J’pura University sets up Department of Music and Creative Technology | Sunday Observer

J’pura University sets up Department of Music and Creative Technology

13 September, 2020

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura took another step towards modernising its degree programs and getting new knowledge across to the students when it established a Department of Music and Creative Technology recently under the headship of Prof Pradeep Ratnayake to give access to Sri Lankan music students to learn new methods of music creation, like composing and performing music through the computer and being better able to be of service to the new demands by the entertainment industry.

Prof Ratnayake had spent two years in Columbia University, New York, as a Fulbright scholar working at the Music Department and then the Computer Music Department, working with professors Brad Garton and Terry Pender, who were involved in cutting edge music technology research at that time.

Sri Jayewardenepura University Vice Chancellor Prof Sudantha Liyanage said,“This is the first time that a department of this kind is being introduced to the conventional university system in Sri Lanka. We are expecting something unique to come out of this, especially with regard to innovations connected to Sri Lankan music.”

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof Shirantha Heenkenda said,“Every faculty moves forward by incorporating new subject areas and giving students new knowledge, so that they can meet new demands.

I am happy that Prof Ratnayake has established a new Department of Music and Creative Technology that brings in technological skills and the use of the computer to the production of music. We have made plans to provide the department with state-of-the-art studio facilities to record even a Symphony Orchestra in it, along with separate audio production rooms with world-class equipment and industry-standard software. The midi-lab will facilitate 25 students at a time – and all this will open up this field to new possibilities for the students.”

Good musicians

Prof Ratnayake said that it is important that Sri Lankan students keep abreast of all the changes in the music industry. “Our responsibility is to make sure that they can meet the demands by the new world of entertainment. We have geared our courses to give them this knowledge, so that they will not only be good musicians but will also know how to handle new technology connected to music. This will make them more employable as well as have a path to be effectively self-employed.”

Prof Ratnayake being a sitarist who has performed in auditoriums across the world, such as the Carnegie Hall, New York; Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; Asia Society,New York; Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; Vienna Musikverein; BOZAR, Brussels, said that inclusion of new technology will not mean less attention will be paid to the traditional teaching of music, where students learn to become good performers.

“The old-fashioned way of teaching music is still going strong in our department. I studied for seven years at the Santiniketan, India, thanks to the ICCR scholarships, learning under some of the best gurus of Hindustani music. So, I know of its importance,” he said.

The department offers courses in singing, violin, percussion, esraj, guitar and the sitar, as well as in Western music, where they can learn the piano and are encouraged to sit the exams in either Royal Schools of Music or Trinity College of Music, while they pursue their degree studies.

The department staff has senior lecturers, Gitara Wanasinghe for violin, Dr. Priyantha Thilakasiri for vocals, Muditha Arumawadu for music and video technology and Amitta Bandaranaike for Music Technology.

As visiting lecturers, the department has Chintaka Jayakody for guitar, Sachiththa Fernando for piano and western music theory, Isuru Perera for percussion, Isuru Kondasinghe for violin, Gitika Abeysekara for vocal and Handun Pathirage for Esraj.

“There will be two degree programs in the department, a more traditional one for producing a good musician and performer, who will have an idea of the technological dimensions of music, having followed some courses in it – and then one for more technologically oriented students – who will also have followed some courses on music – so that they become performing musicians to some extent too. Students of both programs get an understanding of the other,” Prof Ratnayake said.