Friday, June 21, 2013
Why Should American Musicians Study Indian Classical Music? Part 2: Ear Training
Don’t get me wrong, ear training is very much a component in western music pedagogy. What we are discussing in the section is the method of teaching the student to hear musical notes and identify melodic structure/contour. In this respect, I believe the Indian aural system has a leg-up.
Consider the aural tradition in general, when melodies can’t be written down the pressure to memorize them immediately and quickly becomes a major priority. Of course, modern Indian musicians can easily notate their melodies, but the consensus seems to be that it loses something in the translation (or perhaps more appropriately, transcription). Therefore, the system of continuous “listen and repeat” until the melody is learned is a huge boon to the performing musician.
This can only be done with a very acute pair of ears, and training them to recognize patterns is an arduous and difficult task. With perseverance, however; it can be accomplished to the point of mastery. North Indian music offers a system of “Alankar” and “Palta” which are essentially melodic patterns sung (and played) over a drone, they move from the hyper-simplistic to the extremely complex (and long). The student is meant to master these both before and alongside their repertoire study.
From an anecdotal standpoint, I learned more ear-training in 6 months of doing palta-s than I did in my first two years at college. This led me to consider a way to implement these methods in a more “western” context. I now teach all of my students a hybridized version of Italian solfege patterns and traditional Hindustani Palta-s, and I am happy to report that the results have been wonderfully successful.