by Rahul KumarJan 16, 2023
In the last month of 2021, the Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru, India, presented a three-day long digital festival titled Art Is Life: SoundFrames. The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music, Boston and was aimed at accessing and inspiring music-loving audiences, in a show that conflated the enjoyment of music and art. MAP is dedicated to making art and culture accessible while showcasing a wide range of styles, mediums and forms of contemporary and historical avenues. The digital programme presented over 25 events including concerts, performances, panel discussions, workshops on songwriting and sound therapy, film screenings and visual exhibitions. The festival included the practice of more than 65 carefully curated artists from across the globe. This included an exciting list of artists like Grammy winner Ricky Kej, Ambi and Bindu Subramaniam of SubraMania, Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar and others. The Berklee Indian Ensemble and Women of the World were also seen in concert during this festival. Art Is Life: SoundFrames was hosted entirely online from December 3-5, curated by Sadhana Rao.
Kamini Sawhney, the Director at MAP, spearheaded the project. She has a keen interest in art and music, supplemented this sound festival with an online visual exhibition titled Sights and Sounds, which strived to connect the threads which tie together music and art history. In this effort, MAP worked in tandem with BrandMusiq, a Mumbai-based studio. The studio has engaged various industries worldwide, from Indian brands such as Zomato and HDFC Bank to international brands such as Mastercard. The result was a showcase of images, each of which was shared with a unique composition crafted by BrandMusiq. Rajiv Raja, founder of BrandMusiq, spoke with STIR about this special project.
Raja shared with us their process of approaching this task telling us, “After having designed the unique sound of MAP, which represents the brand’s persona (Avatar) and key emotions (Rasas), we were very excited to tackle the unique challenge of creating a musical response to the six artworks of various mediums selected by MAP. At Brandmusiq, we always use a strategic approach to sound. We identified the rasas evoked by each piece and made sure to express them in every composition while also subtly infusing MAP's MOGO (musical logo). With the theory of rasas in mind, we commissioned a diverse range of musicians to respond to each artwork in a spontaneous outburst of creativity."
Raja continues to tell us more about the way the BrandMusiq drew inspiration in their musical response to each image handpicked from the MAP collection. He says, “We drew our inspiration from the artwork itself by identifying the rasas conveyed and incorporating the historical and cultural influences of the piece. In Indian aesthetics and performing arts, 'Rasa' refers to the emotional essence expressed in any artistic work."
Raja gives an example of the team's approach saying, “At first, the painting by Ram Kumar evokes fiery imagery and a sense of bhaya (fear) and raudra (anger). However, there is also a sense of karuna (compassion), which finally leads to shanta (peace). We conveyed this with two flutes in a ferocious jugalbandi(musical duel) culminating in a sublime release. The animal hide puppet of Hanuman, 'Anjaneya', elicited rasas of hasya (playfulness), adbhuta (surprise), as well as veera (courage). Staying true to its roots, we wanted it to have the sound of folk music and puppet shows.” He concludes by saying, “Each track was crafted carefully to add a different dimension to the perception of the artworks, thus creating a unique sonic interpretation while communicating the values and essence of MAP”.
A digital musical experience comes with a unique set of challenges as we are used to experiencing sound and music in a physical environment. This is a rather daunting task to take on, considering sceptical audiences, albeit important for a world that is slowly approaching a deeper understanding of silicon-based life. However, MAP successfully constructed an engaging and exciting itinerary that was interactive, immersive and informative.
Sawhney explains the process saying, “Building relationships in the digital world has been a whole new experience. Often, we are interacting and collaborating with people we have not met before and it’s a new way of working. We had multiple interactions with our collaborators, the Berklee College of Music in Boston, before arriving at the final concept of the festival. The challenges of a digital festival are also numerous, including technical glitches, internet connectivity issues, and even coordination issues as a team. With the planning and coordinating of the performances and sessions being completely digital, there were naturally several delays that we had to endure. However, the opportunities are also immense with a digital festival. The wide access that the digital realm provides is unparalleled. It has given us the opportunity to reach out to people all over the world, and from all walks of life. We hope to continue reaching more and more people, and especially those who have not had prior exposure to the arts."
The Sights and Sounds exhibition continues to be available on the MAP website for viewers across the world.