A very basic and fundamental question-How does Music makes sense?Its an art form-yeah all know that -but so are painting,sculpture,pottery,writing,movie making ,theater, and preparing food -(remember Cheeni Kum Hai ;-)-
Above are the questions non musicians generally have in their minds or even some times(most of the times!)music students-aficionados as well-why should one listen and practice to music,why should one learn music-what is it gotta do with one’s environment,psychology,health,well being,emotional quotient ,performance,confidence level and etc etc.
Long wanted to collate all and wanted to write something to answer them all.Here is a small and humble attempt.May sometime soon will post on different categories of music exists.
Music relies primarily on repetition to help it make sense to the listener. In popular music and children’s songs, the repetition is often very literal and direct, making the music more immediately accessible. In art-music, the repetition is often varied and transformed. This makes the repetition flexible, capable of assuming of many forms
and moods.In this article i have taken some references from Western and Indian Classical Music and Semi classical perspectives as Rock,Pop,hip hop,Thumri,Bhajans and folk and filmi music.The article is under preparation.
How Music Makes Sense
In order to more fully appreciate music -any music, familiar or unfamiliar ,let us begin by considering music from the ground up and free from the constraints of a particular era or style. What is music and how does it make sense to us?
Music is a time-art: It needs time to unfold. Whereas it is possible to have an instantaneous view of a painting, it is not possible to have an instantaneous hearing of a piece of music. We can all remember those electrifying moments when we round a museum corner and, suddenly, a favorite M.F.Hussain,Manjit Bawa , Raja Ravi Verma or Picasso bursts into view: We can take in the entire canvas in a single glance. Music does not offer such short cuts: There is no way to hear a favorite musical work other than to listen all the way through.
Music is ephemeral: A painting or sculpture exists in concrete physical form. When the lights are turned off in the museum, the painting is still there. But music is a performance art: Each moment is temporary, washed away by the next. A sound exists in its precise form now, and then vanishes. Once the performance is over, the music is gone.
Music is unstoppable in time: Like music, writing is a time-art. But the reader is in control of the pacing: He or she may read the book in a single sitting or over the span of several months. In contrast, a musical performance is not meant to be interrupted; the pacing is out of the listener’s control. Furthermore, the pages of a novel are all accessible at any time: The reader may review passages at will meditating on the meaning of an ambiguous paragraph or looking back to confirm an important clue. The reader may even give into the temptation to skip ahead to the ending. No such luxury exists at a concert.
You can’t raise your hand and say, Forgive me, Maestro, I didn’t understand that last passage and have the maestro reply,Yes, you in the tenth row, no problem, I’ll take it over again from -Music Swara Dhaiwat or second antara.The artist is unimpeded by the listener’s questions,distractions or desire to linger.
Finally, music is abstract and non-verbal:The meaning of a word may be colored by context; but there is has an enduring, stable meaning, which any of us can look up in the dictionary. If I use the word “egg” as a metaphor for birth or renewal, the metaphor only succeeds because you and I share a common definition. On the other hand, musical sounds do not have literal meanings. Musical sounds may evoke moods or images, may suggest yearnings, loss, or surprise: But these interpretations are far more subjective and open-ended. You can never say -Please get me a lime soda from Reliance’s shop in abstract musical sound. Music is not designed to be that literal. Although music is often referred to as a language, its sounds are never anchored to any specific meaning.
Thus, music is abstract and non-verbal art-form, unstoppable in time. Under those conditions, how is it possible for music to be intelligible? When you think about it, it’s quite a challenge! Music places tremendous pressure on the listener: It asks him or her to follow an argument that is racing by, made up of impermanent sounds with no fixedmeaning.
The answer to this question is extraordinarily important, because it transcends all questions of era or style. We believe with all of our hearts that music speaks to us. But how?
It is invisible and insubstantial; it is not referring to anything “real.” Theater and plays are also time-arts: But theater uses words and play/ballet has the human body as a frame of reference. What does music have to direct our attention and guide us through its narrative?
The answer is that repetition is the key to musical intelligibility. Repetition creates the enduring presence at the heart of a work’s feet, impermanent existence.
The Power Of Consistency
Imagine that you are standing at a craps table in a casino. You don’t know the rules, and are trying to learn the game through observation alone. You would notice certain consistencies:
One player at a time throws two die, which must always fall on the craps table. Certain actions provoke certain reactions: If the shooter throws a two, the house is always calls out the shooter is replaced. Through careful observation, you could rapidly apprehend the rules. Not only that, you would soon become caught up in the game. You would never know what would happen next: Every roll would be unexpected; bets would be waged in surprising, shifting patterns. Yet everything that did happen would fall within comprehensible parameters.
Similarly, a music listener relies on consistency to understand what is happening. Many times, we do not consciously recognize these consistencies. A key part of appreciating music is to learn to become conscious of and articulate the most essential consistencies of a musical work.
What were to happen if the consistencies were suddenly broken? Suppose you are stand-ing at the craps table, elbow to elbow with the other gamblers, calmly stacking your chips.
A shooter steps forward and throws only one die, then two, then three. When he throws twelve die, everyone at the table throws their die all at the same time. You would pull your chips off the table: Its consistencies broken, the game would have become incomprehensible.
Similarly, if you were to change the basic premises of a piece of music in the middle, how would the listener be able to make sense of what happened? In craps, you would withdraw your bets; in music, you might withdraw your attention.
Repetition and pattern recognition underlies how we understand almost everything that happens to us. Physics might be described as an effort to discover the repetition and consistencies that underlie the universe. One of the powerful modern theories proposes that the basic element of the universe is a string.” The vibrations of these infinitessimally small strings produces all the known particles and forces. To string theory, the universe is a composition on an enormous scale, performed by strings. Continuity and coherence are created through the repetition of basic laws. Miraculously, out of a few fundamental elements and laws, enormous complexity, constant variety and an unpredictable future are created.
We ourselves are pieces of music, our personal identities created through an intricate maze of repetition. Every time we eat and breathe, new molecules are absorbed by our bodies, replenishing our cells and changing our molecular structure. Yet, though countless millions of molecules are changing inside us every minute, we feel the continuity of our existence. This sense of self that we all feel so tangibly is really a dazzling performance:The new molecules maintain our identity by constantly repeating our basic structures.
Thus, repetition lies at the heart of how we understand music, ourselves and our world.We have a great faith in the richness and significance of repetition. In listening to music,we rely on repetition as the bearer of meaning.
2 Repetition of Different Sizes Repetitions come in different sizes, from small gestures to entire sections.
The repeating element may be as brief as a single sound. For instance, the notion of TAALA establishes a discipline and framework to the repetition principle.
What distinguishes art-music from most pop music is that, in art-music, the repetition is more frequently varied and transformed. This makes the repetition flexible, capable of assuming of many forms and moods. Similarly, one of the guiding principles of art-music is repetition without redundancy. The music will repeat its main ideas, but constantly in new ways.
In the popular “South Indian Veg Diet,” dieters are at restricted to a very limited regimen of foods: no bread, fruit, alcohol or sugar. The challenge of the diet is to create a varied menu from such a circumscribed list of ingredients. Otherwise, the dieter will begin to stray. So, a lot of effort and inventiveness goes into designing recipes that makes the daily staples lively and tasty.
In art-music, the goal is similarly to maximize the minimum. That is, the goal is to take a limited number of ingredients and create the greatest possible variety. A composer such as Beethoven or Muthuswamy take just a few basic elements and create the musical equivalent of a complete meal of soup, main course, salad and dessert with distinctive flavors, so that you sometimes can’t even recognize the presence of the same ingredients in every recipe.
So how is variety created? In this case, as the pattern is repeated over and over,an ever changing layer is superimposed upon it. It is as if the basic pattern is “bombarded” in different ways, disguising its reappearance.The first four times the pattern is played, it alone accompanies the voice. This is an unsupported media type.
Repetition and Recognition
Listening to explicit, literal repetition is like eating a simple carbohydrate: It is easily digested and quickly absorbed. That is why popular music has so much literal repetition:Its success depends on making an immediate impact. On the other hand, listening to transformed repetition is like eating a complex carbohydrate: It takes longer to digest.
More of our attention is engaged: What changed? By how much? How fast did it happen?How long will it persist in the new form? Observations lead to interpretation: Why did it change? What are the consequences of what happened?
More and more, nutritionists are emphasizing that complex carbohydrates are healthier for our bodies. Similarly, transformed repetition may be healthier for our musical minds: It demands greater concentration, more astute observations and more careful reasoning in short, more active listening. Learning to recognize and evaluate transformed repetition is a crucial aspect of music appreciation.
Because music is an abstract, non-verbal time-art, repetition lies at the heart of how music makes sense. In pop music, the repetition tends to be more literal, while in art-music, it is often varied and transformed. As much as composers are often searching for new sounds and instrumental combinations, they are also inventing new means of building repetition.
1.Aritcle by Anthony Brandt
Its disappointing that although we have lot of literature and records for 11/12 century we don’t have enough records for the era of 14/15th century due to Muslim invasions and destructions. Nevertheless this period is considered to be one of the most important era as far as Indian Music is considered , in which there was confluence of Persian , Native north Indian –Dhrupad, Native Carnatic-folk, and creation of new styles like Khayal, semi classical styles and Hari sankeertanas.
Regardless of political rivalry in North and South, among Muslims, and Hindus and various dynasties/sub states –Bhakti and devotional Music was thriving .Sankeertan trend was set up in 12/13th century in Maharashtra and laid as foundation by Gyaneshwar and Namdev and others, but during Purandara Dasa’s time with overlapping periods of Annamachari, Kanak Dasa, Vyasa Raya, Tuka Ram, Meera Bai, Sur Dasa and Haridasa , this was spreading the wings in all directions and force.
Purandara Dasa is famous for writing 4,75,000 compositions and being considered as father of Carnatic Music, he was born in Karnataka in ~1480.Purandara Dasa is also considered as father of Carnatic school of teaching music , and is believed to be the pioneer and initiator of methodology of why Mayamalav gowla raga is the first raga to be taught to a student who is initiated into learning Carnatic Music.
As per the records Purandara dasa died in the end of 16th century in Hampi, when battle of Talikotta was about to get over .This was the time that Vijayanagar dynasty was being overtaken by Bahamani kingdom , and influence of Muslim’s was increasing in North as well as in South.
Interestingly Puranadara was considered as teacher of Swami Haridas of Vrindavan , who was the Guru of Tansen . The foundation and influence of persian music has been there since 5th century AD itself but during 14th century, with acts of Amir Khusro and Persian music –it was more prominent.
From a famous composition of Puranadarada – tamburi –“Tamburi Meetidava Bhava Datidava”-
“The one who beholds and plays tambura by vibrating strings –will cross the cycles of birth and death, the one who holds the rhythm by clapping –will reach the association of celestial gods, the one who ties jingles on his ankles –will conquer the enemies, the one who sings sankeertanans will have the vision of embodiment of God’s form.”
As mentioned Purandaradasa had great influence on Hindustani music as well. The foremost Hindustani musician Tansen’s teacher, Swami Haridas was Purandaradasa’s disciple. Purandaradasa’s compositions are equally popular in Hindustani music. Hindustani music legends such as Bhimsen Joshi and Basavaraj Rajguru have made them more popular in recent years. Young, well known artists such as Venkatesh Kumar, Nagaraja Rao Havaldar, Ganapathi Bhatt, and Nachiketa Sharma are continuing the tradition of singing Purandara Dasa’s compositions in north Indian music concerts.(As mentioned by Subbalakshmi)
Today we consider Shayma Shastri, Muthuswami Dikhsitar and Thygaraj(born during 17th/18 century in Tamilnadu/Thiruvayur) –as holy trinity –due to contribution to Carnatic Indian Music, during English rules and confluence .The role of Kanaka das, Vyasa Raj and Purandara dasa in Karantaka during 15/16th century is of similar weightage during Muslim influence.
India has been spiritual country and around the world known for the place that is associated with Yoga prominently, among other things. Yoga is a way to connect with supreme brahma and there are various different methods to attain this.Bhakti, Raj, Hatha, Gyan ,Prem and Naad(sound) –as some of the methods publicly practiced .There are many other ways to achieve this.
Naad yoga is a way to find oneness by means of music and sound .There have been various exponents who practiced and even created different processes and popularized those methods.
Music,as we all know came into existence –per mythology to demonstrate the feelings of love, anger and per scriptures and believes Shiva is credited for this.
Veena , Mridanga and Venu are three divine instruments per Hindu belief systems and even certified to be the oldest complete instruments. The veena is the most ancient stringed instrument of India. It is one of the three principal musical instruments mentioned in the vedic literature, the other two being the venu (flute) and Mrindanga.
Veena is normaly symbolicaly associated with Saraswathi , while Mridanga with Gannesha, Nandi and Venu with Vishnu and Krishna .
While the mention of Veena (let us call it Saraswathi Veena is described in scriptures which are as old as 5000 Yrs old) . It is interesting to note that veenas with various numbers of strings, starting with the ekatantri (single string) veena to one with one hundred strings are mentioned in vedic texts.
In 20th and 21st centuries and starting 16th century , with confluence of Hindustani, Carnatic musicans and music by many means –only Vichitra Veena , Rudra Veena, Dattatreya Veena , Brahma Veena -Hindustani, Saraswati Veena , Chitra Veena-Carnatic are practiced and known , while Narada in Sangita Makaranda mentions a variety of veenas like kachchapi, kubjika, chitra, parivadini, jaya, ghosavati, jyeshta, nakuli, mahati, vaishnavi, brahmi, raudri, ravani, sarasvati, kinnari, saurandri, ghosaka etc.
Such is the divine nature of Veena(and so for Mridangam and Venu) is that salvation or liberation can be attained effortlessly by playing veena, as mentioned in some of the shlokas per vedic letarteure.
Some of the Shlokas go further and describes that by seeing and touching the veena, one attains the sacred religion and liberation. It purifies the sinner, who is been guilty of killing a Brahmin. The danda, made of wood or Bamboo, is Siva, the string is Devi Uma, the shoulder is Vishnu, the bridge is Lakshmi, the gourd is Brahma, the navel is Sarasvati, the connecting wires are vasuki, the jiva is the moon and the pegs are the sun. The veena thus represents nearly all the Gods and Goddesses, and is, therefore, capable of bestowing all kinds of divine blessings, benediction and auspiciousness
Having understood all this , we have lack of artists and sincere students, practitioners available for Veena today .Add to this a serious query needs to be started reading where and how other kinds of Veenas have vanished .
My riyaaz is doing good for the last few days and the music season in South is gearing up .Especially in Tamilnadu/Andhra/Karnataka/Kerala ; the gaan sabhas and thyagaraja aradhana mahotsavas will be in full swing.
After I got back from Udaipur and Jaisalmer,never knew if I can regain the speed and clarity on my instrument but now everything is settled ; just need to increase playing by a few more hours(!) and it’ll all be done.
It was a soothing feeling when I was introduced to a few colleageus of mine as musicians.Interestingly -Venkatachalam is a very good flute player(Carnatic Classical) and Ramya is a decent singer (Indian Classical) .Hope we could jam some time.
Looking forward for ‘Gaaja Baaja’ at Pune during February and meeting with Guruji for a taalim during 24-26th January in Mumbai.It has been really a long time I went to Pune.
Just going through Deepak dada’s (Deepak Raja-whoes book titled –Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change) was published recently and below few lines/translations are taken from his blog.Its about -“Music is not just about music…”.
“The knowledge of music becomes an effective means of attaining one-ness with Lord Shiva; for by the knowledge of music, one attains to a state of absorption and it is by attaining such a state that one-ness with Shiva could be obtained… One ought not to indulge, out of delusion, in worldly songs…”
Skanda Purana, Suta Samhita. 126.96.36.199-16
“To the yogin whose spirit attains a unified state in the uniform bliss engendered by delectation of objects like music, there occurs an absorption and anchoring of the mind in that bliss. Where there is a continuous and long flow of sounds from stringed instruments, one becomes freed of other objects of cognition and becomes merged in that ultimate and verily of the form of that Supreme Being.”
“We adore the Supreme Being of the form of sound (Nada Bramha) which is the one bliss without a second, and the light of consciousness in all beings that has manifested itself in the form of the universe. By the adoration of sound (Nada) are also adored God Bramha, Vishnu, and Maheshwara, for they are the embodiment of sound.”
Sharangadeva in Sangeet Ratnakara, 1.3.1-2
“One attains the Supreme Being by practicing continuously the chanting of the Samans (the sacred Vedic mantras set to music) in the prescribed manner and with mental concentration. The singing of the songs Aparanta, Ullopya etc… the songs composed by Daksha and Bramha, constitutes indeed liberation. One who knows the correct playing of the lute, has mastered the subtle semitones, and understands the rhythms, attains the path of liberation without any strain.”
Yajnavalkya Smriti, 3.4.112-15
“O Mind! The knowledge of the science and art of music bestows on a person the bliss of oneness with the Supreme Being. Music such as is accompanied by the blissful oceanlike stories of the Lord which are the essence of love and all the other sentiments blesses a person with oneness with the Lord. Music such as that cultivated by the discerning Thyagaraja bestows on a person affection (for fellow beings), devotion (to God), attachment to good men, the Lord’s Grace, austere life, mental concentration, fame, and wealth.”
Sangitajnanamu in raga Salagabhairavi by Thyagaraja
“O Mind! Drink and revel in the ambrosia of melody; it gives one the fruit of sacrifices and contemplation, renunciation, as well as enjoyment; Thyagaraja knows that they who are proficient in sound, the mysic syllable OM, and the music notes – which are all of the form of the Lord Himself – are liberated souls.”.
Ragasudharasa in raga Andolika by Thyagaraja
“Two Bramhana lutists are singing to the lute; this thing, the lute, is verily the embodiment of beauty and prosperity; and these musicians of the lute do verily endow him (the patron) with prosperity.”
Taittiriya Bramhana, 3.9.14
“These that sing to the lute indeed sing of Him (the Supreme Being) only; hence it is that they attain riches.”
Chandogya Upanishad 1.7.6.
“Whatever poetic utterances there are, and the songs in all their entirety, are aspects of Lord Vishnu, in his sonant form.”
Vishnu Purana. 1.22.84