#52 – Is there a need for new Composers ?

I received a mail a couple of days before posing a question. The person who had sent the mail wanted to know my take on this.  I am just reposting the question here.

 Question : Is there any purpose of composing a new kriti ? Like i see present day composers composing carnatic music kritis and making their disciples sing that, but i think that’s just a sheer waste of time. That’s my opinion. And in those compositions, I see nothing but Samskrit words just there for the sake of being. Of course, i know that present composers can never be even 1% of  Dikshitar or Shyama Shastri but then why venture out to compose new kritis when one can spend infinite time meditating on chanceless kritis of Shyama Sastri etc etc. What’s your take on this?

Here is my take. 😊 I may be right, wrong or partially right. Before coming to the exact point, I am just giving an introduction about human nature. This is very relevant to explain my take on this question.

We human beings always crave for being heard or appreciated. This is one of the profound needs of a human. Right from the childhood till the last breath, this simple need is met by empathetic or attentive listening. If this need is met, we feel complete with a sense of gratification or happiness or fulfillment as we may call this emotion, and we are ready to move forward. Visualize a kid coming back home after school and expressing his/ her day in school with full energy, parallelly opening her bag and showing her drawing or painting to her mother or father that she did in school that day. Each one of us have done that. Just a simple WOW from the mother opens the gateway to heaven for this kid.  It is amazing how much self respect can take place within ourselves when our songs, stories or feelings or opinions are simply heard and appreciated.  

Let us imagine a situation when we are not heard. What happens in the kid’s case? She ceases to be excited and looks on to her parent,  who is her idol and role model, only to understand that she is not being heard or appreciated or she is just being ignored.  If we are not heard, we cease to exist in anything but our own minds. The kid will move into a shell. If at a small age if this is the experience a kid faces, then he/she might become an introvert, unhappy and begins to see the dark, dull or shadowed side of every experience, rather than the brighter part when she grows up . Eventually, a grown up feels crazy or doubtful of his or her own inner voice.  

As you may be aware Leonardo Da Vinci was the world famous painter whose creation is Monalisa. We all admire his talent. But Pablo Picasso or Michael Angelo never ignored their creative talent in painting and they are equally popular as Leonardo Da Vinci.  Can we ever comment whether it is a sheer waste of time by Picasso or Michael Angelo creating their own paintings, because Da Vinci has already proved to the world that his creations are the epitome of beauty and wonder. ?

Straight to the answer now. 😃

Similarly, there may be thousands of compositions/krithis written by great vāggeyakaras. Each one’s talent is unique and that showcases their creativity. Every human is born to showcase and project to the world his / her own inbuilt genius. Some may do it as Manodharma Sangeetham like alapana, neraval, swarakalpana, pallavi singing etc. But some others may have the talent to express their creativity with new musical ideas and rhythmic settings along with brilliant lyrics which is called as composing. They might not be good singers. Their talent is creating music.

 It may be a waste of time to a person who belittle or ignore his/her own inbuilt creative spark, be it singing, playing an instrument, drawing , painting, dancing etc etc..,  if this exercise is just going to be one among many other activities which he/she does, with no serious passion attached towards anything in which he/she is engaged.

Trinity composers were embodiment of Nada. But according to me, Swathi Tirunal, Koteeswara Iyer, Neelakanta Sivan or Papanasam Sivan (and hundreds are there)  are all equally talented composers in their own musical capacity or ability. They listened to their inner voice and came out with great music which all of us enjoy.

If they ever thought that they need not compose because Trinity’s compositions are there in abundance,  then they are trapping their creative energy and will not be fully alive, (though they breathe physically) failing to connect with their inner calling or passion, constricting their urge to compose.

We should gratefully remember that all composers including Trinity followed the footsteps of their respective Gurus. We can find some great composers like Kalyani Varadarajan (who was a graded artist in Veena/Violin and Vocal) Ambujam Krishna, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi and many more. Their music is soaked in bhakthi, with simple lyrics in Tamil or Sanskrit or a language in which they are so fluent.  

We remember these composers and respect their creativity and sing their songs, because their creation had an integral aesthetic beauty though they stood within the restrictions allowed by the particular Raga. Their wild imagination spread wings and took flight in musical phrases and sahityam bringing out some exemplary compositions which we love to listen on and off. We go back to listen them again and again. How many ever times do we listen, we are not getting bored. Now, the musicians who sing these krithis are unique individuals and they also bring out their own artistic imagination or brilliance in raga or manodharma, which makes the composition evergreen and unique.  This uniqueness is found only in Carnatic Music. The same Dikshitar krithi sounds so different when sung by different musicians when they add their own mix of colours in the canvas named Raga.

My humble suggestion is to never compare anyone with someone else. Rather, how can we ever compare a composer with the Trinity!  Without saying we all know that the new generation composers who are seriously pursuing Carnatic music just do not compose just for the sake of composing. I know many present day composers closely studying the Trinity compositions or the compositions of other great composers, before venturing in to composing a new krithi. And before publishing it they take it to their respective Gurus and get their blessings. 

But as the author of the question says, there is also the other side of the coin. The less serious composers or those who compose just for the sake of it or to just show the world “ I can also compose music” should ask themselves the following questions.

1. Is this really my passion or am I better in something else?

2.  Secondly, do I have the command over the language and the Raga in which I am going to compose?

3.  Does the raga chosen really match the underlying emotion in the Sāhityam? For instance, a request or plea or surrender as the theme in a krithi, Ragas like Bilahari or Hamsadwani does not really suit as they are very energetic and pleasant ragas. Such a selection of raga to convey pathos or grief will not touch the mind of the listener as the raga and text are contradicting. Here the creation of the composer fails dismally to appeal the audience. The composer should have a vivid picture as to which raga suits best for his sahitya. In the above example, Mukhari or Sahana would be apt choice.

4. Am I ready to compose and equipped with a deep study and analysis of the Raga, its grammar, the language that is going to be chosen, the rhythmical aspect and then deeper introspection of one’s own mental clarity in this regard. ?

Please note that permutation combination of some notes in a scale will not make a Raga. A raga is a personality, an obvious entity. There are so many yardsticks to understand a Raga in its entirety. A proper understanding of the raga will naturally bring out its aesthetics too. Similarly arranging some Sanskrit words taken from here and there will not make a brilliant sahityam that touches the soul.  Composing is really not that simple!!. Please do not take it for granted.

Align yourself  with the Soul of the Raga in which you are going to compose, then the Soul of the language you are going to choose, Soul of the sahityam or the underlying emotion of the text  you  have written, Soul of all the listeners who will be listening to your creation,  and ultimately with the Supreme Soul. When all the above are aligned, there is perfect harmony in your music.

Now to the author of the question, let us not discourage the new composers. May be it is their calling.  Let them try. Let them fall seven times and rise eight times .😍 Let them keep on improving. Except for prodigal talents, nobody is born genius. It may not come to them naturally. They may have encountered umpteen number of failures. Let them  keep on going if that makes them happy and may be, eventually things start getting better. He/she understands hard work really really matters.

 If there is true passion in anything, any number of failures will not turn them down. I think, for a true learner these failures will make them take a step back, analyse the cause of failure and learn from them and bounce back with double energy on to the task. Eventually Success will knock the door and say Hello !!!.

When we feel that things are looking brighter and failures take a back seat and Success sits on your side , may be we are in middle age and  we learn that Perseverance over Adversity, Optimism on the face of Failure, Undettered Focus  and Hardwork ultimately brings nothing but SUCCESS alone.. But by this time we are ripe enough to gracefully embrace the success to the Heart (that leads to compassion) and not Head (that leads to arrogance).  We reflect on how the work we have done or already doing now can make a positive contribution to the society.

To succeed in any art form it needs a life time dedication.   It is always Skill + Effort along with Constant and Never ending Improvement (CANI) every single day, constantly raising the standards, your own empowering beliefs that you can really make it  and finally your  commitment which is directly proportionate to the level of success, decides your future.   

Now to the author of the question,  you can always choose as to which composer’s music you may listen to. Choose your favourite composer and musician and be blissful..😍

Lastly, Sorry for this long post! May be its because I am writing a blog post after almost an year. I just enjoyed doing it and poured it out. Thank you so much for the author of this question who made me come back to blogging and giving an opportunity to sharpen the writing skills.

Thank you all for patiently reading this..  Wishing success to one and all ..✌👍



5 thoughts on “#52 – Is there a need for new Composers ?

  1. Namaskaram,
    Great question,
    I fully agree that there is no need for clssical music compositions to be composed
    Great question,
    I fully agree that there is no need for classical music compositions to be composed
    my reasons are we have hundreds of thousands of truly great soul stirring compositions from the times of Sangeeta Ratnakara.
    These composers have composed these pieces from extreme great depth bhakti, Jnana and sangeetha sastra, they were total and fully versed in the science of music and spirituality and language.
    Many of these compositions were composed during moments of intense devotion and attunement with the divine, their Ishta devata or deity that inspired them in that moment.
    i once asked my Guru Vidwan Chengleput Ranganathan, if he has composed any pieces , he said commandingly NO! , why would one need to compose new pieces of music when there is so many thousands already composed and one cant even learn all those compositions in one life time. so No! he said.
    The raga, the Thala , the bhava, the correct handling of the language and finally the divine attunementt to the deity you singing on, all this has to be in alignment.
    so i finally say lets rather try to learn and sing the great comositions we have of the great masters.
    Aum Gurunathar Thunai
    Rajan Padiachi
    South Afica

  2. The answer is so deep and the subject is so vast ,that an ordinary follower like me will take more time to get to it fully… but pranams

  3. If the composer is composing as an offering to the Divine and if the listener hears the Divine in the composition, new or old does not come into the picture. New and old (with no disrespect to any composer, ancient or new) come into the picture when the underlying bhava and conversation with the Divine is mixed up with the messenger or the composer. Become one with the composition, travel with it to the Divine, and say thanks to the composer. My take.

  4. Wonderful explanation which encourages CREATIVITY. ., which is one of the TRINITY SHAKTHIS making the world to consistently revolve & sustain(the main component of the KARMA CYCLE)…

    And again we all (ALL) forget that we are just the reflections of the PARABRAMHAM even if one creates…
    The more one does CREATIONS well, it means that more one is reflecting the ORIGIN well…

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