The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception
– Viktor Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’ (1917)
How does one innovate within a classical form? In his 1991 address ‘The State of the Art’, Pandit Rajeev Taranath, master musician and virtuoso of the North Indian sarode (and some-time professor of literature) chanelled Russian formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky’s ideas for innovation within a grammatically-bound form. Specifically, Taranath describes, and later illustrates musically, three key techniques – defamiliarisation, defacilitation, retardation. In Taranath’s words: ‘What is facile? I know the raga, and suddenly the musician there seems to come out with a movement which makes me bite my tongue in embarrassed shame. I seem to know this raga, and this lovely, simple movement I didn’t know. And sometimes he* pushes the raga to the edge, by which I mean, the edge where, if you are less than expert, it ceases to be that raga. Defamiliariation. Push it, push it – till the familiar becomes unfamiliar. Then bring it back to an enriched kind of familiarity, to a re-cognition.’
The lecture was part of a series at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.
*pronoun used in the original