Writing Compulsion

I have nothing to say tonight and I also haven’t had enough sleep because the work week spilled into the weekend as it sometimes does, but I feel the next day goes better when I have written something, anything, the night before. So why not just talk about the weekend?

We found some time for the movies (yes movies – 2 on the same day). Saw two movies back to back – Mamma Mia and Journey to the Center of the Earth. They were both light-hearted, frothy fare but sometimes one wants just that. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face while watching Mamma Mia. It brought back so many memories of buying every ABBA record that came out in the late 70s, swapping lyrics, memorizing them, enjoying Chiquitita, I Have a Dream and Does Your Mother Know… the songs were as addictive as candy to the young me.

Now they’ve made a movie, a musical, using ABBA’s music, and it is amazing to see how the story was written, thirty years since the music was created, and how each song fit each situation in such an engaging, amusing manner. I hadn’t felt so entertained in a long time. I couldn’t stop laughing at the lines, “Chiquitita tell me what’s wrong, you’re enchained by your own sorrow, in your eyes, there is no hope for tomorrow...” as Meryl Streep’s Donna – is consoled by her two best friends.

Does Your Mother Know” was another fun one with Christine Baranski playing the role of an older, botox’d femme fatale around several young island lads; the role reversal…with the woman singing the song was very amusing. Not to mention Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep singing, “So when you’re near me darling, can’t you hear me SOS, the love you gave me nothing else can save me, SOS“. It was all so much fun that I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

We then stepped out of Mamma Mia and walked into the next theater to see Journey to the Center of the Earth. Another fun movie, more so because we were watching it with Anoushka and enjoying her edge of the seat reactions and her laughter at dialogs such as:

“Ever seen a dinosaur before?”


“Not one with skin on it!”


She expected to be hugged and cuddled every time the scenes got a little too intense for her.

Of course in Mamma Mia some of her comments left us speechless and gaping like:

“How did she have the baby if she never got married?”


“Why is Harry dancing with a guy?”


“She didn’t sleep with hundreds of men, she only slept with three!”

I suppose they rate things PG-13 for some reason!

That’s what we did for entertainment. I also spent a lot of time working because work did spillover into the weekend this time. As I ploughed through all my spreadsheets and got so much done, I wondered why employers still expect their employees to commute to work. Didn’t wonder about that for the first time, of course. It has been a recurring thought for several years now. But it makes absolutely no sense to travel to work, burning several gallons of fossil fuels, just so my bosses can see my face. I was so productive and accomplished what I had to do with such speed and efficiency, working at home. Some day!

The violin class was a good one again. I was told I was the only one in a class of 40 or so people who could play Barcarolle well, with its rather complex slurs. Getting a compliment like that always helps re-ignite the old pilot light. I am really enjoying my practice these days.

On the Indian classical side, we closed the chapter on Kafi thaat and started Asavari – a very pleasant sounding raag missing Ga and Ni in the arohan and with a komal Dha, Ni and Ga in the avrohan. It sounds so melodious, with such a capacity for getting under one’s skin.

Elsewhere I was reading about this particular raag and the author had mentioned that Asavari was all about renunciation, sacrifice, letting go. It reminded me of the post that preceded this one on this blog. It also made me wonder if the presence of so many komal notes contributed to this subjective evaluation of it.

How do people read so much into melodies and tunes? That’s not to say, I don’t. Music affects me in many hard to describe ways. But if I was to say that a certain piece of music stirred feelings of peace, tranquility, sadness, joy or even restlessness in me would people look at me strangely as if that isn’t what it did for them at all, or would they agree? I ask because when someone saw renunciation reflected in this raag I found myself agreeing…is it the power of suggestion?

The other things I’ve read about, in reading about music and musicians:

1. Technical wizardry versus emotional playing of an instrument.

2. There is no improvisation, room for interpretation in western music (this in comments where Indian classical music is being compared to western classical music).

3. Fixed versus movable scale in the two types of music

4. The guru-shishya format of musical education in India followed by a comment that in the west a teacher is just a teacher, not given the same reverence as an Indian guru is.

I’ve come across these discussions often and I am in no position to comment on these issues because I am still such a novice, so generally ignorant. I am nowhere near any sort of technical mastery on the violin and I am certain I cannot introduce an emotional content into my playing unless I achieve some sort of technical confidence. But what bothers me is how some famous violinists are evaluated based on these two criterion, I fail to understand how someone who has dedicated a lifetime to the art of violin could leave emotions out of their playing. Music always expresses something internal, doesn’t it? It can’t be dry, it won’t be music then. Or it will be music but it would be pointless for a musician to be playing music that is devoid of an emotional content.

As for improvisation and innovation…does it really never happen in western classical music? Of course the author probably meant that Bach and Beethoven need to be played as they were written, no room for unusual interpretations. That’s probably true but isn’t Jazz all about on the spot interpretations? And musicians who achieve the highly elusive emotional content in their playing…don’t they take the smallest of liberties, playing things in a special way to enhance certain effects?

Fixed versus movable scale…I have no idea what that means. It appears to be movable to me in both types of music. Perhaps I need to know more before I can understand this.

As for the guru-shishya tradition, I have read enough books written by famous violinists (and other musicians), their biographies, interviews with them to know that they always mention who their teachers were, with tremendous reverence and respect, just as Indian musicians do. Perhaps there aren’t things like gharanas here, but teachers are remembered and revered just the same.

The next time I have nothing to write about, probably tomorrow, I will write about the show I downloaded to my iPod and have been watching on by commute: Mad Men. Amazing show.

3 Comments

  1. Good, strategic thinking – if nothing else works, write about your day, or what you got upto…and then, let the thoughts, in the course of that recounting, roll onto one another, and take you down an untrodden path – like, an impromptu performance in front of your *readers* – because, amazingly, you come up with the most balanced, coherent perspective on things, shifting and tossing in your own place, trying to get under the skin of so many issues, and trying to make sense of it all from various angles, and trying to relate them all to something tangible, when they're going out of hand, so to speak. Loved this weekend report, just as much as I loved getting a sneakpeek into little A's big, curious mind 🙂

  2. Anonymous,I didn't publish your comment even though I agreed with some of what you said. However, I would really like you to identify yourself the next time you stop by. It is getting somewhat difficult for me to guess who from Bombay travelled to the S&C blog from Caferati and then stopped by at my blog. It is somewhat annoying to keep guessing!Also, you seem to attribute typos to someone's Indian origins but one needs to watch that especially when one is prone to placing the apostrophe before the n when writing haven't…remember the apostrophe here should always go between the n and the t because it is the letter o that's being replaced.Pragya

  3. Pragya,As I mentioned on your “Monsters” blogpost, I’d tried and couldn’t get through, so settled on Anonymous. It was not meant to get you guessing.However, you've left yourself wide open.The mistake I pointed out (not “typo” as you dissemblingly put it) was one that I have found far too often in writing that comes from Indians (not the literary type, but plenty of those who in the last few years have gone on to gain a higher degree, usually in finance, but still carry into their writing phrases and constructions from their original tongues) more so especially as I am constantly correcting it.You had written “One of my boss’s secretary …” and you have now gone on to correct it. (I commented on it largely because it has become so common, and is justified by those who write thus by the silly ‘reason’ “I saw it in the papers, on a blog, in a report,” etc., etc.) The apostrophe referred to would be boss’s (and the various possibilities and various meanings intended). I’m still not sure you have it right.As for your comments on mine (on this post, regarding the apostrophe, and the one on the Monsters blogpost), they betray an unwarranted prickliness (and something else, which I shall try to elaborate on later or this will get too lengthy). Feedback is feedback, not necessarily pats-on-the-back.In fact, your next blogpost pretty much exemplifies the meat of my comment, the one you didn’t publish. But it would take me too long to point you in that direction. So I shall keep it for when I have the time.


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