A Study on the Changing Trends in Classical Carnatic Music Teaching and Learning Practices in the Digital Age

Srivaralaxmi. V (Ph.D. Research Scholar)

Email: keyboardmaya@gmail.com

Dr.P.Uma Maheswari (Associate Professor)

Email: umarisvan@gmail.com

Department of Media Sciences, Anna University, Chennai

Abstract

India is renowned for its deep cultural heritage and timeless morals. Every culture or art form here adheres to age-old traditions. Indian classical music was taught using the “Gurukul” method for a very long time. The Gurukula mode of instruction was gradually turned into institutional instruction as a result of evolution. The method that Carnatic music was taught, sung, and transmitted has taken on a new dimension as a result of technological advancement. Singers and teachers that specialize in classical music are showing their online presence on social media. Most sessions were moved to an online format, particularly during the 2019 pandemic. The post-pandemic boom was brought forth by online courses, digital performances, and quick films on social media. The study applies the Uses and Gratification theory and the Technology Acceptance Model to examine the evolving trends in classical Carnatic music instruction and learning. 20 classical music teachers and 100 students studying classical Carnatic music participated in the survey. This descriptive self-administered survey questionnaire primarily focuses on factors such as software usability, understandability, teacher-student relationships, student connectedness, social media presence, desire to study in a live or online setting, benefits and drawbacks of online music classes, and the teaching strategies used. Young classical singers have established online profiles and gain satisfaction quickly from posting on social media. The results of the study reveal that involving the hybrid mode of learning and teaching with both online and live sessions will enhance productivity and motivate the learners and it is also evident that technology and social media provide a great platform for budding musicians to showcase their talent. The quality of the music is not hampered much and it solely depends on the individual’s involvement towards the art form. Though there are minor drawbacks like technical glitches, time lag, connectivity issues, and usability comfort, advancements in technology are certainly a boon for Carnatic music practitioners if it is used productively to enhance themselves and the art.

Keywords: online teaching, social media, music, pandemic, music learning

How to cite this paper: Srivaralaxmi, V and P. Uma Maheswari, 2024. “A Study on the Changing Trends in Classical Carnatic Music Teaching and Learning Practices in the Digital Age.” Sangeet Galaxy 13(1): 20-33. www.sangeetgalaxy.co.in.

Introduction:

Music is an integral part of our lives, which a majority of the population appreciates and enjoys. A few decades earlier, this particular genre of traditional Carnatic music was practiced and appreciated only by a niche population. But as days passed, it has come to have a wider reach with the audience and is now recognized on a global platform. Musical education in general means, imparting the knowledge of voice, tune, pitch, scale, rhythm, and various other characteristics of music to the student. During the olden times, Carnatic music lessons were taught under the Gurukul system. Then gradually the institutional system of learning took place and now it has moved on to digital learning and one-to-one in-person classes. For example, through internet applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp video call, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, etc., music classes are conducted for students irrespective of their physical location (Joshi, A. 2021). Especially after the Coronavirus pandemic, when online platforms took center stage as far as communication went, this mode of musical learning has also become familiar and recurrent.

            Performing in front of the audience is considered as the most prestigious achievement in the music learning process. Beginners, intermediate learners and experts get varied platforms to showcase their talent. In particular, performing during the December music season is considered the highest level of showcasing one’s talent. Due to the pandemic (Saha, K., & Dr Kumar, S. 2023), there was a great hit in live performances initially. In the later part of the lockdown, the concert organizers developed various innovative concepts in conducting Carnatic music shows through online platforms. Facebook and Instagram Live concerts were at their peak during the pandemic and they continue because it helped cut costs for venues among other logistically beneficial features. It also has its advantages and disadvantages because of the involvement of technology. One major disadvantage is, the main motivation for performers is witnessing the audience cheer for them. That is missing in this mode of concert; but on the other hand, a lot of budding artists get ample opportunity to perform and established artists were in constant touch with their audience and kept the pulse going. Ideally, musicians should be able to adapt themselves to the changing scenario during a pandemic situation so that their livelihood doesn’t get affected (Malsawmi, H., Lalchuangkima, R., Lalmuanzuali, & Hlondo V, 2022).

            The study will give us a brief idea about how technology has evolved and what changes it has caused concerning the traditional form of Carnatic music practice. The impact digital platforms have on today’s music learning and teaching has developed an interest in conducting this study and knowing in detail the teacher-student relationship, teaching parameters introduced to conduct effective online classes and digital presence.

Objectives of the study:

  1. To understand the impact the advancement in all forms of technological assistance has caused in the learning and teaching process of Carnatic music among the practices.
  2. To understand if there is any dilution in the core traditional value of this form of art due to global dissemination.
  3. To understand the pedagogy the teachers are using to teach through online mode and what alterations they have made to keep the students motivated to practice Carnatic music. 
  4. To understand whether social media presence is truly adding value to the growth of budding musicians.

Literature review:

The evolving breakthroughs in information and technology are set to usher in a second industrial revolution. The new information forces are data, computers, connectivity, and technology, and they are not made of iron or coal. The future is entirely dependent on the digital world and the effects it will have on economic, political, and social well-being (Crow, B & Longford, G, 2000). The usage of information and communication technology will bring a great change in the learning environment and will be instrumental in providing a progressive learning process for students to self-direct and achieve immense knowledge in a constructive way (Volman, M & Eck, E. V. 2001). The advantages of pursuing music through the online mode include saving on travel time, approachability of teachers from any part of the world, flexibility in timings, accommodativeness in one-to-one classes and many more. With the advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the dependency on time, venue, and transport has been reduced. Normal people who reside in a developing society easily connect and communicate with each other irrespective of their physical presence (Larsen, J., Urry, J., & Axhausen, K. 2006). The main disadvantage would be losing on the in-person live sessions with the Guru which is one of the most important and aesthetic aspects when it comes to learning Carnatic music. We can go to the extent of saying that learning a couple of classes through the online mode would yield the same result and feedback as one class in person.

            Musical technology broadly means a situation in which electronic technology is employed to control and process musical information. This development marks a very significant point in music education (Pitts, A., & Kwami, R. M. 2002). When we look into music composing and learning, back in those days, it was through writing down the notations; before that, it was directly taught to the students, where sometimes, some of the detailing was found missing. Now since everything is computerized, any composition can be recorded and the notations are saved in the cloud or shared in a bigger forum or printed to keep it intact for years together. Applications like tanpura droid, metronome, midi piano, geo sherd, drum beats and many more aid in stimulating beginners’ interest in learning music. These have also replaced the manual tanpura or the metronome to an extent, which is again a drawback when considering the traditional & cultural angle of this form of music.

            According to Albirini, the attitude of teachers towards technology and computer also directly relate to the teacher’s competency level in handling the technology. The teacher can consider being open enough to accept the new experience and also try to implement the changes for the betterment of the students (Albirini, A. A. 2006). Loveless shared the idea that the teachers’ perceptions of ICT are influenced by their participation in the wider social and cultural spheres which in turn is reflected in their acceptance of the usage of technology for their educational practices (Loveless, A. M. 2003). Mooij states that, technology can help bring in a gradual transformation in the educational practices and at the same time, it can provide vital feedback to improve the teaching pedagogy or process to improve the education system. ICT can guide us with various methods to improve the curricular system such as bringing in new concepts, facilitating instructions for people living in different places and time zones, recording and evaluating progress and assisting in the improvement, and facilitating appropriate information when it is necessary and improving teacher-student relationship (Mooij, T. 2004).

CriteriaPositive (in %)Negative (in %)Mixed (in %)
Understandability100  
Network connectivity37.512.550
Ease of technology usage100  
Learning materials100  
Student’s connectivity 100 
Culture and values-based71.4 28.6
Self-promotion through social media71.414.314.3
Advantages of online mode701020
Disadvantage of online mode304030
Progress502525
Experience57.114.328.6
Preferred mode of learning5012.537.5

            Judson suggests that just a positive attitude towards accepting ICT and learning will not be appreciated; there is a small difference between beliefs and the actual scenario. The teacher or the student not only shows positivity towards accepting the technology but also tries to employ it in their day-to-day activities and experience the actual outcomes of using ICT (Judson, E. 2006). Learning music is generally based on traditional practice, intuition, and common sense. Teachers practice what they were taught by their tutors in the age-old traditional method and try to adapt the same and pass it on to their students without letting go of their significant traditional method so that, it is not just the music that gets communicated but also the cultural significance hidden behind it reaches the next generation (Triantafyllaki, A. 2005). Driving an E-Pedagogy is all about formulating an effective theory that facilitates the learning environment that uses technology and internet access. Personalized e-learning is the tailoring of the method to match the needs of the learners and enable them to effectively understand and learn both the technology and the education curriculum (Kumar, V. 2007). It should create a connection between the learner’s maturity and the technologies (Carvalho, S. H. M., & Scavardos, A. 2014).

Methodology and theoretical framework:

A descriptive self-administered survey questionnaire was circulated through online mode to the respondents who were categorized into two major sections composed of Carnatic music students and Carnatic music teachers. The major parameters considered for studying include understandability, network connectivity, ease of technology usage, learning abilities, personal, culture and values, progress, experience, advantages, and disadvantages. In addition to the survey, expert opinions were taken to give us an idea of how this mode of learning is helping both ends.

            When users are faced with new technology, the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) argues that several factors impact their decision about how and when they will utilize it. Perceived Usefulness (PU) and Perceived Ease of Use (PEOU) are important decision-making criteria. Fred Davis defined PU as the degree to which a person believes that employing a specific system will improve job performance. TAM 2 was proposed by Venkatesh and Davis (2000), and TAM 3 was established by Venkatesh and Bala (2008), who combined TAM 2 and the model of factors of perceived ease of use. This model explains the four major categories (i) the individual differences, (ii) system characteristics, (iii) social influence, and (iv) determinants of PU and PEOU. We have also used Blumler and Katz’s Uses and Gratification theory to find out how mass communication is useful for providing instant gratification for users. There are a few notable categories that define the users, there are as follows: cognitive needs, affective needs, personal integrative needs, social integrative needs, and tension-free needs. Badrul H.Khan’s eight dimensions of the e-learning framework have also helped us in formatting the data analysis and driving the required conclusion for the study (Badrul, H. Khan, 2010).

DATA collection and analysis:

SURVEY analysis

(i) Changing trend in classical music teaching due to innovation in technology- A study from the perspective of learners

Students who are currently learning music through online platforms were asked these questions through a survey format and their responses are recorded to find the current expectations and experience in online music learning sessions. These criteria were framed with a combination of Badrul H Khan’s model, Uses and Gratification theory and the referred literature reviews to help us find accurate results.

Interpretation:

As per the acquired data, students’ approach towards online classes is more positive and they are very comfortable using the technology and learning various software/applications. Students also prefer a combination of live classes and online classes so that they can stay connected to their teacher and their peers. This will improve their interest in learning music and inculcate competitiveness in them for their improvement and betterment.

(ii) Changing trend in classical music teaching due to innovation in technology- A study from the perspective of trainers

            Carnatic music teachers who are currently teaching music through an online platform were asked these questions through a survey format and their responses are recorded to find the current expectations and experience in online music teaching sessions. These criteria were framed with a combination of Badrul H Khan’s model, Uses and Gratification theory and the referred literature reviews to help us find accurate results.

CriteriaPositive (in %)Negative (in %)Mixed (in %)
Network connectivity54.518.227.3
Ease of technology usage81.818.2 
Learning materials90.99.1 
Culture and values-based100  
Self-promotion through social media72.79.118.2
Advantages of online mode8713 
Disadvantage of online mode101080
Experience551035
Preferred mode of teaching36.418.245.5

 Interpretation:

The survey has given us an idea about what the music trainers who are teaching both online and live classes experience while conducting online sessions. The majority of the trainers are very positive towards handling online sessions except a very few who prefer only live classes. Their responses suggest that mixed sessions are very productive and help build a personal rapport with the students. Online sessions and live sessions can go hand in hand so that students can interact with each other and the teachers get to cultivate the traditional classroom values and culture since music is not just singing songs but is also a discipline that is taught along with lessons.

Expert opinion:

We were able to get the opinions of a few experts who are involved in online teaching sessions and organizers who have organized concerts through social media platforms. The major criteria that were taken into consideration include:

CriteriaExpert Opinion
Teacher-student relationshipThe teacher-and-student relationship is the only factor that needs more care when it comes to online teaching. More than learning music, values, and discipline play a vital role in this process. But otherwise, online music sessions are helping save more time and we can also conduct more classes irrespective of the duration and time slots. It enables more flexibility for the teacher and the student – Nandhini Venkatraman (Teacher and performer)
Teaching methods adoptedThe main advantage of teaching online is we can share a lot of references expose the students to global music and allow them to participate in online competitions and concerts. This in turn develops interest for them to learn and be more responsible towards pursuing music. But one major aspect that has comparatively taken a back seat is the classroom atmosphere and in-person communication between the teacher and the students. Music is not learned just by hearing the songs but by observing the other students perform and sing in the class. The class interaction and the competitive spirit is the missing factor – Maya (Teacher and performer)
The cultural and traditional valuesLearning music is not only learning songs and performing. It involves a particular way we need to present ourselves during concerts and classes. Dress code, timing, presentation skills, understanding what the teacher says, patience, and perseverance are required to learn this art. These can be cultivated in a live class very easily compared to online classes. But when it comes to flexibility, online classes enable us to contact our students and connect with them in a closer way. We can clarify their doubts instantly through WhatsApp voice notes and video recordings and help them anytime – P Ganesh (Teacher and performer)
Technical glitchesWhen it comes to online classes, managing the technical glitches is a challenge as the internet connectivity on both ends needs to be perfect and uninterrupted. This sometimes hinders the flow of teaching and learning. Otherwise, a mixed model of live and online classes will be more helpful for the students to understand the nuances in critical rhythm patterns and advanced level learning – Ranjani Ramachandran (Online Music organiser)
Flexibility and availabilityThe usual live classes generally work on specific timings and schedules. But in online, the availability of the student and teacher is flexible enough for both of them to reschedule according to their convenience. The commitment to a class is stricter when there are live classes and it is slightly less when it comes to online schedule, but it is more convenient – Rohit Prasad (Teacher and performer).
Social media presenceWith the advent of social media, students get to showcase their talents immediately and this encourages them to learn more. They can collaborate with other singers, learn global music, widen their area of music learning and get exposed to a lot broader range of music genres – Gayatri (Teacher and performer)
Factors to improve Traditional live classes have a certain format like dress code, punctuality, and class flow which has been followed for many years. Since online education is slowly getting into practice, the traditional aspects like sitting position, self-presentation, way of talking, expectation level, etc. have a different standard set. Since this is a music of traditional values and customs, decor and presentation have to become a part so that how this music is taught stays intact in all aspects. Also, we can send more lesson plans, recordings, notes, and references to encourage and motivate the students to learn and stay in touch with the traditional music – Ragasudha (Founder, Swarna Geetham Music School)

III

Results and findings

  • Teaching methods and parameters

                                                                           FIG 1

Explanation for figure 1

            The following materials can be sent by the teacher to enable more effective learning for the students –

i)  Short audio-video recordings

ii) reference links and notes and

iii) schedule a timely assessment plan for the students to learn the specific lesson and present.

This can be a two-way communication, where the students can also send the recordings of the lessons learned and get them corrected now and then. This will prevent them from learning in the wrong way and facilitate more fruitful learning during class time.

(ii)

Suggestion to plan an online group class

                                                                        FIG 2

Explanation for figure 2

While conducting online classes, it gets very chaotic when everyone sings or speaks together. To enable easy learning, each student can be given a specific time slot and while this student sings others can either practice their lessons or listen to the singing student. This way, one or two rounds can be conducted. If a common lesson is taught, the teacher can teach for the group and make the students sing one by one. In this method, all students will get equal opportunity and their doubts or lessons can also be learned with clarity.

  • Hybrid method of learning

FIG 3

Explanation for figure 3

Conducting online classes during the pandemic was very helpful for the students to continue their musical education. But post pandemic, conducting few sessions online and a few sessions live would help the students learn better. Online does save the travel time but including live sessions especially for music classes will help the students understand the intricate nuances and inculcate the traditional values and will promote competitiveness among them. In-person contact with the teacher and their peers will have a direct impact in their personal growth too.

Conclusion:

This research aims at providing a detailed analysis of the changing patterns in music teaching and learning. The survey conducted based on the theories and models referred to give us a clear idea about how the current generation is approaching music learning. A combination of live and online classes can give both the student and the teacher a healthy atmosphere to continue the process of music learning without altering the traditional values of it. It is also evident that social media provides instant gratification for students to showcase their talent through online platforms. This encourages and motivates them to learn music and enhances their presentation skills. Young musicians who do not find a stage to perform utilize social media platforms to create visibility which helps them connect with the audience and build their identity. This helps them in boosting their career as a musician and achieve their goal of becoming successful performers. When it comes to teaching and learning, the quality of music solely lies with the teacher and student, and the medium through which it is taught doesn’t affect it directly, but on the other hand, technical glitches and interruptions in the network might affect the creativeness and the flow of the class. This becomes one of the major disadvantages of online learning; however, with the tremendous growth in online models and teaching, learning music online is certainly a boon for this generation and future generations.