Recently I met with few friends, I had started my working life with. Five of us in a cozy group. Each went on with life in dispersed directions in the 20 last years. I and Anand continued in the company but jumped places. Birla became t-he serial entrepreneur, Chiddu too is own boss and does 101 things that will save humanity and the planet, Suma got into oxford commas and other creative pursuits. As it happens when oldies meet there was much to make merry on. Much nostalgia and then some random, lateral talk.
Suma and Birla were the musically bent and I was severely handicapped there. Mid way the conversation went towards music. There is this mutual friend who learnt music to connect with his Autistic son. This kid was a hero when it came to music. Father learnt music, programming, signal processing and built a software that can decipher the notes from any sung song. Then give it back in any instrument.
Birla was talking about another friend who is a “mallu”(No offence meant, saying it in the sweetest form ). He does not get the intricacies of Urdu. One thing has many words to describe it in Urdu. Each connotation giving a mood, flavor or slur to the word. Now each instrument is temperamental too. It jells well with few moods and scenarios only. So to set the music one needs to know, feel, experience the protagonists predicaments and then create the music so that the listener becomes the hero.
Suma then came alive. She said getting the notes is not a problem. It needs good ear and some training and notes will come. What needs creativity is creating the music with harmonics and good selection mix of instruments. Birla and chiddu nodded vigorously. Anand was looking for meaning to his existence in his beer glass. I was getting ichy. Some thing was bugging me from back of the mind.
I said, I get that it is a creative pursuit and not every one’s skill. But. If you know music, like it and get it then creating good, nice score must be moderately easy. You look 20-40 patterns that work and mixing the ones that go together. Why should it be difficult ? Birla looked at me the way an accomplished guru looks at a stand-up comedian who is making fun of his craft with 0 understanding of it. He said you will not understand it. That is the difference between art and science. Suma agreed saying there is a lot in the moment, your personality, songs need to be independent.
Anand found his answer and came back to our realm. He agreed with me and said to cater to the mass, lowest common denominator what I said is right. Mix few beats and notes and then people will buy it. Birla said well we are not talking about Annu mallik or Honey singh’s mono tones. One can pattern-ise and franchise and make burgers but to cook good takes a chef.
Earlier we were talking about food. Birla ji is a foodie. He knows these mean places to get the authentic stuff. Where to go in VV Puram Thindi street. Where is the real Tatte Idli in Bidadi. On that train of conversation Anand told us about this Kaya Jam soft boiled egg toast breakfast of Singapore. In his words: The toast is is done just right, it is uniform light brown and warmish hot. Apply butter and Kaya Jam on the toasts. Soft boil the egg. This is done by boiling the water, removing it from the heat and dropping an eff for 45 secs ( Later on the web people said 5 minutes ) exactly. This cooks it but it remains gooey and runny. Drop the egg on the toast and add Soy sauce and pepper. EAT. Symphony happens. Soft egg, crispy toast. Hot egg, Warmish toast, cold butter and Jam. Savory soy, sweet jam, smooth butter. Explosion of flavors, varied temperatures, contrasting textures.
Now I know there are many many dishes that combine, layer and mix things to please the palate. My mom can do a wicked job herself with chutneys, steamed things, fried stuff. She can start with one and end up with other if things do not work out. She can look at things that are there around and cook a culinary surprise.
Now I started to think, there is no end to creativity and genius in any filed. But there are also the simple, stable, nourishing things that are very pleasing. Nicely made upma, Khichidi, Dal Chawal, Sambar and curd rice and what not. These are not pre-cooked franchised junk. They are good and simple and one does not tire of them. Good Samosa. Well that is slightly junkey.
Point is not everything is mass crass commercialisation or an experts show case of sophistication. There are tons of shades in between. Mom has a legion of fans who will lap up what she dishes but she does not make a penny.
So what is the equivalent of upma for music ? A music that is simple, nourishing has few flavors in balance. Something that you know when it is well-made but a chief chef will say, what is the complexity in this ? Some thing that makes you world famous among-st your friends. And can making that kind of a music not be little easier ? I think, a bit like writing. There are authors and bloggers who have million followers and then there are the upma bloggers whose work is seen and liked by their friends and acquaintances , by the people who share an experience , piece of life but a critic will think that work is ordinary.