Pearls as bricks


Datta: what have we given?

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed


Curation  is primary directed by strong aesthetic sensibility. Serving others has also motivated people. Both, to collect and share, are essential elements of human gregariousness. Technology has empowered almost all fields of human enterprise. Just a decade back, while collecting had its own difficulties, sharing was  equally tedious.

The small foot-print audio format , mp3, changed it all. Enthusiasts, even to the day, are busy converting their audio collections to this format. Soon enough, video compression allowed easy exchange. Free repositories grant  users access to store and share.

Like so many other activities of your demanding expertise, curation too has changed due to easier access. It is interesting, how the personal, idiosyncratic generalist’s effort contributes to more material being accessible than bodies of dedicated expertise could do in past. Authority has been eased out, to ends good and bad.

Murad Lyallpuri’s Channel on YouTube has 693 video clips. Murad, assistant professor in medicine and a violinist, who in his own words, is “a simple person leading this life as it has been gifted to me to make this world a peaceful place for everyone including innocent animals”. You guessed it right, he favours vegetarianism strongly and quotes everyone from Shaw, Schopenhauer, Montaigne, Tolstoy to Rabindranath Tagore in support:

“We manage to swallow flesh only because we do not think of the cruel and sinful thing we do — we persist in throttling our feelings simply in order to join others in preying upon life, we insult all that is good in us. I have decided to try a vegetarian diet.” Rabindranath Tagore

To highlight just a tiny aspect of public (open-source?) curation, the following remark from shreejogleakar  is cited:

Dear Muradbhai,
I am from Maharashtra, India. Never did I dream that I would find references to old Maharashtrian artistes like Shanta Apte etc on a channel owned by somebody from Pakistan !!! Hats off to you, your selection of songs AND your description of yourself. To tell you the truth, I am stunned to know that you advocate vegetarianism !!! Let us keep in touch.

Is not that one of the purported ideals of art: love and bonding? Purists may deny this or any propose to Art, but curation is free of such academic prohibitions. Murad has numerous old recordings in his collection. Listen to this one of Achhan Bai. The Chaiti was recorded in 1908.

Another music curator basuddin features the first Indian artiste to be recorded for  gramophone. You can listen to Gauhar Jan here. Along with abbreviated version (70 seconds)of recording, the curator has an interesting story to narrate.

The artist was a very famous dancing girl, and her voice was very sweet; although not for European ears. She agreed to a recording session for the handsome fee of 3,000 rupees. Such an artist was necessary in order to build a firm business foundation on the Indian scene, especially when several other German, French and American recording companies were also planning to capture the Asian market in general and the Indian market in particular.
At around 9.00 a.m. a young lady entered the studio with all her paraphernalia, including accompanists and relatives. Loaded fully with very expensive ornaments and jewelry, this 30 year old, fair, medium-built lady went onto the stage prepared for the recordings. Sarangi, harmonium, and tabla players began to tune their instruments. Gaisberg personally checked the equipment.
A thick wax master record was placed on the turntable rotating at 78 rpm. A huge recording horn was fitted on the wall behind her and close to her face, and she was asked to sing loudly into the horn. At the narrow end of the long horn a diaphragm fitted with a needle was connected to the recording machinery, with a needle placed on rotating disc for cutting the grooves. Gaisberg requested her to sing for three minutes and announce her name at the end of the recording.
At the end of the trial recording she announced – “My name is Gauhar Jan”. (sound clip – Bhairavi ) This announcement was necessary since the wax masters were sent to Hanover in Germany for pressing the records and the technicians would make proper labels and confirm the name by listening to these announcements at the end of the three minutes performance.

Another of her thumri (1905) has been shared by IMIRZAA and one curator has  made available a television report in Bangla on release of a book in English, My Name is Gauhar Jaan by Vikram Sampath.

Critics, museum and archiving experts provided semblance of order so that viewer/ listener/ reader may enjoy the work of art in context of a period or style. The need is again being felt today. Technology has proved competent in handling, storing, categorizing and retrieving the huge content stored in cyberspace. Content customization services like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora,, Pulse offer once again the necessary semblance of order but with subjectivity of consumer, not the expert. Soon, imaginative integration of Google +1 might provide a wider balance of multiple subjective choices.

String a necklace or pave the wall – choice is yours.


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