ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Unlikely Bedfellows

Classical Performance and the Internet

How has the COVID-19 pandemic opened up new opportunities for the production and consumption of Carnatic music in the virtual world?

Last December, I sat in the last row of the Madras Music Academys stately auditorium, marvelling at how little had changed in the 15 years Id been attending the Margazhi (DecemberJanuary) season concerts. Every year, I felt the familiar exhilaration of being able to listen to my favourite performers live, and greeted the same rasikas (audiences) with a deference reserved for the gatekeepers of the arts. While Carnatic music itself is often criticised as being a static art form, it was the listening experience that, for me, remained untouched, too hallowed a practice to allow for much change.

Exactly seven months later, the future of this years Margazhi season is shrouded in uncertainty. Hit by a pandemic that refuses to abate, it seems unlikely that the festivalwith its thousands of concerts across scores of halls big and smallwill continue in its traditional avatar. Very early on in the pandemic, the Western world stepped up to the plate. By March, major orchestras like the London Symphony Orchestra began broadcasting full-length performances from their archives; others like the Budapest Festival Orchestra ensemble began live-streaming concerts filmed during the lockdown; and individual artistes like cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Igor Levit shared home concerts on social media. In India too, Carnatic musicians streamed home concerts on an almost daily basis, both from personal social media accounts and using cultural platforms that curated presentations and advertised them online. It became quickly evident that the pandemicand the swift adoption and exploitation of the online platformhad opened up several new opportunities for the production, curation and consumption of classical music.

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Published On : 13th Jan, 2024

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