Arts Education

Grant Period: Three Years

Founded in 1989, Brhaddhvani is a Chennai-based institution dedicated to research and training in Carnatic music. Unlike many other institutions of music education, Brhaddhvani has emphasised integrative and interdisciplinary approaches to music education. Brhaddhvani’s founder, Dr Karaikudi Subramanian, is a ninth generation Veena player hailing from the illustrious family of Karaikudi Vinai Sambasiva Iyer. A respected musician and teacher, Dr Subramanian developed and formalised a new method of notation that forms the basis of a professional music education programme called Correlated Objective Music Education and Training (COMET).  

Enhancing music education through the use of technology, COMET is premised on the svarasthana notation, as against the conventional svara notation, which is mnemonical. Svarasthana is descriptive and better represents the details of a piece of music. This system of notation facilitates musical transcription and, alongside the technology-aided new graphic notation called Emotional Graphic Representation (EGR), is especially popular with young learners. The notation introduces more effective methods of instruction and self-learning as students gain a better understanding of the raga by being able to scrutinise the structure of the raga itself, and compositions in the raga. Moreover, COMET’s notational system allows more people to propagate and appreciate Carnatic music. Brhad-Poornam, Brhaddhvani's music education programme for school children, uses this holistic approach to music to enhance memory, coordination and creativity in children. The use of the COMET methodology has imparted to children with differing levels and abilities, the capacity to sing and perform while understanding musical principles. Since the svarasthana notation is also a unique mode of transcribing music, it serves the purposes of systematic documentation. The COMET system has been tested by Brhaddhvani to notate complex musical forms like Sopanam and melodic genres like padams and javalis.

Brhaddhvani began offering COMET as a three-year, professional music education programme in September 2003. This intensive course introduces students to the fundamentals of Carnatic music and is the equivalent of a Bachelors degree in music. The undergraduate programme comprehensively combines research, documentation, archiving and recording methodologies with teaching, self-learning, and performance. Classes focus on elements that are common to all forms and styles of music. After three years, the student is equipped to specialise further in Carnatic music, or to take up any other form of music for further study. The postgraduate programme offers specialisation in performance and technique, and requires students to demonstrate interest and creativity in research, teaching, improvisation and composition. This advanced two-year course is the equivalent of a Masters degree in music. Students specialising in performance are expected to present a full-length concert. Since the programme has a high faculty-student ratio, each student, in collaboration with a faculty advisor, can tailor the programme to suit his/her interests and strengths.

COMET students can avail of the institution’s optimal recording facilities and equipment, and an extensive library of rare recordings in digital format for learning and professional purposes. COMET combines aspects of traditional gurukula approach to learning with elements of a modern institutional system of music education. The IFA grant will enable Brhaddhvani to offer COMET as a full-fledged professional music education programme, and use it to develop and conduct other programmes that boost fundraising. Brhaddhvani will design customised courses for international students, foundation courses for local students, courses for advanced learners through the Internet, and Kids’ COMET targeting school children. Other fundraising activities will include two benefit concerts annually featuring popular musicians, training programmes for music teachers and a membership drive. The grant will also support marketing consultancy costs.