At the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, the emphasis has always been to create interdisciplinary connections. One saw such intersections between food, art and history as part of its virtual exhibition, Stories on a Banana Leaf, held earlier this year. And now Art is Life: SoundFrames celebrates music and its power to bring people together. The three-day digital festival will feature 25 events such as concerts, performances, panel discussions, talks, workshops, and more. The musical showcase includes more than 65 artists from across the world such as Ambi and Bindu Subramaniam, Ricky Kej, Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar and Vidya Shah.
This festival also marks MAP’s collaboration with the Berklee College of Music, which will allow viewers to witness never-before-seen concerts by the Berklee Indian Ensemble and Women of the World. The two have also worked together on Sounds of the City, a sonic public engagement in which composers and producers have created music inspired by sounds of cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi.
According to Kamini Sawhney, director, MAP Bengaluru, arts in India have always been interconnected, with many musicians being deeply influenced by the visual arts, and many photographers likening their work to structures in literature. “Music is universal in its appeal. We wanted to tap into this, and the opportunity that it offers to engage with a much wider audience,” she says. “Our research has shown that audiences in India feel that museums should offer more local and innovative content, and since our digital-first launch in the pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in engagement with programmes that bring relatable conversations.”
Putting on the festival has been a sizable task, made possible by partners and the team at MAP, who collaborated remotely at studios spread across geographies. The team feels that the pandemic has brought with it surprising new ways in which people can stay connected despite the isolation. According to Sawhney, it has given the artists time at home, resulting in a lot of innovation. “Take, for instance, Sounds of the City, a unique initiative that looks at musical creativity in the electronic music context of our times. It is led by Berklee faculty member and composer Yoel Genin,” she elaborates.
The project is informed by the fact that just like architecture, streets and food, sounds too shape our experience of cities. Genin invited producers from four Indian metros to capture sounds that best defined their cities and create music with it. Since this was an open call, it brought in new voices and perspectives. The aim has been to invite the viewer to question notions of art and life in the rapidly changing social dynamics and technology-driven urban spaces.
Diversity is the central theme of the festival, with a range of genres—from folk and rap to Hindustani classic, and voices from marginalised communities—on showcase. A mix of major concerts and more intimate performances will premiere across the three days. The workshops are immersive sessions for people with a serious interest in music—be it song writing, music therapy and vocals. There are also a range of educational workshops which explore technological, historical and social-political aspects of creating music. Besides the Berklee College of Music, the Indian Music Experience (IME) museum is also a partner for these workshops.
Through such festivals, MAP seeks to expand on the scope of what a museum is supposed to do. “Through our programmes, we aim to take art to the heart of the community, to offer enriching cultural experiences which build connection and empathy. Our members include seasoned collectors and cultural connoisseurs as well as newcomers to art, across age groups,” elaborates Sawhney. “We want to reinvent the perception of museums as archaic. We don’t see visual arts in a silo and our programming has developed at the intersection of culture, technology and the communities around us, bringing together curators and collaborators from around India and the world to tell stories that inspire meaningful dialogue.”
Art is Life: SoundFrames will be held from 3 to 5 December 2021