India spearheads global music-ecology project

‘prthivim dharmana dhrtam’ signifies Dharma as sustainer of the earth

As the World celebrates World Earth Day on April 22, Indian musician Chitravina N Ravikiran is galvanising artistic support for the planet. His brainchild, the Planet Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has brought together celebrated performers, orchestras and students (of diverse countries and systems of music) to record music aimed to highlight the pressing issue of global warming and climatic change. 

A number of celebrity artists from every part of the world as well as select orchestras have been involved in the PSO’s historic global audio recording project of the Climatrix Symphony, a 8-minute, 12-part, 72-scale piece that symbolizes the dissonant rapid changes in the earth’s climate everywhere.  While a number of them have sent their recordings, many are in the process of doing so, as a sign of solidarity with the international music community. 

Artists can participate by download score and a rough audio of the Climatrix Symphony from:  http://melharmonymusic.com/planetsymphony (Parts will be shared upon request.) Then they need to record 10-20 seconds (orchestras 15-30 seconds) of the music in any noise-free location including home/normal rehearsal spaces and email a Wav (16-bit, 44100 Hz) or high-quality MP3s to melharmonymusic@gmail.com.

Chitravina N Ravikiran, the founder of Melharmony, which is co-ordinating the effort, says that many eminent Indian artistes have already sent their recordings including danseuse Dr Vyjayantimala Bali, Bansuri player Pandit Ronu Majumdar, Mridangam Vidwan Karaikkudi Mani, Bickram Ghosh, Sitar Maestro Purybayan Chatterjee, Mandolin U Rajesh, Violinist M Chandrashekaran and noted film violinist V S Narasimhan.

Several other musicians including violinists A Kanyakumari, Embar Kannan, Akarai sisters, mridangam vidwan T V Gopalakrishnan are also participating in this project.

As the project gains momentum, it is interesting to see the various links between India’s music and her unique Dharmic view of ecology. It is imperative that the world is aware of India’s unique position on Sustenance and Sustainability, Dr Pankaj Jain, Associate Professor Department of Philosophy and Religion University of North Texas, has written in his book Dharma and Ecology of Indian Communities.

As “the dharmic Indic traditions have [inspired] Indians to limit their needs” (pg 120), dharma could “be developed as an alternative anthropological category to study Indic traditions [and] successfully applied as an overarching term for the sustainability of the ecology, environmental ethics, and the religious lives of Indian villagers” (pg 3), writes Dr Jain. Etymologically, Dharma is derived from Sanskrit dhr meaning to sustain, support, or hold. In the Vedas prthivim dharmana dhrtam signifies Dharma as sustainer of the earth.

N Ravikiran says the sukshmas of Dharma as a concept has been brought out by several of India’s great composers many of them describing God as embodiment of Dharma. “Our culture is very close to the nature. The Saptha Svaras are derived, even if they are not exactly, from the sounds of animal calls. Sa is peacock, Ri Rishabham is the bull, Ga is the Goat, Ma is the Heron bird, Pa is nightingale, Dha is Horse and Ni is elephant. This symbolising ways also helped as a pneumonic for children to visualise sounds with some animal or bird. More than that, the learning of music used to be very close to nature, mostly outdoors.”

His composition the Climatrix Symphony, which forms the basis of this project, is an 8 minute, 12 part, 72 scale composition. It was composed for a full orchestra of 100 members and was performed by an orchestra in Wisconsin. Says Ravikiran, “From the Indian classical perspective it covers all the 72 parent scales of Indian music. The twelve chakras or twelve movements in this composition could be symbolising the twelve months of the year. Within these 12, there are certain consonants parts and certain dissonant parts. So the symbolism here is that weather patterns are getting random and dissonant. The idea is to get everyone to start taking note of the changes in our planet so that there is a dialogue happening. They aim to send this to decision makers in different countries. If we are able to inspire the common man to take small steps to help ward off global warming,” its aim will be fulfilled.

Prof Pankaj S Joshi, an astrophysicist who specializes in compact objects such as black holes and currently a vice chancellor and founding director of the International Center for Cosmology at the Charusat University in Anand, India, supporting the project, spoke of the Butterfly effect in modern environmental sciences. “This means that if a butterfly flaps its wings here, there could be a storm created thousands of miles away. The effect can multiply, that is the idea. The problem is that the common man all over the world is not aware of the magnitude of the problem and so as a result we keep on doing what we are doing. But the problem is that suddenly we hear that the disease is in the third stage, the cancer is in the fourth stage and there is no going back. That is why I think this project is important. The art can sensitise the masses, while science provides the core facts. Their coming together can create a magical effect.”

Many of the Indian artistes spoken in support of the cause

Tabla Virtuoso Bickram Ghosh – https://www.facebook.com/Taalacharya/videos/2264740576898725/

Trilok Gurtu – https://www.facebook.com/emilija.kercan/videos/10157208556271031/

Ghatam Karthik – https://www.facebook.com/1046103862/videos/10217293495343172/

Karaikudi R Mani – https://www.facebook.com/bhargavi.balasubramanian/videos/10215495377189818/

Sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee – https://www.facebook.com/apoorva.ravindran/videos/2167050300040844/

Bansuri player Ronu Manjumdar – https://www.facebook.com/melharmonyfoundation/videos/2368870759813621/

Vaijayanti Mala Bali – https://www.facebook.com/ravikiranmusic/videos/10156903637390155/

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