Indian/Pakistani Classical Music





- A Word About Classical Music                 

-  Elements of Music





A Word About Classical Music


We believe the first priority is to prepare a new generation of discerning listeners for the future. Without an appreciative audience good performers will disappear. Only noise shall remain. This is what we are saying to young people who have been deprived of music as part of their education.

Would you enjoy watching chess or cricket if you did not know the rules of the game? Probably not.

Music is much more powerful than chess and cricket – you can enjoy it without knowing anything about its rules. But can you imagine how much your enjoyment would increase if you were familiar with its vocabulary and grammar? Or how much your performance would improve if you were an aspiring performer? Don’t take our word for it – ask the great ghazal singers.

Is music very difficult to learn? Think again. It is hard work becoming a good cricketer or chess player. It is not all difficult to understand the rules of chess or cricket. It is the same with music. It is very easy to acquire the essential knowledge that would enhance your appreciation of music.

Think of music as a language. If you can learn English with its 26-letter alphabet and complicated grammar you can learn the language of music that has only 7 letters in its alphabet. Yes, just 7 – Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni (or Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti, it doesn’t really matter which you learn).

In five minutes you can tell the difference between Sa and Re and in one hour you will be able to explain the difference between Malkauns and Kaushik Dhani. It is plain sailing from there on – the more you learn, the more you will enjoy.

You don’t punish your stomach with a lifetime of plain food – a gourmet meal once in a while is a great treat. Don’t punish your ears with a lifetime of plain music – try gourmet music for a change. Once you have tasted it you will realize what you have been missing. Think Nihari, think Sri Pai, think Purya Kalyan. You are not born liking them – all of them take time to grow on you.




- Elements of Music

Essential elements of Vocal, Instrumental & Dance by Dr. lalmani Misra

Geet (song), Vadya (instrument) and Nritya (dance) - the three arts are collectively known as Sangeet (music). Hence the essential factors of music can assumed to be basic elements of singing, playing and dancing. Close examination reveals that primary basis of the three are swara and laya sophisticated form of näd (sound) and gati (motion). Näd and gati are miniscule hence eternal and formless without beginning or end. The quintessence of space is word; when in confluence with motion acquiring the form of wind, water, fire and earth it turns into Pancha tatva (the fundamental five elements) and initiate the activities of the srishti (world, creation). This creation thus results from näd and gati. With these two as its primary factors music captivated the world immediately it emerged as an art form. None could withstand its allure – young or old, male or female, animate, inanimate, bird or animal. Ramamatya describes the magnetism of music thus:

- Gopipati (Lord Krishna), the immortal one, too is under the influence of sound. Brahma is all enveloped in säm-geet; Devi Saraswati is fascinated with Veena.How can then ordinary Yaksha, Gandharva, Dev, Danava and man escape?

- A wailing newborn who knows not savor of the sensory world becomes happy when fed on nectar of notes.

- The young forest-dwelling deer that feed on grass stalks, charmed by charismatic music forfeits his life.

- The dark serpent too is enamored by music. The grandeur of music then is beyond description.

This magnetism of music comes from its quintessence. Man attains a sense of bliss when he internalizes swara and laya the refined manifestation of näd and gati. In the same way a person is attracted to his own persona, presence of näd and gati in his body draws him to their external manifestation, notes and rhythm.

The two primary elements of music through their presence in varuing ratio create the triad of vocal, instrumental music and dance. Word gets added to notes and rhythm in vocal music reducing its flexibility but enriched with poetry it gains greater relevance and appeal. With qualities of poetry, vocal music becomes greatly useful for man. having universal appeal and little need for any equipment vocal music is considered to be highest of the three arts. Even poetry awakens and blooms with gentle touch of music. Just as a flower blossoms with air and water, the union of notes and rhythm enhances the qualities of sweetness and brilliance in poetry.

Though rooted in emotion, music instigates ideas too. Despite their difference emotion and thought are both essential of part of human life. Emotions excite the softer part of human nature while thought provides the necessary control in governing human life. One is flow, the other periphery or bank.

Assessment considering the two essential elements of music renders instrumental music to be the representative art. Rhythm and notes have full reign here. It neither requires poetry as in singing nor bodily movements as in dance. The unfettered creative play of notes and rhythm comes to fore only in instrumental music. Therefore in comparison to other forms like song and dance, instrumental music is the art of subtler expression with least artificiality. Because of this subtlety and inartificiality it lies often beyond the appreciation range of common populace, yet it exerts a strong attraction on children and non-human living beings. The common response to instrumental music is that though the sound is appealing, there is no comprehension of what it expresses.

Notes formed by various instruments and their rhythm are endowment to mankind, but a rightful enjoyment is possible through samskär (training) alone. People having cultured values through inheritance or training like instrumental music best.

Dance employs the element of rhythm. Dance is actually a bridge between music and drama. The bodily movements align it with dramatic art, while a strong presence of rhythm and beats bring it near music. Maharishi Bharat has subdivided dance into three forms – Nritta, Nrit and Nritya. While Nrit is nätya or drama, Nritta has greater element of drama than music and Nritya has strong presence of music and less of drama. While the support of song and instrument is available in dance, presence of notes can not be accepted in this art form. Hence musically dance is one-sided employing motion or rhythm alone. Because of this unitariness many Indian and western thinkers have opined that dance should not be considered a part of music. Placing it midway between music and drama they have recommended independent status as art form to dance. Many government and semi-government bodies have taken up such titles as “ Academy of Dance, Drama and Music”. However this is no place to discuss inclusion of dance in music or its independent status; objective here is to establish that dance employs only the rhythm element of music.

It is evident then that in vocal music along with elements of notes and rhythm the element of poetry is present in differing measures, the element of drama is employed along with rhythm in dance but instrumental music constitutes notes and rhythm alone. Instrumental music does not seek assistance of any other art form.

Musical equipment
After discussing elements of music we shall deliberate upon the equipment in the art forms of song, dance and instrumental music. Quite like the brush employed in painting, chisel and hammer in sculpting, equipment is needed in song, dance and instrumental music as well. Two kinds of equipment are used in music – external and internal. External equipment are found in instrumental music, the internal in vocal music. Maharishi Bharat and his contemporary thinkers equating human vocal cords with other four kinds of instruments have established the principle of five primordial sounds:

ekam ishwarnirmitam naisargikam anyachchaturvidham

manushyanirmitam cheti panchprakarah mahavadyanam1

One of the mahavadya-s is natural, god-given while the other four have been created by man. Man has obtained full information about the natural chordophone - the human throat or larynx and has created the discipline of voice-culture to study it.

A simple deliberation reveals that that there are three kinds of musical equipment -- 1. Main frame 2. Vibrating material 3. Impulse generator. When we examine the main frame or structure of a musical instrument we find that most of the things used in construction are natural. The successive development of musical instruments also reveals that as society grew in complexity, the use of artificial material increased. For example, millenniums back clay, bone and bamboo were used in making a flute; gradually wood and several metals like brass, iron, silver and gold were brought into use. Percussion instruments were made of clay alone, but later they were made up of wood and now other material is freely used in many instruments.

Present-day Materials used in frame construction
For most hammered instruments or struck idiophones, the frame is made of dried leaves, bones, wood and asht-dhatu (amalgam of various alloys and metals). Such instruments are generally solid structures save few like jhunjhuna, rambha etc. Membranophone or percussion frames are generally built with clay, wood and asht-dhatu. They are generally hollow, hence idioms2 commenting on this hollowness have come in vogue. Frames of wind instruments too are constructed with clay, bone, bamboo, wood, brass, bronze, iron and silver. These instruments too are usually hollow. String instruments or chordophones have wooden frames with use of gourd, leather or brass and bronze in some.

Vibrating material
Vibrating material mans that part of the instrument which is added to the frame to create sound, e.g. strings in sitar, membrane in dholak etc. The vibrating material in the hammered instruments is their main frame itself. The idiophones from the very inception are connected with rhythm; hence it is not mandatory for them to have all qualities which make sound musically pertinent. Metallic idiophones or matallophones may occasionally produce notes as in Gangsa, Gamelan, xylophone, Ghanta-tarang; yet it is better not to use them for notes as they are best suited to provide rhythmic accompaniment.

In aerophones or wind instruments provision is made for entry, movement and exit of wind in the construction of the frame itself. In its simplest form it can be evinced in the flute. The exit holes are closed with fingers and to produce the desired note, particular holes are opened. In western countries around thirteenth century provision of key was made which regulated the production of notes and aided continuity. In such aerophones as harmonium, things are a little different with the main note-producing part, the reed being altogether separate from the main structure. The frame of harmonium gathers the wind and directs it towards the exit where a small metallic reed allows it to escape through an opening. The reed opening is fixed on the inner side of pine-wood reed-board which has a hole on the top.

Thus, despite being an aerophone the harmonium it is different from flute, shehnai, kahala, turahi etc.

Supreme development of vibrating material can be found in membranophones and chordophones. The material that creates vibration in a chordophone are the strings and in a percussion instrument its membrane. For quite some time experiments have been made with hides of animals in trying to perfect the membrane from methods of skinning to tanning and polishing of leather to anointing with formula preparations in some special way on the external or inner surface. The same refinement can also be detected in development of string material. In the Vedic period doorva and moonj were used; later animal hair and gut came to be used. Finally metal strings of steel, brass and copper are now employed in most chordophones. Some contemporary western instruments use paired strings in which a silver wire is twisted around a steel one to obtain deeper notes.

Striking / Driving substance
After mulling over the vibrating material let us study the third element of musical equipment, the substance that stimulates or strikes to produce vibration. The stimulus is generally the striker or plucking bit like mizrab in sitar, gaj (bow) in sarangi and shanku for sounding a nagada.

The driving force that brings out the sound from one material through the second can be of two types – continuous and intermittent. Use of bow and blowing or puffing brings out continuous sound like in a mashak or harmonium, while the force is broken in chordophones that employ plectrum like sitar, sarod, rudra veena. The impulse tool should be in accordance with the nature of the instrument. Interchanging the bows of sarangi and violin would fail to produce a fulfilling sound from either instrument.

Good artistes know how to bring out variations in sound from their instrument through slight changes in the driving substance. For example using a wire java, plastic java or coconut java on a sarod brings out different tones. Similarly when java strikes one inch from the bridge and seven inches from the bridge the two sounds are quite different. A change in the tonal quality of any instrument can be brought about in this fashion. The same instrument thus sounds melodious or harsh depending on the artiste. The driving substance therefore is vital to the art of playing an instrument; the adept artistes use it to bring out harsh and melodious notes in keeping with the nature of the instrument.

The number of impulse substances is not less than instruments though it appears to be so. Actually several metallophones like jhanjh, manjira, kartal, karma have two equal parts that strike together and most aerophones have wind for their impulse agent, hence it is only such chordophones and membranophones as sitar, veena, sarod, sarangi, nagada, dhounsa, nishan and mridang etc. use an impulse substance other than the main frame.

It is apparent that while the main frame, vibrating substance and impulse agent in musical equipment were simple using natural material, the development of Indian musical instruments clearly demonstrates how with changing needs, dreams and aspirations of man and society the instruments also developed with decreasing reliance on natural material and greater use artificial embellishment.

Source: Maigh Malhaar