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Music As an Expression of Knowledge

What we know could be approached in four ways: introverted, ambiverted, extroverted, and what I call ‘ultra-extroverted’.

The introverted perspective relies on our intuition, and knowledge in this manner is achieved through practice of ashtaanga yoga and japa. There is minimal dependence on the senses. The senses fall silent, as they become part of knowledge itself. The light of knowledge also annihilates thought.

The ambiverted state of being is when the seeker depends more on her powers of reason. She enters a state of partial introversion as well as extroversion and the senses might merely serve to testify a truth of the world outside or within. In the extroverted method, the seeker fully relies upon her sensory perceptions, especially of the material world, though the purpose could be transcendental. Here, sounds, visuals, odour, taste, touch or all of these play a role. These are all materials but they might give abstract insights or even enable Self-realization.

Finally, the ultra-extroverted method is one that does not rely upon sensory perceptions for collection of physical data and uses instrumentation as perhaps more efficient and accurate extensions of our senses. This is the positivistic determinism of the physical sciences. The data so collected is interpreted with reason and logic.

It is futile to determine which is the best method because what is knowledge to one may not be even worth pursuing for another. A yogi might find the efforts to land on Mars meaningless and would rather look within. He might want to know realities that the scientist might call subjective experience, and so useless.

Music is one way in which all four methods are used. It is hard to find a person who does not like music and hence music is an effective unifying force. While theorising on music, we seldom find scholars disputing the essential goodness in music although there may be debate over its substantive and formal issues. Music is accepted across cultures as a method of accessing innermost sources of beauty and then relating them with the outside world to accomplish articulation.

When a singer, for instance, has not expressed her music, musical sounds are forming in the realm of her consciousness and she is in an introverted state while listening with her inner ears. The more clearly she hears the inner sound, the closer she is with anaahat naad or the unstruck sound. Here her sense of reasoning is minimal.

When she expresses the svaras she is actually depending on her senses and physical organs to bring out the sound for all to listen and appreciate which is somewhat like science; meant to be demonstrated and replicated by all. She is now dealing with her own aahat naad or physical sound, yet using reason to a greater extent.

Simultaneously, the singer also gets in touch with the instruments outside her body to further tune her own vocal chords so that her articulation is agreeable. Now she establishes a coherence of an-aahat naad and aahat naad using her intuition, senses, and external instruments. All this entails a greater use of reason and logic.

She finally deliberately makes full use of her reasoning faculties to articulate an agreeable exploration of beauty while she is immersed in the melody and affords extempore improvisation, intermittently taking a dip into the infinite beauty within. This entire process of knowing through music comprehends all the above methods discussed. Krishna says in the Bhagavat Gita: “Among the Vedas I am the Sama Veda.” Sama Veda is the first successful human effort to formalise and theorise music and it is the string that binds the other three Vedas together.

February 4, 2010

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