Music culture and hardware/software R & D in a North/South Asian context

Prof. T M Hoffman, Performing artist and ethnomusicologist
Director, Indo-Japanese Music Exchange Association 
Prof. T M Hoffman is born in the USA, spent 40 years in Asia, mainly Japan & India. Trained by top masters in classical piano (Grace Mundorf Myers, USA), Japanese flute, shakuhachi (Living National Treasure Yamaguchi Goro, Japan), Hindustani classical vocal music (PT. Ganesh Prasad Mishra, Benares/Lucknow) and tabla (Dr S K Varma, Lucknow). Honours graduate of four universities in USA, Japan & India. Lecturer in Ethnomusicology (Keio University, others), Founder/Director of Indo-Japanese Music Exchange Association, estab. 1989. Has performed in concerts, festivals and TV and radio throughout South and SE Asia, Japan, USA, UK. Author and translator of books and essays in Japanese, English and Hindi. Numerous awards from USA, Japan & India. He shares his thoughts with Abhijit Ganguly:

Factors of change in economic and political histories have their counterparts in ever-evolving language and music cultures. Principles of economy operate in every system of production, propagation and preservation we may encounter. These exist as local/national, regional and global entities which interact to bring about development.

The ‘global view’ seems to be plagued by tunnel vision that recognizes and exploits potential ‘East-West’ development rather than ‘North-South’. Indian/Persian/Turkish/Arabian influences were transmitted to Europe and then the Americas. Central Asian influences were coalesced in China and then passed through Korea into Japan. Both of these examples represent passage horizontally – East to West  in  the former, west to east in the latter – characterizing exchanges in the arts, sciences and professions. In music, little has been written about transmission of fundamental constructs in music and language from South Asia northward into China, Korea and Japan, though these latitudinal transfers have facilitated significant developments in aural cultures in East Asia. Evolution of European classical music also proceeded northward from Greece to Italy and on through France to Germany, Netherlands, etc. Later, the meeting on a north-south axis of Europe and Africa gave birth to jazz, the most significant musical art of the so-called New World.

tabla+shamisen @ SMILE home for aged
The present rapid increase in economic activity between India and Japan builds upon a complementary unity of opposites in the respective cultures. Noting the relative development in India of the abstract/universal (as reflected in computer software), and in Japan the specific/concrete (as in hardware), our NPO Indo-Japanese Music Exchange Association (estab. 1989) has, among other initiatives, promoted the application of ‘Indian software’ (raga & tala) to ultimately compatible ‘Japanese hardware’ (instruments). The Japanese flute, shakuhachi was in 1992 fully certified in Hindustani classical music, and 13-stringed koto demonstrates unparalleled versatility for such. The founder of IJMEA, being an American four decades in Japan and India/S Asia, has been inspired to learn that India-Japan political, economic and cultural relations have benefited from third-party engagement in the bilateral relationship.

Miss World & Mr Universe flute 
In the introductory remarks at my concert and workshop in Sangeet Research Academy (Kolkata) on 16 February 2008, Japanese Consul-General Motoyoshi Noro related that “Rabindranath Tagore and (Japanese cultural icon) Okakura Tenshin were first introduced to each other at the American Consulate in Kolkata, resulting in the establishment of Consulate of Japan in 1907. Now, a century later, an American has brought the two music cultures of India and Japan together with authentic Indian music with traditional Japanese instruments, and our classical poetry rendered in forms of classical Indian vocal music.” Furthermore, we know that Tenshin had been initially introduced to Indian and Bengali culture through meeting Swami Vivekananda at the World Conference on Religions in Chicago, USA, which led to Tenshin’s visit to India and meeting with Tagore.

So, as in political and economic spheres, two local (national) entities - e.g., software of India and hardware of Japan - can effect one regional development - Indo-Japanese classical crossover music – with limited cooperation from a global partner. However, R & D efforts in this vein can in time best benefit the global world if the being-in-becoming developments are initially handled primarily by the members of the region. Rather than introduce yet another Western instrument for use in Asian music, including ragadari Sangeet - for this is what has occurred through the centuries of East-West contacts - our NPO IJMEA chose from the scores of instruments in Asia which are intrinsically suited for Indian music. We look forward to other developments – in the arts, education, trade, industry, and more – utilizing the many unexplored channels along the North-South corridor of the Asian region.

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