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Emulating cosmic music

used small harmonica made from steel and plastic, isolated on white

used small harmonica made from steel and plastic, isolated on white  

Experiencing the appeal of music across different species

Books speak of the transcendental qualities of music, of how it knoweth no language, can cut across borders and bring together people and beings of different origins, and all that. The bard has written aplenty about music in his plays, the great composers of the West and the East have created many an immortal tune which speak to us even today, and indeed our own mythological texts too have marked its divine power.

Years ago, I too had the good fortune of experiencing music’s appeal across the species. I was on a trip to the hinterlands of Jharkhand as part of my college rural exposure programme, and was staying in a village with others of my class.

Playing some notes

As dusk gathered on our first day in the village, it felt just about right to sit by the door of the hut we were staying in and play my harmonica for a bit. As I sat there trying to play the notes of Bombay meri jaan with some acceptable success in that serene ambiance, as a ‘city boy’ new to the quaintness of village life I couldn’t help but think how nature is said to have responded to the music of Krishna himself, making rivers brim, trees bloom and the animals dance in joy and draw the cows to him in rapt attention as the mellifluous notes flowed from his flute.

However, the comparisons of my lowly harmonica-playing with the timeless cosmic musician didn’t go much farther. As I blew on those notes, with the occasional word of appreciation or friendly jibes from my classmates, I realised my music was beginning to attract some of the local fauna.

‘Not too shabby, Kaustuv!’ I might have thought to myself, until I looked more closely at the nature of said fauna which was coming to listen. At the helm were a couple of beetles scuttling towards me in the dim light of the incandescent bulb hanging over the porch, and then, a large scorpion.

The music stops

My immediate horror was abundantly supplemented by the displeasure of my companions, as the creature crawled rapidly over the gravel with purpose, seemingly determined to remove the incumbent musician. The music stopped in a trice, of course. With the agility of a jungle cat I started from where I sat and landed on an adjacent charpai in a single leap, with an accompanying shriek. Several of us followed suit, perching ourselves on plastic chairs, windows and other elevated refuges, after which some vocal commotion followed. It mostly comprised of how to deal with scorpions, the consequences of its poison sting and some irritation towards yours truly for having attracted it in the first place.

Several minutes passed as the hapless ‘city folk’ hung around out of harm’s way, without a clue as to what to do, whilst the scorpion showed no sign of leaving, until help arrived in the form of a fearless village lad who, in a bit of an anticlimactic end to the kerfuffle, simply kicked the insect away and sent it retreating hastily as we sheepishly looked on.

That was pretty much it! With the coast clear I dismounted from the charpai, went straight to my rucksack and placed the harmonica back in its box, lesson learnt.

While I can look back at this now and laugh, I sometimes still console the inner musician in me, though. After all, divine cow or menacing scorpion, they were both created by the same maker, and I at least managed to gain the attention of one!

kaustuvdasgupta@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2020 8:52:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/emulating-cosmic-music/article24001330.ece

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