From the Jacket
Two particular years, quite wide apart, are special in Dr. Sushil Kumar Saxena’s career as an author: 1967 and 2009. The first saw the appearance of his book Studies in the Metaphysics of Bradley, in the prestigious Muirhead Library series of philosophical works (George Allen and Unwin, London; and Humanities Press, New York); and the second may be said to herald the dawn of a quite new discipline, a truly contemporary aesthetics of Hindustani Music - through his pioneering work Hindustani Music and Aesthetics Today, brought out jointly by Sangeet Natak Akademi and Hope India Publications.
After his retirement (in 1986) as a Professor from the University of Delhi, Dr Saxena (b. 1921) has published five more books on Hindustani music, rhythm and Kathak dance; and one that bespeaks his deep interest in philosophy of religion, namely, Ever Unto God: Essays on Gandhi and Religion (Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1988).
Dr. Saxena has received several honours, the latest among them being the Padma Bhushan and a Fellowship from Sangeet Natak Adademi, both in 2008. This book may well be expected to interest one and all, if only because of the diversity of its content and the way it has been presented.
It has something of value for lovers of both contemporary and traditional thinking on the arts. Essays on.
“Aesthetic Concepts” and “The Aesthetic Attitude” relate explicitly to present-day aesthetics; and the one on “Rasa Theory” may well be able to provide some new insights to those who are not averse to looking anew at this impressive foray of traditional Indian thinkers into the region of aesthetics.
However, the essay which is most likely to draw and hold readers’ attention because of the tantalizing appearance, so to say, of its very subject is the one on “Music and Silence”. Very few aestheticians have written on its so far; and nowhere, except in this book, is the reference all along to Hindustani music. Nor has our rhythm ever been written on in the way it appears in this book, in terms of the following essays: “Hindustani Rhythm and Aesthetic Theory” and “Hindustani Rhythm and an Aesthetical Issue”.
As for the essay on Attenborough’s classic film Gandhi, it may well make readers realize, in happy wonderment, how much they failed to mark when they saw it. Indeed, there is no reason why analytic writing on art should not make us ever more sensitive to the numberless creative devices it employs with delightful effect.
This little preface is at once a double delight. It enables me, first, to express my gratitude to one who deserves it; and secondly, to assure readers, just as happily, that the pages that follow present a good deal of such varicoloured and (I hope) sensible material — and in such a way — that poring over them is likely to be not only pleasurable all along, but a vehicle of some new insights, if only where hard analytic thinking is buttressed with apt references to details of fact. This is perhaps truer of the essays on “Music and Silence", “Attenborough's ’Gandhi"', and the “Rasa Theory" than of the rest. However, the remaining five too are essays in the way of our present- day scholarly concern with the arts which is philosophic in two clear ways. It abstains from glib generalizations and is specially keen on clarity of thinking, and hence also on a very watchful use of language, without being indifferent to the evidence of actual art and artistic practice. Here, I may refer specially to my two essays on Hindustani rhythm, “Aesthetic Theory and Hindustani Rhythm" and “Hindustani Rhythm and an Aesthetical Issue", which are related alike to contemporary aesthetics and aestheticians. Instead of merely appealing to our long tradition of solo tabla—playing, the first one argues, at fair length, why rhythm may be regarded as an independent art even from the viewpoint of current aesthetic thinking, and the second one is just as reasoned a protest against the view that the time that we find in music cannot be regarded as sui generis.
All this, however, is attributable not only to my own interest in how contemporary aesthetics could be fairly related to Hindustani sangeet, but to Mr. Abhijit Chatterjee's standing invitation to keep contributing to the journal which he edits for Sangeet Natak Akademi, namely, Sangeet Natak — at vilambit pace, to be sure — but so meticulously that the off—prints which I have all along received are not only good to look at, but also impressively free from printing mistakes, and have sometimes duly shown a needful, gentle chiselling, so to say, of my original writing.
It is this editorial hospitality, covering a period of about twenty-five years, which has enabled me to think out the way to a quite new discipline, namely, a truly contemporary aesthetics of Hindustani sangeet. Mr. Chatterjee himself is not quite aware of the value of the impetus he has given me. But I see it clearly that it has been of great help to me not only generally, but in providing a fair part of the present content of the book. So the dedication it carries is surely not a mere ritual. Nay, it epitomizes gratitude.
However, what lends value to a book is not its content alone. Its look also counts, and here I feel indebted not only to Mr. Vijay Iain who has designed the jacket with his customary finesse, but to Mr. Susheel K. Mittal of D.K. Printworld who has taken pains to minimize the number of printing errors and to choose fonts which are not only easy on the eye but good to look at.
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