Amit Chaundry, The Immortals (Knopf, 2009)

Gradually a thought had begun to niggle in his mind: the ragas had no composer. Where did they come from; and why was no one bothered that the question didn’t have an answer? Indian music had no Bach, no Beethoven–why was that? Instinctively, privately, in a confused way, as he looked evening after evening out of the balcony, the notion of authorship came to him– a difficult thought which he spent time grappling with. It was the idea of the author, wasn’t it, that made one see a work of art as something original and originated, and as a piece of property, which gave it value; it was what made it possible to say, “It belongs to him,” or “It’s his creation,” or “He’s created a great work.” And this sense of ownership and origination went into how a race saw itself through its artists…

…Nirmalya thought he grasped now what “self-born” meant–it referred to those immemorial residues of culture that couldn’t be explained or circumscribed by authorship. It was as if they’d come from nowhere, as life and the planets had; and yet they were separate from Nature. Dimly, he saw that, though the raga was a human creation, it was, paradoxically, “self-born”


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