Humans of Harker: Arjun Subramaniam pursues Indian classical singing and research
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Arjun Subramaniam (12) sings, but not in the traditional sense — or perhaps more precisely, not in the untraditional sense. Since the age of six, Arjun has practiced Indian classical singing.
Indian classical singing is notable for its vibrant use of improvisation. Every song is made unique by the singer’s artistic vision.
“It’s been a very long journey — [I‘ve gone] to India every summer since the age of ten and I’ve been learning with my guru and performing there,” Arjun said.
Through his singing, Arjun has found a world of inscrutable, ineffable emotion.
“Every evening when I go to the corner of my living room and sing, I kind of feel an unexplainable joy,” Arjun said. “It’s something where I’m trying to find the depth and soul of the music and express it in my own way, in a way that really can’t be said in numbers or words. It’s utterly irrational, but I think that if the world were rational, we probably wouldn’t need music, because it expresses something that nothing else can convey.”
Akhil Arun (11) who has known Arjun since seventh grade, is grateful for Arjun’s senior advice in both singing and academics.
“In general, Arjun’s just a really good mentor to me,” Akhil said. “If ever I have any questions or something, he’s just really good about giving advice and he’s really knowledgeable about a lot of things.”
Arjun also pursues an interest in science research. Arjun first became interested in research in wanting to help his grandfather, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when Arjun was ten.
“[My research]’s been a lot about my grandfather — seeing him struggle has inspired me to take on these challenges, however daunting they are,” Arjun said. “I’m very motivated by solving problems that impact people’s lives. Whatever my research ends up with, I hope that I have an impact, that I can say ‘this person’s life has been improved because I’ve been able to solve this problem.’”
Altogether, Arjun believes that his interests in both music and research stem from the same underlying ideas.
“The thing about research and music is there’s no right answer,” Arjun said. “Even so, I keep asking questions. When I’m in the lab, I’m constantly looking at a problem from different angles — how can I change and improve my approach. And singing Indian Classical Music every evening — how can I make this pattern better, or how can I explore this new musical idea. When I search for an answer I never end up where I expect to, but it’s incredible how much I learn along the way.”