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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Twice in a week I meet my music teacher. We sit across from each other, cross legged, back straight and focus. I turn on the tanpura – the sound resonating within the room. Loud enough to mute the incessant thoughts in my head and soft enough for me to hear the sound of my will. Searching for an identity within octaves, I set the scale to A Sharp. I take a deep breath and begin. I hum ‘OM’ in the note Sa. ‘OM’. I breathe again.

‘Sa-Pa-Sa’ ‘Sa-Pa-Sa’

I ascend. I descend. I wait till the walls ricochet the sound of my voice. As I dive into a world that is far removed from reality, I am most aware of all my senses. I listen carefully. I see the notes juggling across the room, colliding with one another, transitioning into one another. I see them interact. I command them to move as per my will. I shuffle them around. I skip a note and jump to the next – I come back. The sounds just appear. Then disappear. Like a little soap bubble on the skin. I tune the tabla to play the theentaal. It sets a grid for my idiosyncrasies. I synchronize my notes with the beats of the tabla.

‘Dha Dhin Dhin Dha – Dha Dhin Dhin Dha – Dha Tin Tin Ta – Ta Dhin dhin Dha’

Each beat asserts itself in a different manner. I focus – but I don’t. My voice naturally adapts to the pattern, like it was yearning for it all this while. I learn sustenance. I stop at a note and stay there till I feel comfortable. I complete it – not wanting to rush ahead, but to live in the moment. I make the most of it. One breath. My body feels tense. It begins to sway with the notes. The act of creation liberates me. I condition an organ to function differently. I teach it new ways. My voice understands pitch, it recognizes new sounds and learns how to create them. My voice perseveres. It repeats – once, twice, thrice; a hundred times if it must. It learns sustenance. As my mind liberates steadily, so does my body. I feel detached from my own person. I am now separate identities. I coexist with myself. I am a performer, a spectator, a critic, a learner, a teacher. The sounds now understand me. We make music, we make mistakes. I now understand the sounds. They talk to me. I tell them about my happiness, my pain that wont go away. I tell them about my day and how uneventful it was. I ask them about theirs. The sounds introduce me to peace. They tell me he is a good friend of theirs. And sometimes, I can smell sound. Maybe it is just my breath. Or the freshly washed sheets on my bed. Maybe its the trees outside or the dust? Maybe it is indeed the sound. It lingers and intensifies as I progress. I smell anxiety when I struggle to find the right note and contentment, as I struggle less and less. I smell calm. I smell music.

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As part of my resolution for 2015, I decided to read a book a month. Predictably, it took me longer than a month to finish The News: A User’s Manual by Alain De Botton but I am glad I did not rush into it. The book is an insightful analysis of all aspects of the news that we consume today. It discusses the news’ content, its tone, its purpose and ideal functions. What was most endearing to me was the idealistic take on the world, devoid of the general cynicism that we can seldom avoid these days. It is an optimistic discussion on the information we consume today (as news) and what it should ideally be – what each piece of news conveys and how it is perceived by the reader.

I found myself reflecting on my decisions in design. It made me think about ‘meaning’ and how everything that we consume is possibly lacking the right kind. So many times one sets out to relay a certain message but is often oblivious to what real impact it has on the audience. Not only does it discuss the worth of the message but also the intent and motivations of the creator. It leaves a lot of room for introspection.

Next on my 2015 Book Line Up is Murakami’s short story, The Strange Library. The copy that I have is an illustrated one which is a bonus.

This month I am reading The News by Alain De Botton. The book discusses the content that is being put out by news agencies of today – the intent (or lack of it) behind what they choose to publish and what they choose to not; and how it all subliminally affects the readers. There is a section of the book where he talks about the use of photographs in news reporting and what meaning each image conveys. He says:

“We might usefully divide news photographs into two genres. The first are images of corroboration, which do little other than confirm something we have learned about a person or an event through a accompanying article. The idea here is that photography should just furnish an extra level of proof as to the reality of events which have already been described in language. Then there is another, rarer kind of image, the photograph of revelation, whose ambition is not simply to back up what the text tells us but tot advance our level of knowledge to a new point.”

A while back (in September 2014), a friend uploaded a few pictures from two different events on instagram. Images from both events were arranged in a grid – one picture grid for each event. I asked –  Why not publish all the individual images separately as two albums? My question came from the fact that I couldn’t see the peoples’ faces clearly. The grid of pictures inside the already small frame of instagram were just too small for me to engage with. What struck me was that as a viewer of those images, I felt an inherent need to connect with what I was looking at. I wanted to engage with it. To my friend, as she put it, “it is only for documentation”. This got me thinking..

Isn’t us putting out our lives in front of millions (often painting a picture that could be only part of the whole truth) also a form of consumable information published intentionally, just like the news? We have an audience, just like the news and just like the news, we too want either to evoke a certain response or inform. Do we not then have the responsibility to express meaning beyond corroboration? Seldom do we find pictures that are intended towards revelation and seldom do we ourselves put out such content.

One often forgets the need to create meaning in the rush to constantly establish a presence. As a consumer of all this unfiltered information, I find only a tenth of the posts that actually mean something, even to the one posting it. As a designer I have felt this occurring in my design process too. On an instinct, I go for the image that is usually the norm – something that would align with the message. It takes me several iterations to realise that the choice of image though absolutely relevant, isn’t advancing anyone’s knowledge beyond the text, neither is it that of revelation. Should this be something I should embed in my instinct? or is the awareness good enough?

I was clearing out my computer, organising work files when I found this little abstract composition I created while working on a branding project back in 2013. I do this regularly – save rejected ideas or visual concepts as individual artworks. For me, they help substantiate the amount of work that I put into a project, regardless of the final outcome and they also become an inspiration for future projects.

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