In my previous blog post ‘ Eastern and western collaboration series ‘, I gave the prelude to both the Music from my perspective. To be precise, I haven’t had the chance to give more insight into Western Classical Music. This blog illustrates that and some of the basic terms in it and Carnatic Music too.
Being a toddler in listening as well as learning this Music, my piano teacher Agne Zivatkauskaite, who had completed her Bachelor’s in Music from Royal Academy of Music, Aalborg, is helping me understand the history of European music, effective and scientific ways of practising the piano along with its theory.
As told in the earlier Music blog, it is easy to learn when written down. This holds true, very much in classical music as it would be impossible to play/ learn without being noted.
Most pop and jazz musicians, also, are quick to commend the value of learning to read music.
The very first term that comes to mind who is familiar or not to music is ‘Pitch’( it is called ‘Shruthi’ in Carnatic Music ). Well, I would like to describe it in terms of Western Classical Music( WCM ) as well as Carnatic Music( CM ). In basic words, the pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a sound. To aesthetically describe, it is the smallest audible sound capable of being distinguished by a well trained human ear. In a piano, we often hear high pitched sounds and low pitched sounds on the right and left-hand side respectively when a person is in the centre to it.
On the other hand, in CM, shruthi is person-specific and instrument-specific, which means every person has the freedom to choose a comfortable shruthi, which suits their voice or to bring out the ease. These aesthetic and emotional sounds can be practically termed as ‘Svaras.‘ In other words, shruthi can also be explained as a concept of encompassing the aspects of svaratva- position of svaras and the measurement of music intervals between any two given svaras. (The svara description in detail can be found below.)
As the keys on the piano need some representation, we use the first 7 letters of alphabets i.e A, B, C….G. And, these are called notes. However, the musical notation to these notes are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Te. The same notion is also used in CM which is termed as svara, a definite entity – different sounds with different measures of intensity. There are 7 basic svaras in Indian music called ‘Saptasvaras’. The first svara is called ‘Aadhara shadja – Sa’, and the other svaras that follow are Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni. These are arranged like a staircase and the 8th svara is Sa again with a doubled frequency of Aadhara shadja called octave shadja.
If one dives deep into the theory, the question of why the 7 note pattern recurs arises. To answer this abstract concept, an instrument like the piano is the best way. When you play and observe the sound of piano keys from A to G, the next note sound goes together as the first note A. This grouping is termed ‘Octave’. In CM it’s called ‘Sthayi’. So, every eighth note frequency sounds similar to the first note but with the doubled frequency. This is not only true for A-A but they exist from any note to another note with the same letter name like B-B, C-C etc.
There are technically 3 sthayis/territories (which I will be talking throughout my articles) that any normal person can sing in CM- Madhya sthayi, the middle octave( the shadja placed in this octave becomes his/her aadhara shadja), Mandra sthayi, the lower octave, and Tara sthayi, the higher octave. There are further 2 more sthayis above and below these called as Atitara sthayi and Anumandra sthayi, where a very few can potentially reach them.
Rythym and Raaga:
Before going further into the definition of Rhythm, I would like you to observe certain instances of a ‘beat’. Like, the heartbeat( or pulse ), the sound that comes when you clap your hands, the sound of a ticking clock, the sound of a church bell, the sound when you tap your feet on the floor etc. But, rhythm is something more to it. It is complicated and has a series of pattern with shorter and longer beats. In musical language, if someone says ‘that rhythm’ or ‘this rhythm’, they mean ‘that rhythmic pattern’ or ‘this rhythmic pattern’.
Raaga in Indian Music is another important concept. The Raaga can be defined as aesthetic svara group patterns which can be further beautified by the tonal excellence which brings pleasure to the listeners. The raaga has a definite shape or in other words boundaries, which is called scale. This scale has the ascending and descending svara format called ‘ Arohana’ and ‘Avarohana’. Although the scale defines raaga boundaries, the expression of the raaga is not restricted to the scale but can be explored by traversing the component svaras in that scale. This is how different compositions are made.
There are two aspects of Carnatic music called ‘Kalpita sangeetam’ and ‘Kalpana sangeetam’. Kalpita sangeetam is pre-composed music by scholars whereas Kalpana sangeetam is music created from one’s imagination without deviating from the rules. One has to excel in Kalpana sangeetam to do the later.