Sunday, May 28, 2017

Workshops   to decolonize the Asian Music;

To regain the due share in the world music education & entertainment market for Asian Music

On reading the previous post (‘HOW MIT & Raga Sputa Method can rescue the traditional Asian Music, & the ‘modernization without westernization’ in the Asian music domain?’; );

my friend M. Arjunamani from Sydney (Australia) mailed the following questions.

1.    Is it possible to use your MIT to recover or re-invent the Tamil PaNNs many of which we have lost?

2.    Will your MIT benefit our Othuvars and people who are interested in rediscovering the ancient PaNNisai?

3.    If so, could you please think of organising a Winter School on MIT for Othuvars and PaNNisai enthusiasts?

Before attending to the above questions, I need to brief on the ‘Colonization of the Asian Music’, which was responsible for the relevance of the above questions w.r.t the rescuing of the Tamil Music, one of the ancient Music.

In the following article, I had explained how Carnatic Music had suffered more due to the colonization of the Asian Music, and Tamil Music had become the worst victim in the process. (  )

The social mechanism of the colonization of the Asian mind, was the imbibing the western style sickness of the social comparison, after successfully implanting social comparison based hierarchy, replacing the social comparison free, social functioning based hierarchy in the Asian societies. For example, the current meaning of the word ‘caste’ as well as the present caste system in India, were mischievously implanted during the colony rule, as I had explained in the following article . (   )

The social history of the colonization of the Asian Mind and the Socio-Musical history of the colonization of the Asian music were interlinked, as explained below.

The following from the ancient Tamil text may provide the key to decipher the above mentioned interlink.

paNivuil chIr
mAththirai inRi  nhatakkumEl, vAzhum Ur
kOththiram kURappatum”.-  nhAlatiyAr 25:2

 பணிவு இல் சீர்
 மாத்திரை இன்றி நடக்குமேல், வாழும் ஊர்
 கோத்திரம் கூறப்படும். "
‍  நாலடியார் 25:2

“ the history of a city and the history of music of the city are intertwined. The growth and decay of a city will be reflected in the music of that city. Also the emerging trends in music may reveal the emerging history of that city. Hence the study of music history includes the musicological details which are related to the changes in the history of the place. Probably this could be extended to study an individual. The music skills, likes and dislikes in music taste of a person may reveal the characteristic of the person. The history of a city is not only the history of the people in the city, but also the history of the music of the people in the city.” ( )

From the above discussion, it is clear that the decolonization of the Asian mind and decolonization of the Asian music were interlinked.

To undertake the above exercise, we need to be open minded and detach ourselves from the emotional bond with the implanted concepts.

In spite of the irrefutable evidences in my book ‘Ancient Music Treasures – Exploration for the New Music’, I had come across emotion based opposition to the fact that the Harmonium and Sruthi box were introduced into the Indian music, after the entry of the Christian missionaries from the Western countries, followed by the colony rule.

I had come across such emotion based oppositions, from both among the pro-Carnatic music & pro-Tamil music circles, most of them unfortunately entangled in the baseless superior/inferior battles. ( )

People like my friends M Arjunamani and Prof.Dr.N.Ramanathan, former Dean of Music, University of Madras, as exception to the above trend, were supporting my open minded research to decolonize the Asian Music & to regain the due share in the world music education & entertainment market.

As part of the above efforts, I mailed the following, in response to the questions in the beginning of this post.

Regarding the prospects of MIT benefit to our Othuvars (experts in the traditional rendering of the thevAram texts of Saivam), and to recover or re-invent the Tamil PaNNs, the following problems needed to be addressed first.

When & how did different styles of rendering the same thevAram text (well recorded in Pondy French Institute) originate?

What are the differences between theory and performances in Carnatic music? 

What was the role of colonization, in causing the above differences?

What were the influences of Carnatic Performance music, a post-colonial development (unlike Hindustani Music) mixing Tamil temple music, folk music, Hindustani music & western music, in the above different styles of rendering the same thevAram text? 

To rescue not only the ancient Tamil music, but also to decolonize all kinds of Asian music;

I had expressed my willingness to my friend M.Arjunamani, to conduct a workshop on the above problems & the required skills one could acquire to undertake the above joint probe.

The above probe, may lead to identify the ways & means ‘to recover or re-invent the Tamil PaNNs many of which we have lost’.

The above workshop may prove to be a good beginning to plan similar workshops to decolonize all the kinds of the Asian Music & to regain the due share in the world music education & entertainment market, for the Asian Music.

Monday, May 22, 2017

HOW MIT & Raga Sputa Method can rescue the traditional Asian Music,
& the ‘modernization without westernization’ in the Asian music domain?  

“The Agra Gharana, one of the major streams of Hindustani classical music, is on the verge of extinction in the place of its birth. There are few patrons and the number of practitioners of this great musical tradition is dwindling.”(  )

Hindustani classical music was growing with rich variety of gharanas; each gharana following its own unique traditional mode of musical training and education. ( ) Like the Agra Gharana, all gharanas are experiencing the threat of extinction, due to the ‘musical tsunami’ dominated by western pop music, as stated below.

"The young ones are veering towards pop musical streams which are neither soul satisfying nor soothing to the senses."- Jitendra Raghvanshi, national secretary of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA)

The south Indian classical music, known as ‘Carnatic Music’ had experienced worse consequences, by the replacement of ‘tampoora’ by the modern ‘electronic shruti box’ . (‘Pitch Problems in Indian Classical Music’ ; )

Like the Indian classical music, the Chinese classical music also face the threat of extinction, as the following news suggest.

“  the onslaught of modernisation and westernisation in Chinese culture over the last century has been a powerful one. As the most potent symbol of the classical musical tradition, the guqin has suffered badly.” ( )

In the light of the above frightening scenario, I found the following, as an encouraging development.

“Sonic Orders in ASEAN Musics”(2003)  - a field-to-lab ethnomusicology project that has produced two book volumes and 10 CDs providing a current over-view of what remains of the audioscapes in Southeast Asia.” ;  &

Probably the above project is a music related evidence for South-east Asia’s traditional role of being a bridge between Chinese and Indian civilisations. (

Following the above lead involving the application of MIT ( Music Information Technology), let me brief as how MIT & Raga Sputa Method can rescue the traditional Asian Music; apart from opening a gateway for new opportunities to dominate the world music education and entertainment market.

The convergence of music and computing technologies has increased the creative possibilities and potential for innovative and diverse new music and media. ( )

had increased the potential of rescuing the Asian classical music from the probable extinction.

Also the ancient Indian music composing technique called ‘Raga Sputa Method’, first discovered by the late Abraham Pandithar ( );

and the refinement of the above method through my research ;

would enhance the above rescue operation, by the application of MIT. 

In fact MIT in association with the refined ‘Raga Sputa Method’ is heralding a revolutionary transformation in  the music education and composing; replacing the western domination by the Asian domination, in the world music education and entertainment market.

The present text-to-speech, speech-to-text, etc applications of NLP (Natural Language Processing), were based on the convergence of linguistics and computing technology. My application of ‘Physics of Music’ to the ancient texts of Tamil & Sanskrit, had discovered ‘Musical Linguistics’; with the scope for developing lyrics-to-music, refining the lyrics-to-music, etc applications. I shall not be surprised if the above research encompassing ancient Chinese texts, revealing more to extend the scope, for developing new applications, catering to the emerging ‘new needs’ of the world market.

When I introduced ‘Music Information Technology’ as a subject to the engineering students as common elective subject to all disciplines (National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India), I never imagined that it would lead to validating a new music teaching methodology, helping my students, most of them music illiterates, to learn western music scales, Carnatic melakartha raga system, and the conversion of western melody into Carnatic notation & vice versa, composing the music in their laptop, using the mouse.

In fact, I had advised my students to explore the option to undertake the above rescue operation, as funded projects, after the completion of their studies, promising to share my expertise in their projects.

In fact with MIT knowledge, music composers will become a kind of music architects. Any music architect, by studying the new music taste, can design even a new musical form to build a music architecture employing the music building materials in the way the great composers used them or in a new improvised method. 

Also China’s success in  ‘modernization without westernization’ ( );

Seems to be not reflecting in the domain of Chinese Music. ( ).

The following from the ancient Tamil text may provide the key to ‘modernization without westernization’in the music domain.

paNivuil chIr
mAththirai inRi  nhatakkumEl, vAzhum Ur
kOththiram kURappatum”.-  nhAlatiyAr 25:2

 பணிவு இல் சீர்
 மாத்திரை இன்றி நடக்குமேல், வாழும் ஊர்
 கோத்திரம் கூறப்படும். "
  நாலடியார் 25:2

“ the history of a city and the history of music of the city are intertwined. The growth and decay of a city will be reflected in the music of that city. Also the emerging trends in music may reveal the emerging history of that city. Hence the study of music history includes the musicological details which are related to the changes in the history of the place. Probably this could be extended to study an individual. The music skills, likes and dislikes in music taste of a person may reveal the characteristic of the person. The history of a city is not only the history of the people in the city, but also the history of the music of the people in the city.” ( )

From the above discussion, it is clear that MIT in association with ‘Raga Sputa Method’ can rescue not only the traditional Asian Music, but also may contribute to the ‘modernization without westernization’ in the Asian music domain. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pitch Problems in Indian Classical Music (2)

Some responses & the clarifications

1. “Western Classical music uses even tempering where each note is 100 cents from the previous note”

Equal Temperament’s entry into western classical music took place around 18th century  ;  (‘Equal temperament tuning was widely adopted in France and Germany by the late 18th century and in England by the 19th.’;

Prior to which, Just intonation was the tuning system.

Even after the introduction of the Equal Temperament (ET), vocalists & violinists, when unaccompanied by the keyboard music instruments (designed for ET), followed Just Intonation.( For more details; 1.’Science of Music’ by  Sir.James Jeans; 2. ‘The Physics of Music’ by Alexander Wood)

Just Intonation is based on the consonant relations of the fifth & fourth. The actual intervals (frequency ratios) can be different in different kinds of music, all over the world. Both ancient texts in Tamil and Sanskrit have evidences that the Indian music followed the above consonant relations in the tuning. In my view, following that tradition, our great gurus in ‘pANi’ (carnatic), and  Gharana’ (Hindustani), set their own pitch standard, and the tuning system, using ‘tampoora’.

Tampoora’s  replacement by the western imported ‘sruti box’ ( formerly manual box set to the pitch standard of the period & western country it came from; & now electronic sruthi box, following western pitch standard} was a great tragedy;  gradually destroying ‘the pitch standard’ and the tuning system, followed by the great gurus of the Indian music. Fortunately from their recordings, and related texts, they could be ‘restored or even resurrected’, using the tools developed in the technology involving digital signal processing as well as ‘MICROSOUND’ (‘MICROSOUND’ by Curtis Roads) ) .; one of the reasons for my introducing ‘Music Information Technology’ as a common  elective ( all disciplines) to the B.Tech students in SASTRA University, Thanjavur, and National Institute of Technology, Trichy.

2.“The table  (source shows the relationship between the 22 sruthis in Indian music and the 12 notes in the Western tuning system.” Compiled by Mohan Ayyar using various sources such as books by Bhagyalakshmy and Sambamoorthy. 

When did the word ‘sruthi’ entered into the Indian music related terminologies? When did the concept of 22 sruthis entered into Indian music? What is the earliest reference for the method of calculation and the resulting frequency ratios of 22 sruthis, published by Sambamoorthy? 

3. International pitch standard referred to the pitch standard ( A= 440Hz), adopted at the World Music Conference, London, in 1939. Still many orchestras all over their world follow their own pitch standard, for their own reasons. (Note below)

Pitch standard and the tuning system together will decide the actual frequency of the musical note, referred for the tuning.  Whether Western music, Carnatic Music, or any music, before the performance, the musicians on the stage, need to tune their instruments by choosing a pitch standard and a tuning system for tuning their instruments. While the tuned intervals serve as a kind of guiding references, the musicians will ‘HAVE’ to deviate from the tuned intervals to bring ‘LIFE’ to their music to bring out the musical aesthetics  in the compositions they perform. Hence “the myriad use of microtones and inter-notes” are involved in the performances of all music in the world, but follow the tradition, unique to the kind of music performed.

Very many music application software are in the market that could study not only the above variations, but also ‘TRANSFORM’ the recorded music to different pitch standards, different tuning systems, different ‘timbres’, etc, limited by the skills of the technician.

To understand the ‘Western influences’ that crept into the Indian ‘Classical’ (the word itself, a western import, causing superiority/inferiority/untouchability in South Indian Music, as I had discovered & published in my posts;  refer post dt. November 13, 2013 ;’ இசையில் ' தீண்டாமை'  காலனியத்தின் ‘நன்கொடை’யா? Is ‘untouchability in music’, a Colonial ‘donation’?’;;

due to the Christian missionaries and the colonization, we need open minded, intellectually honest  research with hard work. In view of the increasing demand for ‘new music’ in the world music scene of  decreasing original compositions, and the socially spiritually enriching role of good music, ancient Indian music minus the ‘corruptions’ of the colonization, has the potential to ‘fill’ the gap.

In Tamilnadu, especially after the ascending of the Dravidian parties, I had come across ‘emotional attachment’ to one’s own perception among  pro-Tamil, pro-Tamil Music, pro-Carnatic Music  ‘experts’, preventing open minded, objective, & intellectual honest discussions.

I wish the responses to the posts, follow open minded, objective, & intellectual honest direction, leading to the ascending of the Indian Classical music in the world music scene. 

Note 1:

Yet despite the fact that a standard has been accepted, orchestras frequently deviate from this standard.
The San Francisco Symphony (reportedly) tunes to 441 or 442 Hz
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (reportedly) tunes to 444 Hz
The New York Philharmonic (reportedly) tunes to 443 Hz
and The Berlin Philharmonic (reportedly) tunes to 445 Hz
I know there's a tendency for some European countries to tune to 442 Hz and German orchestras are among others who tune to 445 Hz. But what makes an orchestra choose one of these numbers? Who makes the decision, the orchestra's leaders/committee or the conductor? What is the point of making this distinction? Why, after standardizing a tuning system, go to the trouble of changing it by so slight a degree?
(For the sake of this question, let's not take into account period instruments or ensembles which are famously tuned to anything from 415 Hz to 490 Hz)

Note 2. Rhythmic acrobatics can be enjoyed as ‘dance’, only by dance illiterates.

           While tampoora based Hindustani music may ‘survive’ as ‘music’, tampoora’ ‘divorced’ Carnatic music may ‘survive’ only as ‘aural acrobatics’, sacrificing ( through Western style class room education with ‘easy’ sruthi box  ) ‘traditional Guru guided’ ‘pANi’ school proper pitch standard & tuning system – essential for proper tuning before starting the music performance.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pitch Problems in Indian Classical Music

Before understanding the pitch problems faced by the Indian Classical Music, a brief note on the pitch & the tuning system, the basis of any music.

Pitch can be defined as a sensory characteristic arising out of the frequency assigned to a note in a musical scale. The frequency assigned to a music note is based on the tuning system and pitch standard.

Music intervals with the pitch standard primarily help tuning the instruments to the scale of music of the Indian Raga.  During performance, the artist some times deviates from these intervals to bring out a colorful music. These deviations will have to follow a minute grammar involving musical threads. ( Published in Sangeet Natak Vol XLII, Number 3,2008:’Musical Threads – A New Musicological Concept discovered from the Ancient Indian Music’)

What are the pitch standard & the tuning System for Hindustani Music & Carnatic Music of the Indian Classical Music?

Hamoniums and sruti boxes were western inventions introduced into our Indian music leading to ‘kattai’ in Carnatic Music and ‘White-Black’ in Hindustani Music, an indirect invasion of Equal temperament into the Indian music leading to the pitch problems.

There were several pitch standards followed in different western countries till 1939 and sruti boxes that entered into India till 1939 were having those different pitch standards. (Chapter 1, ‘Ancient Music Treasures – Exploration for New Music’ by Dr.Vee)

The electronic sruti boxes, now dominating Indian music education & performance follow the international pitch standard A = 440Hz as per the communication I received from Radel, the major supplier.

Our tampoora based tuning pitch standards were set by the gurus in their ‘pANis’ in Carnatic Music,& ‘Garanas’ in Hindustani Music.

No need to stress the importance of identifying the pitch standard & the tuning systems, followed by the great Gurus of the Indian classical Music in their ‘pANis’ & ‘Garanas’.

Thanks to the developments in the Music Information Technology(MIT), it is now possible to deal with the above pitch problems in Indian Music, and preserve our Indian Classical Music. (‘How can MIT rescue Indian Classical Music Education?’; )

I am willing to share my expertise, if any reputed institution undertakes the above project of rescuing the Indian Classical Music.

A brief note on the pitch standard in ancient Indian Music

Famous Indian Music scholar B.Chaitanya Deva in his book ‘The Music of India: A Scientific Study’ (page 54- Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd  NewDelhi 1981) offers the following interesting evidence.

“However, the flute seems to have been used as a drone (sthanaka) from at least the time of Kalidasa.” (vide V.Raghavan, Music in Sanskrit Literature, Qly,Jl, Nat. Centre for Perf. Arts, Bombay, VII, no.1, 1979)

Air instrument like pitch pipe and flute could serve as pitch standards as they were pre-tuned at the stage of manufacture and do not need tuning like the string instrument tampoora. The above evidence suggests that ancient Indian music during the time of Kalidasa had a flute as a pitch standard and drone.

Evidence for the ancient Indian pitch standard was also found in ancient Tamil literature chilappathikAram.

In chilappathikAram, poems from ancient music treatise ‘panjcha marapu’ were cited in Chapter 3 commentaries, while explaining flute. Details regarding the length of the flute, its diameter and positions of holes were provided. 

Vipulananda Adigal , a famous musicologist, in his book ‘Yal Nool’  had tried to calculate the frequency of middle octave C (Madya Sthayi Shadjam) using the above values and applying formulas in the vibrations of air column.

Vipulananda Adigal, had treated tuning fork frequency value of 256 Hz as pitch standard and like P.Sambamoorthy, (who had assumed 240Hz for his calculations) was not aware of international pitch standard (1939). His calculations suffered minor defects like incorrect calculation of vibrating length, non-application of end corrections and inaccurate value for velocity of sound.

In my doctoral thesis (1996) I had pointed out the above defects and calculated the frequency of middle octave C (Madya Sthayi Shadjam) as 264 Hz. Temperature played a role in this calculation. Since flute was related to mullai  land (forest and adjoining land), I had assumed that the temperature of mullai land was 24 0 C. Even if the temperature was few degrees above or below this value, we could conclude that the above flute had pitch standard very close to the present international standard.

When I presented the above finding in Pann Research Seminar at Chennai Tamil Isai Sangam, the Chairman of the meeting Mr.Me.Pa.Somu had revealed that during his early years, he had witnessed a pitch pipe assisting the standardization of pitches, during the manufacture of in air instrument Nadaswaram. My speech with this comment was published in the souvenir of Chennai Tamil Isai Sangam.

The tuning of the string instruments and the percussion instruments by referring to flute as pitch guidance device in ancient Tamil music, was compared to the mating of the elephants.(Refer post Dt. December 12, 2012: Tuning compared to the Elephant Mating in Ancient Music’)

How & Why & When did India loose its ancient pitch standard and the method of tuning? Probably a Dharampal like probe ('on the damages to the cultural, scientific and technological achievements of Indian society at the eve of the British conquest'; ), may reveal the answers that may lead to their revival.