The second article in the music series

  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.

Pitch/Shruthi:

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.)

Note/Svara:

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.

“Kafka on the shore” – Haruki Murakami review

The reason why I chose this as my next blog is I have read this book and wanted to share my opinion. After all, good writings are no harm to share!

Before getting into the review of this book by Haruki Murakami, I want you to get a picture of his works. Of course, this is from my point of view. He mainly focuses on a central character and the story unfolds. His stories enfolds in a Japanese environment as he is from Japan. I like his writings because he brings out the courage to deal situations no matter how good or bad they are, by showing it is all within you. This is exactly similar to the real world. I presume this is the same feeling for most of his readers and followers.

The story starts with a fifteen-year-old boy named Kafka, who is with fortitude and is prepared to leave home so that he could avoid a daunting prophecy told by his father. Another thread goes in twain to this, which is about another important character that took place in the mountains of Japan. It gripped me as an audience because it kindled suspense. However, I felt this was of no use later. The way the author created this fiction with two parallel stories, of two different people and two different worlds which converge and diverge was beautiful. I believe it is for this reason, the book is magical and reached millions of people.

I feel every character has something to say to the reader. As told earlier, the two main characters are Kafka and Nakata, who is presently 60 years old man. There is something to learn from other characters too in the plot. One such character is Oshima, the librarian by profession. He is a bold, straightforward, gentle and a knowledgeable person. Kafka who reaches this place by destiny gets help from him in terms of job at the library and a room to live. During his days in the library, he meets the head of it, Miss Saeki, a 50-year-old, another crucial character in the thread. 

She is a woman who is struck with the memoirs of her lover who died when she was twenty. The story unravels with Kafka and Miss Saeki. The relationship between them seems to be weird in the beginning, but it takes its course to convince the readers by the author. On the other hand, Nakata who has some ethereal powers like talking to cats, making fishes and leeches fall from the sky gets trapped in an incident. Here, he is forced to kill a mysterious personality. I feel it as an important twist because it leaves the reader in confusion! However, this feeling gets carried away until it settles down with the next incident to happen. 

Nakata decided to move from that place and on his way, he meets a guy named Hoshima. The bond between the two grows stronger as with the story. Both of them journey together until they reach Takamatsu, where Kafka lives. This turns out to be a curious turn in the tale. While travelling in a literal sense also in a metaphorical way in life, they both get to know each other well. Hoshima helps Nakata find ‘the entrance stone.’ Murakami in his narration has a tinge of mixing philosophy and intellect in this phase of the story. Once found, Nakata tries to conversate with the stone which sounds insane. But as a reader, who is familiar with his personality don’t find it strange anymore. Things from here take their course in a mesmerizing way leading to the climax.

“Silence I discover, is something you can actually hear” – Haruki Murakami ( Kafka on the shore ).

Now, what’s the prophecy on Kafka by his father and will it happen? Will Nakata’s and Kafka’s path come across? Will Kafka get answers that he was seeking? How will he accept his fate? What destiny shows him? Are the questions that will arise and will be found in KAFKA ON THE SHORE!

I hope I have aroused enough curiosity to read this book by the review!

Eastern and western Music collaboration series

Everyone has their own perspective and choice in genres of Music. Some like listening, some like dancing to the tunes, some like learning it, some like practising it while some like to take it as a career too. I am sure, every one of us would fall into any of the above-mentioned categories. One thing is common, it gives you contentment and makes you forget the world you are in at least for that very moment. We all have a myth that it is some art form or a cultural attribute but it’s beyond bodily experience and relates to the human psyche. 

Not completely knowing its effect on human behaviour, I have started learning Indian Carnatic vocal Music along with its theory. For about this time, I discovered that experience with-in me. In Carnatic Music (or for that matter) any art form in India should be learnt by seeking blessings from a Guru by offering pranam (salutation). It is believed that blessings are very important to gain expertise in any art form, according to Indian culture. So, my salutations to Guru Dr Sowmya Sanak Kumar Athreya. 

I live in a place where there is limited access to such learning experience. I took a course on the basics of piano from one of the online sites and happened to meet Edgars, a bachelor’s student of piano at his concert. To my surprise, I see the same involvement in him while playing it. Now, I have realized the concept called Music is Universal! Then comes the idea of collaborating the common ideas/ theories, different approaches to Music from east and west. Purists may not accept this as they consider Carnatic Music to be divine. However, knowing the limitations of a piano( basic instrument to learn western classical Music) its, not a sin.

Anything good you see and appreciate in this series of articles is because of the musical knowledge from my Gurus and errors you come across is because of my inability to interpret it.

I mentioned before about Music theory. Why the theory is important?

You as a reader might be wondering, what’s my intention in writing this article. Before making this clear, I want you to think it for yourself and I am sure you would get the answer by pondering over the below questions.

  • Do we watch movies or for that matter can we be promoted to next class in school without learning alphabets?
  • Can you see yourself cooking a delicious dish without even knowing what ingredients make up that dish?
  • Can we all take big decisions such as career choices in childhood itself without even knowing/ able to decide what our favourite subject is?

So, what’s common in all the above examples is the basic knowledge of getting deep into a subject. In other words, I call it learning theory. 

In this series of articles from my understanding through various sources, I want to convey that Music is easier to study and share if it is written down.

The Trinity of Carnatic Music

It is believed that Carnatic Music has very old footprints and is still ruling this world of fast beats because of its depth in knowledge. Purandaradasa, a devotee of Lord Vishnu is a singer and composer of Carnatic Music in Medieval India. Recognizing his contributions, he is referred to as “Sangeeta Pitamaha” which means father or grandfather of Music. He formulated basic lessons of Music in the form of exercises as Saralivarisai, a Tamil word (Sarali = easy, varisai= in a line) and Alankaras which means decoration in a literal sense, a Musical decoration. Next, in line is the origin of “Trinity of Carnatic Music.” Tyagaraja Swamy, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Shyama Shastri contribute to the name in the 18th century. They together created a new era of classical music through their distinct compositions but each of them has individual significance.

On the other hand, Western classical music is the one which emerged or developed by Europeans or European immigrants in other western parts. It has its roots from the early 19th century, though other forms of Music in the west existed much before. The symphony ensemble and compositions were the predominant features of that period.

With these different approaches being said, I would end it here for this article and the next article would bring the basic terms in both the Music.

Namaste.