Excerpts from Tagore’s Letters & Diaries.
Written to Dilip Kumar Roy, Baranagar (Calcutta), 26 Mar. 1938
For sometime, the debate on relative positions of ‘word’ and ‘music’ in a song is going on. I am not a maestro, but my common sense says this subject is not exclusively for a debate, but is very much inherent in Creation with its frolic. The high hand runs its steam roller on a fixed track to protect our rules and destinations. But, in the meantime, the Creator showers His creations in a myriad branches- where ‘words’ go alone and so does ‘music’ and, again, they go entangled too. In both this ‘isolation’ and ‘entanglement’ flowers joy. Those who advocate a ‘communal’ divide between the two, my appeal goes to them, to stop from hoisting these ‘class banners’ thus standing on the way of the creative streams only as a nuisance at the cost of peace. (Written to Dhurjoti Prasad Mukhopaddhay on 8 Oct. 1937).
I am inclined to equate the daytime with the Western music, a big medley of harmonized music and mal-music clubbed up in bits and pieces, and the night with our Indian music, an immaculate solemnity of unpolluted pathos. Both move us, though paradoxically. But what to do? There is an inherent contradiction in Nature, with splits between the King and Queen, day and night, varied and homogenous, spatial and infinite. We Indians live in Night’s domain. We are obsessed by the indivisible and eternal. Ours is a solo in solitude. Europe’s is the song for the public place. Our song transcends the listeners beyond the boundary of their daily weal and woe to transport them to a solitary land of recluse, whereas European music dances one variously through the endless ups and downs of life.
[Selaidah (now in Bangladesh). Chhinapatra (=stray letters) 10 Aug. 1894]
You were talking about senility of Hindustani music. What happened is, it has turned classic, which means an immaculate perfection, steadfast in format. Such fulfillment is suicidal. Fulfillment, along with accomplishment brings stagnation. But this is a stumbling block which can never crave liberation of art. So, you’ll find in history that catastrophe occurs when our fastidiousness beguiles us to this classicist archaism.
Originally published in the Bulletin (May 2010) of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
Translation by the author.
References and Source
The January-June 2003 issue of “Shrayan” a compilation from Tagore’s letters and diaries. by the editor of the magazine Mr. Pathik Basu.