Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Fifth Symphony

Radiant beams shoot through this region's deep night, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy everything within us except the pain of endless longing—a longing in which every pleasure that rose up in jubilant tones sinks and succumbs, and only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope, and joy, tries to burst our breasts with full-voiced harmonies of all the passions, we live on and are captivated beholders of the spirits

E.T.A. Hoffman, German Music Critic

It was a just another Monday morning. I took a seat in the bus and plugged in my earphones. I scrolled down to find a track to start the day. My thumbs stopped at Beethoven’s fifth symphony. I was perhaps half sleepy. But the music woke me up from the slumber. By the end of the piece I felt something similar to what Hoffman has said in the quote above. I played it once more and felt different. I formed my own interpretation of the piece. Then, I felt that I should sit down and write a post about the same thought.

But one is not allowed to blurt out random stuff while talking about bigwigs like Beethoven. So I sat down and read some tedious articles talking about the first, second, third and fourth movements of the piece. Complex terms like Allegro Con Brio, Andante Con Moto, Scherzo Allegro and Allegro flashed in front of my eyes. I have always believed that music is beyond technicalities. So , I happily ignored that stuff. 

However, I learned about the association of victory or the ‘V’ symbol with the fifth symphony during the second world war. The Morse code for V (dit-dit-dit-dah) is apparently similar to the opening rhythm of fifth symphony. It was also amusing to know that the sixth and the fifth symphony premiered in the same performance. The sixth symphony was performed before the fifth!

My Interpretation

I feel that the course of Beethoven's fifth symphony is pretty much like life itself. It starts off with a bang. The noise, violence, wails pretty much resembles the initial rumblings in the symphony. It moves slowly and grows steadily, exploring the contours of music like a child exploring the world. It becomes more interesting and energetic in the next two minutes. That chunk of the piece is very similar to youthful energy of a young man. Somehow the musician faces a dilemma, like a mathematician struck in the middle of a tricky problem. At the end of the first half, there is a bit of struggle followed by a slump, somewhat resembling a mid-life crisis. The composer creates a bit of suspense, challenging the listener to guess the future course of the piece. And then it bounces back, like a triumphant warrior asserting his place on the battlefield. As it moves towards the end it becomes more contemplative and nostalgic. It waltzes with past memories, preferably the good ones (it might even have a few sad ones on the boundaries). It celebrates life and finally concludes gracefully with a sense of completion. 

Music can carry a story or a narrative within itself. Sometimes you can weave a narrative around a piece of music. You can build your own narrative around the fifth symphony. I think now would be a great time to sit back and enjoy this masterpiece again. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Attending Dr Abdul Kalam's Speech

I got up in the middle of the night and could not sleeep. For some reason I picked up my diary and started reading it. I found this entry and felt like sharing it. It is presented in toto.

JUNE 21, 2012

One evening I was just fiddling with Facebook. I got a call from an acquaintance. [He was Mr Ravish a physics professor in CMRIT, Bangalore. I used to discuss physics with him when he visited Tumkur] He asked me whether I wanted to listen to Dr. Abdul Kalam 's speech live. I said yes. Out of random altruistic motives I inquired if I could get another pass. I called up Sandeep and requested him to accompany me.

My fickle mindedness prompted me to quit the unwanted program from my itinerary. But still, I thought of giving it a try. 

Next day , I was slightly excited. I had no troubles in leaving my intern ( at the office of CETD Chief Engineer of Thermal Designs , KPCL ) a bit early. Sandeep kept me guessing about his location and willingness to attend the program. Wait ! I forgot to mention that the occasion was the convocation of a batch of students there. Around 700-800 students of their previous batch were receiving their degree.

I took the 503E bus to ITPL park area and had my lunch while travelling itself. The fare was more than that of B'lore Tumkur journey on a KSRTC bus. Damn BMTC's Volvos.  I saw lots of stuff outside. The customary window seat ! Haha. We passed the Army Public School,. NAL, HAL and a good number of malls.The journey took about two hours. I reached the place half an hour early i.e 2.30

Mr.Ravish had told me that  the gates would be closed by 3 PM sharp due to security reasons. So I pushed Sandeep to  reach the place as soon as possible. But still he managed to reach the venue at 3:15. Hmm ! We live in India.  The former President, Bharat Ratna , A.P.J.Abdul Kalam also didn't reach the place on time. 

An hour before that, I went and took a seat in the invitees area. Apparently it was for "special" invitees. [Ah ! the coded language]. There were a good number of north Indian "babes" managing the show at the venue. They were supposed to "escort" the guests of the evening.

Sandeep led me to an uncomfortable place ( right next to the loudspeaker). He made the customary philosophical statement about the excessive number of students opting for engineering and termed such colleges as factories. Like an icing on the cake , he added that he wanted to do something else in his life. ( Me : Bitch please !!) But I agreed silently that I too had such a thought in mind but had opted for this god damned course out of certain compulsions and external factors. However I have opportunity to correct myself at any point of time.

Then we had the American accented lady on the stage who introduced the people on stage in an unpleasant tone. She was on a high I guess. I would call it pompous and jingoistic tone. The principal looked like a gangster who accidentally got a PhD. 

CMRIT was a pucca gult organisation and family business. I felt like laughing my ass off when they were talking about getting a deemed university status. The only speech worth remembering was that of Dr.Kalam's.

He began by some of philosophically loaded poems that lacked poetic beauty or literary creativity. They were just oaths cut into some verses and renamed as a poem. He must give up that bad stuff as soon as possible.

He spoke about PURAs (Providing Urban Facilities in Rural Areas), one of his brain child projects. He was at his best when he spoke about science and engineering. He spoke about system integration and system design and the project he did in college. He reasoned as to how good research and good teaching could complement each other. Finally he concluded about how every individual needed to distinguish oneself through achievements and contribute to India.We ran off from that place as soon as the speech concluded.

I boasted about my experience with my family and relatives. But did not share the same with friends. However I rate this experience as one of the top 10 events in my life.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Red Signal
Her face is kinda pretty
Not sure if she is witty
Probably her keypad is qwerty
I'll make sure I'm not flirty

Lousy Afternoon
Ripples dying on a calm lake
In my dreams I touched a snow flake
It's hot in Chennai gimme a milkshake
It's a training session, please stay awake

A green patch in a barren land
A magic wand in a child's hand
Concert in a temple by a rock band
Rhymes typed by a bored hand

Breakfast Mantra
Oh ! Soft and round Vade
You can make or break my day
You take brief dips in the Sambar
I feel like eating you aur ek bar

Without colourful dreams, I refuse to sleep
Even if I drown in this madness, let it be deep
Spare me from treasures without battles
I doubt if I could rejoice in a love without foibles

That journey you don't remember
For you were in deep slumber
Not aware as to how I woke up in the end
Neither can I fathom how the hour hand managed  to bend