Sunday, June 7, 2009

Book Three: The Music Room, A Memoir

Three weeks and three books -- this is working!

I just finished The Music Room: A Memoir by Namita Devidayal, a book I recommend to all with any interest in music. Devidayal is trained as a classical singer in India but now works as a journalist. Her memoir takes us inside the culture surrounding classical music in India (not the same "classical music" usually thought of in Western culture) and focuses in particular on her teacher, Dhondutai.

The strength of the book lies in the first part where we not only learn about her reluctant training (born in 1968, Devidayal experienced the pull of modernity while also training), but a great deal about Indian classical music and the history of the music. She explains why such teaching cannot be done by books, and thus the lineage of teachers is important. If you are not familiar with the music be sure to search (where else) YouTube for some examples. We learn about ragas and the importance of what is not heard as well as what is heard. It also shows the sacrifices artists make in order to pursue their art.

The book gets lost a bit when it moves from memoir to history as she explores her teacher's guru, Kesarbai Kerkar. Music historians will be interested in the behind-the-scenes stories, but I was anxious to get back to Devidayal and how she continues to incorporate music into her life. But the book succeeds on several fronts: exposing people to the world of Indian classical music, showing the dedication required for mastering an art, revealing daily life for a range of Indian people, and teaching a bit of music theory and music history.

Reading Challenges

This was a tough week for me to read. I'm a serious Detroit Redwings fan and the Stanley Cup finals are going on, so I had to watch that. Plus, two nights of meetings for the local school district made other days longer. Did I mention it was nice outside? The days are getting longer, my nine-year-old is out of school and staying up longer, and my reading time is shortening. Is this complaining? No, just stating the challenges. But I've still managed to do it.

My focus has been to break all books into five nights of reading, but this week I read something every night just to keep up. I think if I pulled this off this week, I'm looking good for other weeks (I know, I just cursed myself).

Next up?

My Antonia by Willa Cather. Cather is one of my favorite writers (I have a lot of them) and I have read this before. I'm not trying to cheat by rereading novels, since anything I read more than ten years ago is pretty much gone from memory. Okay, anything since yesterday is pretty much gone, but that is not the point! I've been wanting to go back to this again since both my wife and I love it. And since this week is our 24th wedding anniversary, I'll read it in honor of her! How is that for love. Doubt it would count as a gift, but...

Complete side comment here, but I should note that my wife (then girlfriend) and I were introduced to Willa Cather in my freshman English class named O Pioneers after the Cather novel. Now I teach English 113 -- how about that for a complete circle.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Derek, I joined your blog. Dawn told me about it so thought it would be fun and interesting to keep up with. Your reading tastes are different than mine, but the love of books is the same no matter what your choices are. Looking forward to more of the same. Aunt Lynda