Yesterday evening, we attended a concert at Salle Pleyel, the most prestigious French venue for classical music.
The host was Ravi Shankar, one of the masters of classical Hindustani music in general, and of sitar in particular.
It was not really a concert in fact. Rather a talk about classical Indian music, with a little bit of demonstration done by the accompanying musicians (Shankar directed the effort, almost entirely improvised). Though I was disappointed not to hear the master playing, hearing him talk was a unique event. Plus, I didn’t know much about Indian music (I didn’t even know there was another style than Hindustani, called Carnatic music, most specific to South India), so it was all new information to me.
Two things came to me mind during his talk:
- how lucky the music world is to have such teachers. It is true that spectators were part of an elite (people that had heard about Indian music – also, the Salle Pleyel is not exactly for rap music). But still, many of them did not know much about the details of Indian music.
Though Shankar might be one of the most respected, he is not the only one. Others such as Wynton Marsalis have been known to try teach music to the average laymen.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have equivalent figures in the IT industry? Imaging Jerry Weinberg or Fred Brooks touring secondary schools, explaining why software made them tick, while dispensing information on how these things things work.
- responding to a question regarding modernity and tradition, Shankar insisted that “to break the rules, you need to know the rules” and that creation of new, beautiful things have been done by masters over long periods of time
There is a parallel with the concept of Shu Ha Ri, frequently refered to in software/agile development. All masters, whatever the domain, insist that we need to follow the rules, the basics, without questioning them too much, before attempting to break free and innovate. So why are we so quick to disregard them (“oh, this part is not for me”, “pair programming won’t work here”) and do things our own way? In software, as in music, modesty would go a long way.