“A defining period in Montessori’s outlook”: Letters from India

Maria Montessori Writes to Her Grandchildren

In October 1939, while the “storm of war was gathering in Europe”, Maria and Mario Montessori set off to India to deliver a training course and lecture tour. When Italy became involved in the war, the British rule of India did not give the Montessoris permission to leave; they were to spend close to seven years in India, which would become a defining period in Montessori’s outlook on life and education.

Maria & Mario Montessori with Rukmini Devi & George Arundale (Adyar/Chennai)

“Only the collaboration between the children and the adults will be able to solve the problems of our time.”
Maria Montessori Writes to Her Grandchildren 1

The letters Montessori wrote to her four teenage grandchildren in Holland give a completely new, private insight into that compellingly interesting period. We see a woman who is deeply connected to her family and friends. We also see her strong commitment to bringing progress and fighting illiteracy in India, which grew into an enduring love for the country and its people. Montessori’s colourful descriptions of her journey and life in India, her worries about her grandchildren in war-torn Europe, and her son’s imprisonment make a fascinating read.

Source: Maria Montessori Writes to Her Grandchildren (Association Montessori Internationale Montessori 150 © 2021)
https://montessori150.org/maria-montessori/montessori-books/maria-montessori-writes-her-grandchildren
Date Visited: 7 June 2023

Italian currency bill 3 October 1990

“Uttarayam”, Santiniketan, Bengal
6 January 1940

Dear Dr. Montessori,

It is a great joy to hear from you and have your good wishes which I warmly reciprocate. As you know, I am a great admirer of your work in education, and along with my countrymen think it very fortunate indeed that India, at this hour, can get your guidance in creative self-expression. 2 I am confident, that education of the young, which must underly all work of national reconstruction, will find a new and lasting inspiration from your presence.

May I hope that you will visit our Institution when you come to Bengal.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely

Rabindranath Tagore 3

From 1939 until 1947 Dr. Maria Montessori worked closely with Rukmini Devi, founder of Kalakshetra (est. in 1936 in Adyar/Madras, now part of Chennai), an institution established for the integration of India’s cultural heritage and learning. Kalakshetra stands for an integrated approach to education all realms education – social, economic, crafts and performing arts, being both inspired and guided by India’s first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore whose  pioneering concept for informal learning was first tested and further developed at Santiniketan (“abode of peace”).

These pioneering efforts remain as relevant today as in the early 20th century when Maria Montessori and her associates realized that true education is more than a tool for succeeding in life as an individual or member of one’s own society: it is the very key to world peace and social justice (see, for example, her 1932 “Peace and Education” lecture published by the International Bureau of Education, Geneva).

Search for this book in libraries near you : https://search.worldcat.org/en/title/1273931392

  1. “Report on the First Indian Training Course in Education” (Madras, 11 November 1939) by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) quoted in Maria Montessori Writes to her Grandchildren: letters from India, 1939-1946 (Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company, 2020, p. 38[]
  2. man expresses himself age after age in new creations[]
  3. Transcription from a typewritten letter seen at Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam[]

Indian music in intercultural education – ISME Glasgow

ludwig_isme2016_2

Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin – Rabindranath Tagore*

During this presentation, musical figures from several distinct traditions were explored in a practice-oriented manner. The figures selected are appealing beyond South Asia where they originated many centuries ago and continue to play a key role in classical and applied music.

Our shared goal was to enable young and old to collaborate in a memorable learning process that blends seemlessly into any chosen subject, academic and otherwise.

The criteria for selecting a particular figure were (1) its flexibility as for combining it with another subject, for instance mathematics, geography or history; (2) its appeal going by prior experience with learners from different age groups; and (3) its scope for variation, movement, visualisation and analysis in accordance with learners’ specific needs and abilities.

Click on the above image to view or download and print a sample lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)
View or download this lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)

Scope

As part of integrated music education, Indian music enables even complete strangers to share a useful learning process. This calls for a natural and playful approach to melody, rhythm, hand signs and body movement. In this manner we are prepared to include newcomers – children and adults lacking a common language – to instantly participate in music.

Indian music is valued for fostering memory, analytical thinking, concentration, and cooperation among peers. Its basic concepts are exhilarating and liberating whether or not there is scope for studying Indian culture in its own right. This is a boon in circumstances where verbal or written instructions fail to engage learners. Rather than resigning in the face of such formidable challenges, educators are free to experiment and spread solidarity through instant inclusion – the essential joy of “creating” music oneself. This aspect addresses a common fear among learners, namely to be left behind (again!), be it in music or other subjects – a fear that is all too often justified in competitive modern society.

To help educators to overcome such fears, we build lessons around simple figures that bind tunes, rhythms and movements together into a rounded whole. Some of these may appear familiar enough to “break the ice” if needed; and others are so fresh and mind-boggling as to trigger further experimentation among peers in informal settings – anywhere and anytime. For this to happen, we dispense with technical resources of any kind.

Adaptation is the key to rapidly changing learning scenarios wherein cultural stereotyping, a known stumbling block for educators all over the world, must be overcome. This is easily achieved by integrating Indian music into discussions of academic concepts, or by letting its rhythms enrich social and outdoor activities. Such activities are by definition location specific and all-inclusive.

ludwig_isme2016_1

Educators from Canada, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Singapore and Switzerland were among the eleven participants in this one-hour session. They explored a time proven method suited to the needs of a wide range of abilities and learning goals; and this irrespective of participants’ cultural roots.

Date: 28 July 2016 | photos by courtesy of Dr. Tony Makarome, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Singapore

More information

*Rabindranath Tagore in a letter to C.F. Andrews; quoted by Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. London: Penguin, 2005, p. 86.

More on and by Rabindranath Tagore >>

Poems that “salvage unheard voices”: Chaitali Sengupta’s The Crossings reviewed in Muse India

The Crossings | Poetry | Chaitali Sengupta |
Hawakal Publishers (2023) | ISBN: 978-81-963974-6-3 |
Paperback | Pp 119 | Rs 400

The poems map the complex historical, mythical and ideological trajectory of power and powerlessness that is rooted in colonialism, xenophobia and cross-border politics. […]

An immigrant herself, Sengupta’s poetic sensibilities are aligned with the “rights of undocumented migrants” in the Netherlands. In the preface, she talks about her experience of working as a volunteer translator in an organization that worked for the rights of migrants. […]

Conflicts, their ensuing displacement, and loss of moorings can be ravaging, both physically and psychologically. They leave indelible scars. The victims at times don’t have a vocabulary to fall back on while voicing their traumatic experiences. Sengupta’s poems unhinge these fault lines as much as they explore the borders that make and unmake human experiences. […]

The colonial nations may have lapsed into imperial amnesia, but the former colonies cannot. In “Lost Paths”, the speaker fails to “search through the far forgotten time, a home that stood/ next to a river that flew past those verdant fields” as space and time coalesce. […]


Read more about The Crossings by Chaitali Sengupta:
A Powerful Exploration of Migration and Identity

https://www.sundaymorningsattheriver.com/blog/the-crossings-by-chaitali-sengupta-a-powerful-exploration-of-migration-and-identity

Chaitali Sengupta is an accomplished writer and translator, skilled in crafting fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. As a reviewer and journalist, she garnered recognition for her debut collection of prose poems, “Cross Stitched Words,” which earned the ‘Honorable Mention’ award at the New England Book Festival in 2021. Her expertise in translation is evident in her notable work, “Timeless Tales in Translation,” which received the special jury award at the Panorama International Literature Festival in 2023. With three translation books to her name, Chaitali has been a consistent contributor to both online and print media. Her second book, “The Crossings,” delves into poems centred on themes of war, migration, and survival.

Find the book here and Chaitali here.

Audio | Homage to Max Mueller: cultural programmes & seminar

A radio programme by Christoph Hahn with German introductions and explanations © 2000 Bayerischer Rundfunk

Excerpts from live programmes and report (click Download >View to listen/read)

Sruti Magazine (India’s premier music and dance magazine, PDF 560 KB):

Excerpt

1974 stamp of India © Wikipedia

Max Mueller Bhavan (German Cultural Institute) in Chennai organised a clutch of cultural programmes and a seminar during 28-30 November 2000 to mark the death centenary of Max Mueller, a great Indologist. Born in 1823, Mueller died when he was 77.

Mueller is remembered for stimulating widespread interest in Indology, mythology, philosophy, comparative religion, linguistics and social criticism. The special cultural relations between India and Germany are largely attributed to his works.

Mueller never visited India. But, had he come to India, he would likely have sought the company of musicians and scholars in the field of the performing arts, considering that he wanted to become a musician and belonged to a family that considered music and poetry a way of life. His first love was indeed music which he would have taken up as a profession but for the unfavourable climate for such a pursuit in his days.

The famous Indologist is best known all over the world for the publication of the Sacred Books of the East (51 volumes), amongst several other works. He was an ardent promoter of Indian independence and cultural self-assertion.

Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, entrusted Ludwig Pesch, a German who has spent years learning and studying Carnatic music, with the task of planning a befitting programme of tribute in Chennai in the wider context of a major German festival under way in India. Hundreds of German artists and scholars are presently touring India but Pesch was to help mount a celebration of a different kind- primarily with and for South Indian participants.

Dr. Eleonore Rahimi (Institutsleiterin, Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai) & Ludwig Pesch

Ludwig Pesch felt that this presented him with an opportunity to highlight the manner in which Max Mueller would have wanted the manifestations and contributions of other civilizations to be recognised, and to explore cultural achievements connecting people from different periods and places. In the event, he sought and secured the cooperation of several renowned performers and scholars, and the students of Brhaddhvani, to be Max Mueller’s guides on ‘a cultural tour’ of South India.

The celebrations began with an invocation and ended with a Musical Journey, both presented by Brhaddhvani’s students.

The morning and afternoon sessions organised at the Max Mueller Bhavan consisted of lecture demonstrations by the artists of four public programmes held at the MMB and at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium.

There were also lectures and lecdems by several eminent scholars in accordance with their chosen fields of specialisation: Dr. K.V. Ramesh (Patronage in South Indian Performing Arts: Evidence from Epigraphical Records); Dr. Premeela Gurumurthy (Harikatha Kalakshepam: A popular multicultural art in the 19th and early 20th centuries); Nirmala Paniker with her daughter and disciple, Kapila (Mohini Attam: About the research conducted at Natanakairali); P. Nanda Kumar (Dance music in Kerala: edakka with mizhavu players of the Natanakairali ensemble); Dr. Prema Nandakumar (References to South Indian Performing arts in early literature); Dr. V.V. Srivatsa (Language in Indian Art); Vidya Shankar (Sanskrit and Music); Rajkumar Bharathi (Bharatiyar’s contribution to the South Indian music repertoire); T.R. Sundaresan with Pakala Ramdas (The beauty of Yati patterns); S. Rajam with disciples and T.R. Sundaresan (Max Mueller’s great musical contemporaries in different parts of South India: Parameswara Bhagavatar, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Ponniah Pillai, Vedanayakam Pillai, and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar).

Considering that theatre was the original performing art which also comprised dance and music to varying degrees, the first day was entirely devoted to theatre and Harikatha. The second was devoted to dance, and the third to music to reflect the evolution of these arts in their own right.

G. Venu, Founder-Director, Natanakairali (Irinjalakuda) gave the opening lecture-demonstration titled ‘Koodiyattam, the Sanskrit theatre of Kerala: Research, training and presentation in the tradition of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar’. The story of this small, but famous cultural centre is fascinating and unique in having quietly worked with minimum resources, but successfully so, for the revival of Kerala’s traditional performance traditions over a period of 25 years, this being the silver jubilee.

Source: HOMAGE TO MAX MUELLER IN CHENNAI: PRESENTATIONS OF MUSIC, DANCE & DRAMA
Sruti, India’s premier music and dance magazine – Issue 197, February 2001
https://www.sruti.com/febmar01/febn&n2.html17.10.2001

Learn more: Max Mueller (Wikipedia) >>

Integrated Music Education – Challenges of Teaching and Teacher Training

“Thinking and learning in South Indian Music” by Ludwig Pesch, chapter 4 in: Markus Cslovjecsek, Madeleine Zulauf (eds.)
Integrated Music Education – Challenges of Teaching and Teacher Training
Peter Lang Publishers, Bern, 2018. 418 pp., 29 fig. b/w, 2 tables
MOUSIKÆ PAIDEIA Music and Education/Musik und Bildung/Musique et Pédagogie. Vol. 1 pb. ISBN 978-3-0343-0388-0

Contents & contributors

Starting point. The school’s disciplinary learning scaffold : a challenge for integrated education / Rudolf Künzli ; The intertwining of music, education, and integration / Madeleine Zulauf & Markus Cslovjecsek
Step 1. Approaching integrated music education by exploring distant horizons. Integrating arts performance and education in communities of practice : a Brazilian experience / Joan Russell ; Thinking and learning in South Indian music / Ludwig Pesch ; Making connections : avant-garde visual artists and Varèse / Colleen Richardson
Step 2. Encountering integrated music education: where school meets life. Cooperative learning in music : music education and the psychology of integration / Frits Evelein ; Music/arts/language interdisciplinary intervention : cultural, linguistic, and artistic development in Francophone minority communities / Anne Lowe & Monique Richard ; Promoting spirituality through music in the classroom / Diana Harris
Step 3. Uncovering school models in integrated music education. Interdisciplinarity based on a deep understanding of disciplinarity : benefits for students’ self-development / Dagmar Widorski ; Considering frameworks for integrating music and the arts / Kari Veblen; Cross-curricular approaches in music teaching / Jonathan Barnes
Step 4. Becoming familiar with integrated music education activities in the classroom. Activities which use and unveil cultural artifacts / Smaragda Chrysostomou, Colleen Richardson & Joan Russell ; Activities which explore links between music and one other subject / Markus Cslovjecsek, Ludwig Pesch & Joan Russell ; Activities which develop from the learners’ presence / Anke Böttcher, Frits Evelein & Diana Harris
Step 5. Being invited into the minds of people engaged in integrated music education. Conceptions of integrated music education : models in dialogue / Madeleine Zulauf & Peter Gentinetta ; When teachers meet specialists : retrospect on the symposium ‘Practice and research in integrated music education’ as a form of professional development / Hermann Gelzer & Helmut Messner

Find a library copy on Worldcat.org >>

This book was presented  during the 33rd ISME World Conference for Music Education (isme2018.org) on Wednesday 18 July 2018.

About this book

Schools are generally oriented towards discipline-based programmes and therefore students often accumulate fragmented knowledge, disconnected from real life concerns. The eighteen contributors to this work suggest that music offers a highway to developing a more appropriate integrated education. They present a range of views on Integrated Music Education rooted in various cultural traditions, based on several interdisciplinary models and integrated arts curricula, inspired by psychological concepts and referenced to recent teaching experiments as well as original research.

In this innovative book, the reader is invited to go beyond the dichotomy between ‘education in music’ and ‘education through music’, exploring the opportunities put forward by Integrated Music Education thanks to a constant movement from the theoretical roots through a precise description of teaching activities to the benefits for students in terms of integration of knowledge, personal development, and social and cultural belonging. Lastly, there are some new and interesting ideas for training teachers.

Art: Arun VC (Wayanad, Kerala)
Illustration from
Vaitari: A musical picture book from Kerala
Audio file: Lakshmi and Marma talas combined in an original rendition by Thrikkamburam Krishnan Marar, a hereditary temple musician in Kerala. Recording location: Natanakairali Irinjalakuda; described in the present publication:
Vaitari: Syllable-based rhythm exercise from Kerala by Ludwig Pesch (pp. 290-4), Ch. “Activities Which Explore Links between Music and One Other Subject”
Worldcat lists compiled by Ludwig Pesch

Carnatic (South Indian classical) music 

Rabindranath Tagore: works by and about the influential writer, humanist and social reformer

Indian performing arts

History 

Publications, book chapters and articles by Ludwig Pesch