As a professor, Nirmali focuses on listening to her students' ideas and then creating further ripples in order to challenge their voice so that it is always under constant transformation. "I create a more contextual framework for your voice, then extend you further — that is the only way I can refine it," she states. If, for instance, you are into film music, it is crucial to talk about it in the context of gesture, images, motion, lighting, amongst others. However, you are the person that truly knows your own voice, which is why you need to fight for it. "Every challenge that will be placed in front of you can either transform into a plant and help you grow, or will become a big block that will give you the muscles to push out of the road," Fenn believes.
As the music industry is rapidly changing, institutions are making sure to prepare its students as best as they can for the future. Although there have been new breakthrough courses offered at different universities, Nirmali feels very skeptical about adaptation coming at the cost of deletion of essential courses such as aural, harmony and theory. "I think institutions are encouraging musicians now not to hear what they feel and this is worrying me," she adds. The professor would like aural courses to transcribe bird song and her graduate course called Living in Sound develops the creation of an 'open ear' and takes on social issues such as climate change. For instance, she poses to her students that ocean densities have changed — acoustically this must affect animal communication. To Nirmali, this course is important as it challenges students to interact with and experience the world through sound, something that is often neglected.
Discussing the music industries in general, the professor is optimistic that Asia will take music forward. "I think that the growth of music is going to come from Asia, because the funding of the actual industry is huge," Nirmali elucidates. "You don't have the weight of the canon behind you like you do in Europe, and this is actually a real problem for Europe; in Asia, the canon is flowering all the time, because it is very much an Asian mentality of growth and transformation." The professor has friends in Germany and Austria who feel a resistance to creativity moving forward.
On the other hand, Nirmali also noticed that Americans are very excited about new ideas — they relish them — and are always on the cusp of shifting forward, which makes them feel like a part of an ever-moving transformational musical arrow. "Now, that arrow also never looks back and that's a problem," she smiles. If you have an arrow that goes forward, but doesn't have wings behind it, nothing propelling it, it can't go forward enough.
In Asia, the arrow is forming itself and it is very open to new ideas. "For instance, you can do Indian music in Singapore, and Chinese music, and bring out those heritages and also drive the arrow forward," the professor says. A lot of it also has to do with education — mentioning Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and the fact that they have Tristan Murail as a guest composer, Nirmali tells me that they know which composers to choose in order to drive this forward and that they are all about impetus. "They have this ambition to shape the future now for the music industry," she concludes.