Notes from Bickram Ghosh: Technology changed classical music

New Delhi (IANSlife) Technology has been influencing Indian classical music for quite some time now, a series of changes that started with the simple microphone has come full circle into the digital realm, believes tabla maestro and music expert Bickram Ghosh.

“If one goes back at least 100 years, then we are looking at the invention of the microphone which you know changed the whole concept of Indian classical music. The fact that Indian classical music could be performed in an auditorium or in larger spaces and not just in mehfil, baithak concerts was with the microphone.

“The minute that happened the whole approach to the instruments changed. So, when one thinks of the microphone, one thinks of a certain type of instrument, some instruments are more microphone friendly than others even in the realmof tabla, that changed the whole concept of Indian classical music and it became a larger venue performance with the microphone,” Ghosh told IANSlife in an interview. Ghosh dabbles in a vast repertoire of musical genres, from classical, rock, new-age, fusion to film music and has scored for 36 feature films, one of which got him an Oscar contention.

Coming to the recording era of music performance, Ghosh notes the transition from analog to digital – LP records to CDs – which he says also led to the loss of a certain “warmth of sound” in ambient frequencies “which we all still deeply miss”.

With digital communication of music now the order of the day, especially with the lockdown, what reigns is social media and digital platforms people have been performing on. “But now, more than ever, there has been a huge shift which is an important shift. It has at least allowed people, not just artists to be active during a global lockdown scenario”.

“For classical musicians, yes we have been able to communicate, I am personally doing shows and they are picking up gradually, people are re-adjusting to a new technology, to a new mode of performance and also to a new mode of listening. So, there are two ends to this digital performance scenario, one is the end where the artist gives a feed which is high end in terms of the video and the audio and on the other end is the consumer, the listener, the viewer who should have equivalent technology and a good viewing screen and a good sound output, good speakers. So, yes what is happening right now is a huge change and I think it is a positive change unlike the people thinking it is not positive,” he shared.

According to Ghosh, at the end of the pandemic, artists are going to be left with two options, not just one. “We wouldn’t just continue to be live performers, we will also do live performances and collaborations on the digital platform.”

Ghosh has also been associated with HCL Concerts, whose series of live, virtual performances ‘Baithak’ is another chapter in technology advancing the stream of classical music. He performed for ‘Baithak’ on Friday. According to the music maven, “through the ‘Baithak’ series, HCL Concerts have really been able to bring in a pandemic scenario a lot of positivity,” adding that people have been able to enjoy the depth of our culture and classical music at home.

Speaking on life during lockdown, the noted tabla player and son of tabla maestro Pandit Shankar Ghosh and well known vocalist Sanjukta Ghosh, calls the period interesting. “I saw the lockdown coming and within a matter of days I got all my technology in place. I was working heavily creating videos and did a series called “Out of the box” which was an unique way of presenting percussion,” he shared.

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