Role of Public and Private institutions in Distance Music Education

By Dr. Ragini Trivedi




Twentieth century has been one of immense change. Economies have undergone dire changes beyond contemplation a mere half century back; discoveries in the field of space, communication and health have redefined human life. It was natural for a change in the field of education to make available traditional truths through new methodologies. The first discernible change was in the attitude. The traditional teacher oriented system now turned into a learner-centric one. Advancement in communication on one hand and rising complexity in the routine of common man on the other, have together emphasized the need for more flexible and modular aspect of curriculum. Distance education has gradually emerged as an answer. While it has proved useful in several major disciplines, its adequacy in the field of Music is still perplexing to conventional minds. However, it is with constant experimentation and change that suitable curricula may be perfected for understanding various aspects of music -- the finest of all arts.


This paper attempts to examine the role of various institutions in imparting music education through distance mode. While it is considered to be an abstract art it is also one of the oldest forms of entertainment. There would hardly be a community in the world that does not have some distinctive music of its own. Thus, there exists a large body of disjointed organizations that can serve as resource in the field of music. The first logical step would be classification of these institutions themselves and next a categorization of the resources available with them. These institutions can broadly be categorized under three heads:

a. Educational Institutions

b. Archival Institutions

c. Institutions for Dissemination

Educational Institutions

Although music is often a part of the school curriculum, the authoritative institutions imparting education of music exist outside schools. They range from independent, single-teacher affair to Music Universities. While many of these bodies may not carry any academic recognition, pioneering organizations like Gandharva Mandal and Prayag Sangeet Samiti helped greatly in propagation of music education and awareness in twentieth century. It is the more integrated bodies like colleges and universities that have determined standards of Music scholarship and given an acceptance to Music as an academic discipline. Every year students in large numbers are trained from these institutions at undergraduate and post-graduate level. Till recently, teaching of music was unconditionally a person-to-person affair. Courses offered by colleges and universities pay ample attention to practical teaching. However, the intensely academic approach adopted by these institutions leaves several important aspects of Music unaddressed.

Traditionally only one aspect of Music scholarship has been recognized as its application – that of enabling a learner to become a performing artiste. Classical university education has hitherto limited itself to this narrow, albeit difficult role. (For if a degree in Literature does not turn all its students into writers, or that in Philosophy into philosophers, it is ludicrous to expect a student with average talent and aptitude to turn into an artiste; however, almost all serious performers acknowledge the role of University education in fine-tuning their art). Still, many applied aspects of Music have been neglected so far. To begin with, the Distance Education approach can fittingly deal with these. Courses such as Event/Arts management in radio/television/film would greatly benefit those working or desirous of working in these industries. Similarly, courses for Recording, Mixing and Digitizing may also be offered. With growing researches in the field of medicine and alternatives, a course in Music Therapy may be envisaged. Short and specific courses like Notations System, Concert hall Architecture, Appreciation courses may be taken up. It would certainly help an announcer or producer to know fundamentals of music and musical styles in presenting better and effective programs.

Finally, even the classical University courses may also be successfully conducted through Distance model. It would be pertinent to note that as far back as 1971, thanks to an inventive genius, an electronic Sruti box was available. Such musical aids reduce the dependence of the student on the teacher for every small thing. In the twenty-first century there are over two dozen models of electronic Tanpura, Tabla, Lehara machines offered by almost half dozen companies. One such product Melamala, developed by a pioneer company1, is an instrument that demonstrates the scale of all the 72 melakarta ragas in Karnatic music. The wall-mounted instrument is a clock-like circular disc with twelve spokes, each spoke listing six ragas with a key. On pressing the key, the ascending and descending scale (arohana and avarohana) of that raga is played. Apart from such electronic aids, availability of programs on computer like Rasika, Gayaka, Tabla Player, Taal Trax and several other such make the complex chore of understanding Indian Music an easy task. Software like SwarShala enable users to create custom rhythmic patterns and then export them as Wave or MIDI files. Though they can be counted on fingers, yet there are some traditional Indian Gurus who are successfully using such tools as e-mail, chat and interactive web-sites to teach Indian Classical music to Indians and foreigners alike. It is through studied incorporation of such aids and tools along with audio-video cassettes that even, ambitious courses in Indian Classical Music may be taught through distance education.

Archival Institutions

There are several archival and museological institutions that have resources on Indian Music varying from ancient texts to records and tapes. These institutions also encourage research to a limited degree, but chiefly act as custodians of art. Eminent ones like Sangeet Research Academy, National and State Sangeet Natak Academies, Akashvani and even Doordarshan have amply contributed towards preservation and documentation of contemporary musical activity. These institutions may act as rich resource centers for the avid learner with a little effort. Scholars as early as 1950s suggested that an exclusive Music Channel, dedicated to broadcasting classical music and related information, be established on All India Radio. However, even today such a channel has not been actualized despite geometric rise in number of radio and television channels.

At the time when such organizations came into existence, the limited modes of communication narrowed their area of activity. So while academies might have carried out ample documentation, research or field activities with little recorded material, the treasure trove of artiste’s performances lies buried and forgotten in thousands of tapes scattered across nation’s various radio stations. If we add to this the numerous recordings lying unused in morgues of record companies, there is a mass of material awaiting evaluation. It is a well-recognized fact that it often is the next age, which discovers the genius of the earlier era. Moreover, the larger the body of material, finer is the analysis.

Under the changed circumstances where software programs complete a routine business task without human intervention, the first essential is creation of a common interface protocol that should be used for preservation and exchange of music. It should be chosen in a manner to faithfully store broadcast quality sound in the smallest possible space, e.g. an mpeg file for video and mp3 format for audio. Next, of the existing notation systems, one that proves fit on two essential counts – faithful representation of Indian musical sounds and ease of keying on standard equipment – should be chosen. Adequate software with database capable of handling audio, video, text should be selected or created to serve as standard. Only when one is armed with these essentials should projects to document existing material into the common interface protocol be floated. Modeled after INFLIBNET2 and called something like InMusNet, a central body may be constituted to supervise and conduct this mammoth work. For the first time in history of human evolution, we have a tool to store text, speech and pictures almost eternally. We should be willing to accept the blame if we fail to preserve the majestic performances of our contemporary masters. What if we can only imagine the depth and range of Tansen’s gayaki, at least our progeny would relish the artistry of Aladiya Khan’s Adana, Malshree, Shudh Kalyan or Mand, Faiyaz Khan’s Jaijaiwanti, Jog, Lalit, Nat Bihag and poignancy of Kesarbai Kerkar, Narayan Rao Vyas, Omkarnath Thakur or Abdul Karim Khan at the touch of a button. And that brings us to the final part of this cogitation –

Institutions for Dissemination

We have already discussed one part of this category when we talked about Recording and broadcasting agencies; the second is actually the first and foremost – the ancient most media – paper or publication. Although books shall never be outmoded, our publication houses must realize the importance of e-paper. An e-book involves low cost of production, can ensure updated and current information, does not require crucial storage space and can be distributed with ease without burdening any human-being. While, within the coming few years we shall have a far greater volume of web-publishing than is found today, it is urgent that existing works of importance should be converted to electronic texts. International projects like Gutenberg3, which are zealously converting important books to electronic texts, might not necessarily, include all material that we deem important. Consortium of Indian publishers seeking help from government and non-governmental agencies should begin the task of preserving our texts before they are bogged down by the task of publishing contemporary, current books. Active involvement of the research academies and educational institutions may be sought. With such technologies as DTH, web-casting, Bluetooth gradually coming of age, unless our existing knowledge database is converted to electronic equivalent, it shall be pushed farther away from the reach of an average scholar. Today, the scholar might have to exert himself in traveling and fighting red-tape to discover some required resource. His chances of success stand fair as he has time and is free from ethereal diversions. Tomorrow, unless his automated search-bots report it, he would have little inclination or time to engage in a manual needle-in-haystack hunt.

Distance Education of Music is perhaps the most natural and native activity to be conducted on Net as it is indeed music and books that initiated the whole gamut of e-commerce and despite the presence of almost every activity under the sun, still sustain a large part of the World Wide Web.

References :

[1] Radel was established in 1979 in a small garage. It has now grown into a professionally managed establishment located in the 'Silicon valley' of India. []

[2] INFLIBNET is an autonomous Inter-University Centre of the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India. It is a major National Programme initiated by the UGC in 1991 with its Head Quarters at Gujarat University Campus, Ahmedabad. Initially started as a project under the IUCAA, it became an independent Inter-University Centre in 1996. INFLIBNET is involved in modernizing university libraries in India and connecting them as well as information centres in the country through a nation-wide high speed data network using the state-of-art technologies for the optimum utilisation of information. INFLIBNET is set out to be a major player in promoting scholarly communication among academicians and researchers in India. []

[3] Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when Michael Hart was given an operator's account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois. []


Development of Electronic Instruments in India. An Article by Shri G. Rajnarain in Bharatiya Shastriya Sangeet: Shikshan, Shastra Va Prayog.

Other articles by Dr. Ragini Trivedi

Role of Institutions in Distance Music Education

Ideal Objectives And Music Syllabi

Performance Sans Formality

...Shall ever the twain meet?


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