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The Importance of Singing

a traditional Hindu tale, as told by Ali Akbar Khan

One time a powerful and wealthy king wanted to learn sculpting, so he went to a sculptor of repute. "I am a great admirer of your work," he said, and several of his retinue murmured and nodded in agreement. "I wish to learn this great art."

"Yes, I can teach you, " said the artist. "Let me see some of your painting." .

"No, no, not painting," said the king. "Sculpture. I want to learn the art of sculpting."

"Of course, of course. But painting is the preliminary training for the visual arts. Let me see some of your work."

"Well, I have not painted at all."

"Hm, I see. Well, I can teach you that, I suppose. Let me see you dance."

"Dance? What has dance got to do with it?"

"Surely one who wished to portray the human form would have studied its graceful movement."

"I do not dance."

The sculptor was taken aback. "Very well, I will teach you some dance, also. Bring your instrument."

The king began to falter. "Instrument? What instrument? "

"Listen. I have indicated the importance of the study of painting and dance to sculpting. Surely you understand that the dance is done to music of instruments? How could you expect to dance without knowing something about instrumental music?"

The king admitted that he didn't know the first thing about playing an instrument.

"Well, no matter. I will teach you. Sing something."

"I can't sing."

"You can't sing? You come here expecting to learn the fine art of sculpting and you cannot sing? Doesn't the study of all art begin with singing? We have much work to do. Let's see, we shall start with the note "do" and "re"..."

Traditional story, as told by Ali Akbar Khan in

"The Classical Music of North India"

MMB Music, St Louis

ISBN 0-930997-02-6

copyright 1991 Ali Akbar Khan

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