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Acousmatics, bringing stability to a noisy world

25-year-old Hamish Hossain, who has taken the unconventional path of acousmatics, talks about his passion and future projects


This 25-year-old is unlike other music junkies of his age. Suave and diligent, he is beyond the usual periphery of run-of-the-mill stuff.

One has to decode his potential to fathom the depth of his talent and understand the kind of work he pursues. Dabbling in electro-acoustics, which in layman’s terms is defined as a science dealing with the conversion of acoustic energy into electric energy or vice versa, Hamish Hossain strums up a different chord in music. This Kolkata boy always wished to walk along the offbeat track. A gifted composer, an able piano accompanist and a music tutor in his own right, this trained young Turk sheds a clear light on his area of passion.
Dubbing his art acousmatic, Hossain says, “In this age of aggravating sound hazards and a jarring grind of noise pollution, there is a desperate, no-nonsense need for a stable sensibility of sounds to curb the surplus clutter. Along with this sharp acumen, an adept acousmat can also claim to possess some other vital virtues like his passion for free creation or a taste for all kinds of sounds, bolstered by an avant-garde psyche to think out of the box. In a nutshell, an acousmatic art is thus meant to classify the genres of sound-related or sonic arts that are composed inside an electro-acoustic studio and fixed upon mediums like CDs, tapes, computers et al. In similar fashion, acousmatic music can be described as one which is scored within an electro-acoustic studio ambience and installed upon an external medium.”

Fondly recollecting his seminal tryst with the prestigious Conservatoire a Rayonnement Régional de Paris, Hossain reveals that The Conservatoire is a citadel of acousmatic music with the world’s first full-fledged department on the subject. The institution was founded by Pierre Schaeffer in 1968. Today, with the likes of Denis Dufour, the department continues to remain radical. “I had the good fortune of attending Dufour’s composition classes as an observer for a few months before facing the entrance examination that sharpened my listening skills and improved my sonic as well as French vocabulary,” Hossain says.An acclaimed composer of instrumental and electro-acoustic works, Hossain soon started forging a lifelong bond with the rich strains of music.

With music, nature and love his priorities, he considers himself as someone belonging to the ilk of bauls — the band of balladiers constantly searching for the supreme or the ultimate horizon, propelled with an ulterior motive. “As a child, we all are curious and our senses are free and keen for discovery. But then, it tends to slacken and fade away with time. But I kept this state of creative search agelessly agile and active in me and being particularly affected by a smörgåsbord of sounds, chose to be involved in it forever. Till date, I have played an array of instruments like the piano, viola, violin, and have relentlessly rehearsed to hone my vocals too. Now I’m wholeheartedly engrossed in composing music! And the only physical organs I use to compose notes are my inner and outer ears,” he says candidly.
Hossain was taught to play the violin for eight years under the proficient guidance of Prabhudan Biswas of the Oxford Mission. At that time, he did flutter his fingers to produce the first ever tunes of his life. “I composed my first notes on the violin,” he gushes, adding, “Later, I studied musicianship, analysis, aural skills and the piano with exponent Sam Faramroze Engineer. This prodded me to put down my musical ideas on paper and further broadened my appreciation for the art. However, my assimilation of contemporary creations initially came from studying a string of scores and other reading material I could lay my hands on.”

Back home, the picture is hardly satisfactory, Hossain says. “Here in India, most students treat music as an extracurricular activity. Often, children are ‘educated’ to be encyclopaedias, without a chance to think for themselves. They are all supposed to ‘know’ the same thing without enough space for reflection or opting to pluck a somewhat different fruit from the earthly garden. Deprived of their individual characters and an independent mindset, am afraid the plight of music and formal education in general seems to be dwindling by the day.
And this is quite detrimental to a child’s spontaneous growth to react, respond, evolve and innovate something novel,” he amply rues. For musically inclined children, he suggests, “We only require to rationalise how powerfully music can affect us and realise its rightful place in our lives. Music as a discipline per se is still not given importance in India and neither do artistes get the respect and recognition they deserve at various levels. However small it might be in its size and expanse, we urgently need an institute to treat music as seriously as the medicine in India.”

When asked what was keeping him busy these days, Hossain says: “Currently, I’m preoccupied with Le Trio D’argent, a trio of three versatile flautists, which will feature my work in a premier series of concerts in India next year, followed by a musical tour in Paris.
This project is commissioned by The Neemrana Music Foundation and is an impressive manifestation of sound musical ties and exciting exchanges between France and India on an international plank. Another body of work is in collaboration with Debashish Raychaudhury, a specialist in Tagore and an enthusiast of inventive experimentation. We are coordinating on a sonic portrait of Tagore, which will culminate in a CD. This would possibly attract those who find it intriguing enough to behold and admire Tagore in a unique light of sounds.”
This scholarly musician recently touched down in Kolkata on a special invitation from Alliance Française du Bengale to deliver an informative musical conference on acousmatic art and present a live demonstration of his unconventional works.