolla, J.S. Bach, Ustad Bade Gulam Ali khan’s thumri, Ustad Aamir Khan's tarana in raag Megh, the highland fiddle, the Asian pentatonic music of East Asia all shape us and celebrate the existence of our life is a real ecstasy for me.
“We prepare our students for the future” is the most common phrase amongst the teaching fraternity. Though we, the teachers ourselves are quite unsure about the future, we are preparing them for. Once upon a time when people used to hold mobile phones as big as transistor radios, little could we imagine in our wildest dream that a day would come when we would even switch off the lights and fans from our smartphones. At that time also we used to prepare our students for the ‘future’! Does it sound rational?
So I feel it’s time to rephrase the tagline of our profession as “We prepare our students to design the future.” That leads us to shoulder the responsibility to decide how we want to see our future. And here lies the philosophy of today’s teaching-learning process.
The first question I start with to plan a unit is “What I want my students to remember after ten years from now?” For example, if the topic is ‘Overview of Western Classical Music’ do I want my students to remember names of a handful of composers and compositions without any connection with other things they are learning or experiencing? How being such an information bank is going to help them to become a better citizen of the future world? Honestly, it is not.
The other way to look at this is that music (or art in a broader sense) changes over time. The concept of beauty is not an eternal phenomenon but is a social construct thus it changes when the social conditions change. And we understand this concept by studying the phenomenal changes took place in Western Classical music over time from Renaissance to 21st century contemporary classical music. Thus we make a connection with visual arts, literature, and humanities as well. And in turn, we shift our focus from content to concept.
The interconnectedness of world music, in my opinion, has become a prime focus of the study of music today. How historically one genre influenced another genre in a wonderfully organic way without destroying the identity of the latter is the key question to be addressed to decide the way to compose music of today. Life as a whole never bothers about purity. It keeps on amalgamating with the elements which come in its way. So is language. Therefore to create music (as a sincere and honest art) that has its genesis rooted in the conflicts and crisis, ecstasy and pain of our daily life one needs new idioms that are not imprisoned in the cage of purity rather absorb the sap of so-called impure life.
Teaching learning process should encourage students to understand and appreciate the emerging semantic of music and empower them to create an art that reflects individual and social life and connects its audience with the time and space. And this cannot be achieved without enabling the students to learn from their own experiences. Without the autonomy of the students in the teaching-learning process, it is impossible to unleash the creativity within that will actually design the future.
The way I see teaching
Most probably I have inherited the interest in photography from my father who is a trained photography enthusiast. So as a child I befriended my father’s Praktica SLR with a 35mm lens. Being in a kitchen turned into a temporary dark-room was no surprise for me. So as I grew up I also began to take interest in photography. Showing things around us in the way they are not seen is a real fun. Capturing the light that makes a strain of music is wonderful.
I am an avid reader. I read literally anything and everything. Though literature, social sciences, and philosophy are my favourites.
I feel without proper appreciation of visual arts one cannot appreciate music. Whenever I listen to Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet in C minor I feel as if I am listening to the self-portraits of Vincent Vangough. As if the strokes of Vincent’s brush have been magically metamorphosed into the bowing of the strings. This is fascinating! Though I am completely untrained in drawing and sketching I still like to explore the world through sketching.