On Indian Music and the 20th and 21st Century

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  • Topic: India, Carnatic music, Indian classical music
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  • Published : December 9, 2012
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Aniruddh Bose-Raut
REL S 339
Timalsina
On Indian Music and the 20th and 21st Century
Music. The Universal language, no matter who you are or where you’re from music is something we all understand. While some might consider mathematics to be the pure language, I find that music is the purest language of them all. Music was around before the first measuring of a Circle or the development of fire. Music is something that touches us each in very different ways. Being a musician since I was just 10 years old I have always surrounded myself with the ability to play music and perform various types of music from jazz to classical, to rock and even techno. On the other hand being a religious studies major I have surrounded myself with the ability to learn the various languages and traditions and cultures found all over the world and learn as much as I can about them. Naturally I know a bit of every religion but of course I have a soft spot for the studies of my own religion of Hinduism and well any religion of Indian in general. So it was only fitting that I write this paper on the topic of Indian music. While popular culture states that the basis of music came from the Greeks and Romans the truth is that the subcontinent of India and the general South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Punjab, etc.) formed the basis of everything we know about music today from the scales, to the notes, to their respective chords. The Indian music of the South and the North were both very influential in the development of music in Europe and eventually America, influencing great musical minds such as Claude Debussy (Claire de Lune, etc), Gustav Holst (The Planets), and Maurice Ravel (Bolero), and many more. Each of these famous composers paved the way for more composers in America such as Philip Class (1937), John Williams (1932), and John Philip Sousa (1854), just to name a few. Each of these composers studied the use of Indian ragas, mantras, talas, time signatures, meter counts, and they each brought their own flair to the this musical battlefield. It is safe to say Indian Music has shaped the formation of music today and this essays goal is to help you, the reader, understand that shaping and influence to help you better understand a completely alien culture that is India and its great gift to humanity, in the form of song. Before we delve into the world of Indian Music history and its affect on present times we should first take some time to learn a bit about Indian music to have a solid background. There are two main branches of Indian music: Hindustani Music commonly associated with North India and is alternatively called “North Indian Music,” and Carnatic Music commonly associated with South India and is alternatively called “South Indian Music.” Each of these two branches has their own styles in approach to reading, writing, and playing music.

Indian music has different terms and words to learn and understand in order to get a feel for Indian music. Indian music is very textbook and has many different types of rules and regulations to understand what to play and how to play it. Some of the more mainstream terms are raga meaning a scale, “shuruti”, a small interval or pitch that can be detected (note: alternatively the word “shuruti” outside of the context of music means to speak or to be oral. The bulk of the Indian music and learning about it is taught by word of mouth and is usually never written down when passed form teacher to student.), “swaras”, or notes, specifically the notes within a scale (i.e. Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa; similar to the Western, Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do)., “alankar”, the specific structure of ragas within a song and its ability to try and relate to the human voice as close as possible thru the medium of an instrument. And lastly, the “tala”, or the rhythm and/or meter of a song, similar to the term “time signature” in western music involving the numbers at the beginning of the song (i.e....
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