in "Studio Systems" November-December 2002)
the last few years, the development in electronic hardware for music creation
seems to have come to a standstill with very few new breakthroughs in
technology. The earlier two decades had seen the birth of FM technology and
affordable ‘Sampling’, which changed the face of the Electronic Music
instruments. Today, that industry has been reduced to releasing just more
efficient versions of the same instruments by adding more memory, better
effects, improved interface etc. The real revolution in Music technology however
has been in the Music software area and newer and more powerful software are
regularly seeing the light of day. In fact, there are session musicians today
who produce great sounding world-class music with just a laptop computer and a
small USB keyboard. Software Technology has placed truly powerful tools in the
hands of today’s musician and the gifted computer musician is truly blessed.
music software revolution has naturally seen its biggest impact in richer
western countries and the people there have embraced electronic music as a part
of their culture and lifestyle. Of course, this has not stopped traditional
musician skills from commanding a premium and the need to study music
instruments will always remain a priority for powerful musical creation.
However, there is no doubt that this music software revolution has introduced a
new section of people into the musician stream. Music loving men and women, who
would never have been able to make music a few years back, are beginning to
explore this technology and we are beginning to see new artistic directions as a
music culture till now has remained uninfluenced by this great music software
revolution. Although we have the finest Software professionals in the world, we
work for Masters from the West who mainly cater to western markets. Therefore it
is not surprising that one of the first Indian music software to hit the market
comes to us from Switzerland. A French IT professional, Mariano Etchepareborda
developed “Swar Shala” when he realized that there was no fulfilling Indian
Music software to satisfy his desire to create Indian Music. Today, in its third
version, the software seems to have come into its own and can serve as a
powerful tool for Indian Classical music training and for the creation of demos
by aspiring musicians. Featuring many Indian instruments besides Tabla, the
software works best with rhythm and melodic stroke instruments and can be used
widely for the spread of Indian music. The third version has been developed
extensively with the help of Indian musicians and musicologists and has a
pleasing interface unlike most clinical looking music software.
the rise in such software there is naturally been a fear that it will replace
humans. In my opinion this fear is unfounded as nothing can replace the human
feel especially in blown and bowed instruments. If used judiciously, music
software of this nature can help the Indian musician and composers reach newer
heights and he can experiment with compositions that were thought impossible.
Although software all over the world has been programmed to try and make them,
as ‘human’ as possible, human feel can have no substitute. As technology
gets stronger, mankind will have to work harder to find what lies within him and
use a combination of these powerful tools along with traditional skills to reach
newer heights in musical expression.
Dum Diga Diga
‘dumming down’ of the arts has become a major cause of worry in the Indian
scenario. A recent article in an Indian weekly brought out the general tendency
of the artistic community to cater only to the lowest common denominator.
The catering to only materialistic monetary benefits may have seemed
worthwhile if it had resulted in a high level of success in the artistic efforts
of our creative artists. Unfortunately, today the film industry has the lowest
success rate ever, with films flopping every week. As far as the music goes, the
less said the better! With the recession and the money resources getting even
weaker, the standards of our public too stand no chance of improving. Indians
were never quality conscious and the present state is making it impossible for
us to get out of this trap. The cheapest is increasingly being mistaken for the
best in our buying decisions resulting in further lowering of standards.
vicious circle continues in the media facilities sector with more and more
‘amateur’ studios coming up as the rates drop. The quality of media
personnel has dropped even further as salaries get lowered.
This cascading effect has ruined the entire industry and it may not be
long before it catches up with us and reduces us to nothing. It is ironic that
on one hand we have some of the best, world class talent with excellent
facilities while at the other end the worst is being welcomed with open arms.
insistence of excellence in our lifestyle at an early school-going age is the
only long term solution to this ill that affects all of us. As for the present,
creative collaborations between giants of Show business can result in turning
the tide. In today’s tough times, it is important that we get together to
combat the mediocrity that is drowning us. Major studios in the west have often
joined hands to see an expensive film project through. In fact, as life gets
tougher, this has often become the norm so that risks can be divided. We will
have to learn to think globally so that the world can become our market. Already
Hindi films are very popular world wide and we have some of the biggest creative
heads in the world. Yet we cannot seem to command a fraction of the turnover
generated by Hollywood with its “bigger than life” superstars, superior
writing skills, professional infrastructure and global marketing abilities.
According to Business Week (Europe), Bollywood commands just 1.3 billion
US $ in revenues to Hollywood’s 50 billion US $ although it sells more
announcement by BMG Entertainment, the record label home of Britney Spears,
Elvis Presley etc. to simplify the way it accounts for royalty payments to
artists is indeed a step in the right direction to reduce the tension between
artists and record labels in recent years. It will be the first of the
five major labels to make the changes. US royalties are typically paid as a
percentage of the suggested retail price, with deductions for packaging, new
technology, manufacturing costs and others. Under BMG’s new structure,
the royalty rate will be based on a lower wholesale price, but will eliminate
standard deductions. The actual amount of royalties paid to the artists will
remain unchanged. The other major labels, Universal Music Group, a unit of
Vivendi Universal, EMI Group, Sony music and Warner Music Group, a unit of AOL
Time Warner will hopefully follow suit.
will always remain as the fairest way to reward an artist for his creativity but
it demands integrity in accounting, a quality sourly lacking in Indian
conditions. (The West is not far behind as fittingly demonstrated by Enron!) The
multitude of taxes and hurdles placed by the government, the inefficiencies of
the working class, the alleged dubious characters of directors etc.
unfortunately seem to make this system a non starter in India.
In the old days, when HMV was the only Indian Music company, royalty was
the standard mode of payment to artists and it has been rumored that the system
was fair and consistent. Unfortunately, with the increase in recording
companies, the system collapsed and there was widespread fraud. The artists felt
cheated and lump sum payments became the preferred way of operation, for both
the artists and companies.
system resulted in further discontent when hits were not compensated fairly and
the film producers started demanding huge sums of money based on past records.
The giving in by the music companies resulted in crores of rupees being paid as
music rights based on projected sales, which were very often not realized, and
music companies started producing films! The nature of the music industry
changed totally, resulting in total disintegration and today the music companies
are in bad shape with no identities of their own. TV, FM, Piracy and recession
has further worsened their fate, a state which they had brought upon themselves.
Today, with 27% drop in sales, they are playing a cat and mouse game, waiting
for things to change, waiting for someone to show them the way so that they can
blindly follow like they have always done!
first death anniversary of George Harrison was celebrated recently with a
tribute concert held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Famous friends of
Harrison like Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, former Beatle band mates Paul
McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne etc. along with wife Olivia and son Dhani
performed for a sell out crowd and I am sure it must have been an emotional
evening for those present. “Something”, “Here comes the sun”, “While
my guitar gently weeps” were just some of the compositions of this great
maestro who in his later years also went on to produce films in between his
had a special connection to India and his love for Indian music and spirituality
is well known. He was definitely one of India’s greatest friends and his
“Ravi Shankar” days, ‘Maharshi Mahesh Yogi period’, ‘the visit to the
ashram at Rishikesh’, ‘the concert for Bangla Desh’ have all been well
documented besides the incredible guitar solos that used to feature in every
Beatle song. Truly an amazing guitarist, George was a perfect foil for the
Lennon-McCartney team. Unfortunately he was a trifle underrated mainly because
of the massive talent of his band mates Paul and John. Hey, but who else could
step into his shoes and off set their great music and lyrics and play a perfect
solo in the midst of all that!
the time of his death in November of 2001, George Harrison was working on his
next album “Brainwashed”. His son, Dhani and Jeff Lyne have since finished
this album which has released recently to rave reviews. In fact, it stands among
the best work that Harrison ever did. Lynne had co-produced Harrison's 1987 solo
album, Cloud Nine and had been his partner in the Traveling Wilburys. He had
also worked with him on "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" for
the Beatles' Anthology project, and was one of his closest friends. Harrison's
son, Dhani had also worked closely with his father from the very beginning of
the project and was him when the songs were being written and recorded. For all
Beatle and George fans, the album promises to be a veritable treat. What an
excellent opportunity to celebrate George's life!