Introduction

DEVOTIONAL GROUP SINGING

We live in a world of sound. Sound is believed to be the origin and basis of all creation. Many of the world religions and philosophies speak of the creation as originating from sound. Sacred Indian texts have for thousands of years taught that sound holds the key to the mysteries of the universe.

Scientists tell us that when the universe was created with the Big Bang, the single huge explosion created the sound, which even now reverberates as a backdrop to the entire cosmos. There can be sound even without the usual mediums of air, water or a physical matter.

Sound and Music

The Goddess of Learning, Sarasvati, is shown with the Veena in her hands; this symbolizes the importance attached to music in education. The Veena is the most ancient and developed musical instrument. Notations of the Vedic hymns were played on the Veena. Lord Shiva is shown with the percussion instrument, the Damroo, in his hand; the Damroo symbolizes rhythm, Sri Krishna Charmed his childhood friends and the Gopis, birds and beasts, with the enchanting tunes he played on the flute. Thus, since ancient times, music has been associated with religion, festivals and spirituality.

Music and other audible sound are an outpouring of a higher or cosmic sound- the Word OM- which is the source of all energy and matter. Sound is the cause and not the effect of all vibrations.

Music is sound, and that sound is a transformative force on several levels. It has been observed that as music changes, so too does the physical , mental, emotional and spiritual behavior of the human being. Music and sound are definitely believed to be ultimately capable even of creating and reshaping matter.

All music is sound but all sound is not music. The various vibrations, which constitute the sounds of a musical rendering, are all in a simple ratio. When the ratio is disturbed then the sound becomes unpleasant and is called noise; it is a cacophony of sounds.

Imagine for a moment that we are standing right in the middle of a busy market place. There are sounds of engines of cars and scooters, of horns blaring, of repair works on the roads and airplanes flying overhead, of constructions or demolition of buildings, of animals and shouting of hawkers. You realize that this is most irritable and exhausting. This cacophony of sounds is a very unpleasant mixture of vibrations. On the other hand, good sounds produced on an orchestra or a group of children singing in unison is exhilarating and enjoyable.

The Impact of Music

The effect of good music can be felt at three levels:

  • At the physical level, it promotes relaxation and refreshes the body. It promotes deep rhythmic breathing for good health;

  • At the mental level, it calms nerves and brings in quietness of the mind; and

  • At the spiritual level, good music develops intuition and devotion. It releases the energy of Love from within.

Today, some surgeons play music in operation theatres so that their patients become relaxed and feel comfortable. In fact, these surgeons even feel that they can perform operations more efficiently with music in the background.

Research was carried out on cancer patients in Mysore when they were exposed to light classical music during the early hours at dawn, and at dusk during sunset. Amazingly, it was recorded that these patients started showing improvement in health. The story of the Pied Piper of Hymlin forcefully conveys the impact of music even on small animals. In many countries, music is played during milking of cows to produce greater yields of milk.

Three essential components of good music should be well understood. These are Bhava, Raga and Taala. BHA-RA-T, that is India, is an embodiment of such good music, says Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Music has played an important role in the lives of the people of India from the times of the Sama Veda.

Bhava means to sing with full faith and depth of good, positive feeling, Raga means to sing the notes with particular tune and pitch, which is pleasant to the ears. Taala means to sing with a set rhythm, so that all who participate in this activity sing in harmony; hence the tempo should be neither too fast nor too slow.

Singing together

When all sing together in rhythm and in tune, with an understanding of the significance of the words uttered, there is a natural harmony between our thoughts, feelings and words. Many a times, clapping our hands in rhythm also enhances the effect.

Playing on instruments improves motor co-ordination. Children should be encouraged to play the string instruments such as sitar, violin or the sarod, the reed instruments such as the harmonium, or the wind instruments like the flute. Others may be encouraged to play percussion instruments like the tabla, mridangam or the drums.

It is a great help if the teacher has a basic knowledge of music- the different tunes, the pitch and vibrations, and the beats. She should know the song by heart. The teacher herself should join in the singing with full joy.

Silent sitting can be greatly promoted when soft instrumental music is played in the background. Music also helps creativity; hence, it can be used in art classes to express their feelings. Group singing should invariably be an integral part of the morning Assembly of all schools.

There are songs which generate self-confidence and will power; there are songs which encourage good citizenship and national unity; some songs are in praise of the nature while some others are devotional, directed towards God. The range is wide and diversified. A teacher should know which songs will have greater effect and are more appropriate for certain occasions.

[Adapted from : Towards Human Excellence, Book 3 – The Five Teaching Techniques]