INDIAN MUSIC AND WESTERN MUSIC (Post No.7203)

Compiled by  London swaminathaan

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Date: 11  NOVEMBER 2019

Time  in London – 10-37 am

Post No. 7203

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I have been throwing away all the paper cuttings and articles I have collected from 1974. I am clearing two cup boards full of paper cuttings, articles, my hand written notes in 20 note books. One article written by M S N Menon from ORGANISER weekly published in 2004 is very interesting. It compares the arts of India with the arts of the Western world in bullet points. I cannot resist publishing it here before throwing the small paper cutting into the bin. Please read the article if you are a fan of music.

Source -ORGANISER weekly, dated 19 December 2004

Author – MSN Menon

subham
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3 Comments

  1. Much has been written about Indian and Western music; much more can be written.
    The system of seven notes is common to all music. It is in their arrangement, combination and exact expression that the two systems differ. Behind this is the question of basic aim or purpose of music. Indian music is known as a lalita kala- that which pleases; but its real purpose is to elevate the soul of the listener. Thus like other arts of India, music too is a means of realisation of the Divine. Even when this lofty aim is not realised or recognised, the general effect of Indian music is to experience a sense of peace and well being- Shanti.

    The two strands of Indian music differ slightly in their practical approach. Though the swaras are the same, the way they are employed in Carnatic and Hindustani styles are different. Carnatic music is Sahitya based, Hindustani style is mainly swara based. Carnatic ragas employ gamaka which makes the ragas many splendoured. In Hindustani style, they achieve it through meend.

    Basically, music is founded on Raga, Bhava , Tala. Raga and Tala- melody and rhythm are the two rails on which music has to roll- they say “Sruti mata. laya pita”. But the music can really be enjoyed only when it conveys a Bhava or emotional content or intent. This is called ‘Rasa anubhava”- enjoyment of the essence of the musical form. It can be seen that each of the Ragas is capable of expressing or conveying some predominant and other minor sentiments. This is made use of by great composers to create different sahityas in the same raga. Thus if we take the popular kritis of Sri Tyagaraja in the popular ragas like Kalyani or Karaharapriya, they do convey different sentiments, though based on the same melodic structure. This is where good Sahitya enhances the overall musical experience. Muthuswamy Dikshitar on the other hand relies more on Raga Bhava itself- perhaps a reflection of the influence of Hindustani system. Originally, the Ragas were supposed to be sung in different parts of the day or night- today this is observed only in the Hindustani style.

    It is said that Carnatic music is based on the tradition derived from Narada, and the Hindustani from Hanuman! Sri Tyagaraja hails Narada as “Guru Swami”.

    It is impossible for the human mind to comprehend fully the greatness of Music, East or West North or South. In the 70s Telugu movie “Shankarabharanam” the character Shankara Sastry expressed it well. Perhaps we may make bold to say that modern music is more jarring than melodious, there is an overload of rhythm, which makes people dance, but to no purpose!

    In our system, Sri Tyagaraja has sung many Kritis on the merits of music. Some of them are:
    – Raga Sudha rasa panamu jesi raajillave O manasa [ Rga- Andolika]= O my mind, why do you not obtain peace from drinking the nectar of swara and raga!
    – Swara Raga Sudha rasayutha bhakti swargabavargamura [ Shankarabharanam]= devotion accompanied by swara and raga would lead to swarga
    – Nadopasana che Shankara Narayana Vidhulu [ Begada} = Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are engaged in Nadopasana!
    – Mokshamu galada bhuvilo sadbhakti sangita jnana vihinulaku [ Saramati] = How can one without devotion and sangita jnana attain Moksha on this earth?
    -Nada tanum anisham Shankaram [ Chittaranjani] = Lord Shiva has Nada for his body!
    -Sangita Jnanamu bhakti vina sanmargamu galade [ Danyasi] = There is no noble path on earth without bhakti joined with knowledge of music.
    And there many more such gems! It is not for nothing that Sri Tyagaraja is regarded as Sadguru!

    In the Western tradition too, music , especially classical music is highly regarded. For an example from literature, we can see these passages from the poem Abt Vogler of Robert Browning (1864):
    Would that the structure brave, the manifold music I build,
    Bidding my organ obey, calling its keys to their work,
    Claiming each slave of the sound, at a touch, as when Solomon willed
    Armies of angels that soar, legions of demons that lurk,
    Man, brute, reptile, fly,—alien of end and of aim,
    Adverse, each from the other heaven-high, hell-deep removed,—
    Should rush into sight at once as he named the ineffable Name,
    And pile him a palace straight, to pleasure the princess he loved!

    All through my keys that gave their sounds to a wish of my soul,
    All through my soul that praised as its wish flowed visibly forth,
    All through music and me! For think, had I painted the whole,
    Why, there it had stood, to see, nor the process so wonder-worth:
    Had I written the same, made verse—still, effect proceeds from cause,
    Ye know why the forms are fair, ye hear how the tale is told;
    It is all triumphant art, but art in obedience to laws,
    Painter and poet are proud in the artist-list enrolled:—

    But here is the finger of God, a flash of the will that can,
    Existent behind all laws, that made them and, lo, they are!
    And I know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man,
    That out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound, but a star.
    Consider it well: each tone of our scale in itself is nought;
    It is everywhere in the world—loud, soft, and all is said:
    Give it to me to use! I mix it with two in my thought:
    And, there! Ye have heard and seen: consider and bow the head!

    Yes sir, all music is noble and divine. Indeed to be a musician or even to be able to appreciate music is a gift of the gods! It is said that one who cannot appreciate music is but an animal sans horns and tail!

  2. It is good to know that Narada was Guru of Saint Thyagaraja. For the first time we hear about ‘Naradar Veenai’ in Tamil epic Silappadikaram. Up to Valluvar days, we hear only about Yaaz (Lyre); Thevaram has lot of references to Veena. Two things sound strange- linking Hanuman to Hindustani music. We have Ganesh with various musical instruments in toys, dolls, perhaps in statues; but none with Hanuman!! The second strange fact is absence of Poets cum singers in the Western World.

  3. In the Western world too, the poets in the ancient days were also singers! The Greek lyric poets sang their poems, to the accompaniment of musical instrument like Lyre. We are told that this is how even Homer sang his epics! This tradition continued long in Europe , especially in many folk forms like the ballad.
    There is a basic rhythm in the words of poetry- that is how poetry differs from prose- the words used for the poetic form are basically rhythmic- clothed in metre and rhyme. They easily lend themselves to tuning- for rhythm is common to both music ( tuning) and poetry. In the modern day, poetry is mainly read; even then we are advised to read poetry aloud, so that we may catch the rhyme of the words.
    In the modern day, this link between poetry and music seems to have snapped, perhaps outside the ‘musical’ movies in the West. Poetry is often recited though, and here we may get a glimpse of the musical form, if the poet has a musical sense and if the poem itself is innately musical- ie, it has a natural rhyme, and is not a mere collage of words.
    In the Urdu tradition, there are ‘mushairas’ where poets recite their compositions. These are not musical performances, but there is a basic sense of musical rhythm in them, as Urdu lends itself to such forms. Whether it is gazal or nazm, it lends itself to musical rendering, even when it is not composed to a set tune. We see excellent examples of these in the famous Hindi movie Pyaasa-1957.
    Happily, the link between poetry and music flourished in our Hindi movies till the 70s. In fact, good poets in our Hindi movies always write with some kind of metre or rhythmic scheme in mind. The music director had to catch this and set a tune in an appropriate raga, doing justice to both the mood and the words! It was no joke; only a few like C.Ramchandra and Ravi could excel in this. The others first set the tune, and made the poets fill the words- this put the writers at a disadvantage! But here too some could excel! Such instances reveal how intimate is the connection between sound and rhythm, ie words and music. There are extraordinary writers whose prose is also lyrical!
    In Tamil movies, Papanasam Sivan was one lyricist who was also an innate musician so that his songs became eminently musical! This is a natural gift, not the result of study and hard work. G.Ramanathan was such a music composer who was not a trained musician, but who could compose to bring out the best in the lyrics.
    When we were at school in the 50s, our Tamil pundits would first recite the poems in the appropriate raga, then recite it in the metre , then recite it again separating the words- by this time most of us would have got the poem by heart! Dr.U.V.Swaminatha Iyer has written in his memoirs how on his very first day as teacher, he took up a poem and first rendered it in the appropriate tune! Alas, we have lost such traditions.
    East or West, poetry has been divorced from music in the modern day. Perhaps Subrahmanya Bharati was the last known Tamil poet to write musically. [ Muruganar, the eminent disciple of Ramana Maharshi was a sublime poet who wrote thousands of verses with a musical sense, but this huge corpus still lies unknown and unrecognised. We are reminded of the words of Thomas Gray:
    Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
    The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.]

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