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Music Of India Essay, Research Paper

The music of India is a mosaic of different genres and levels of sophistication. At one extreme, classical music is performed in the urban concert halls for purely artistic reasons, and at the other, many kinds of functional rural music accompany life-cycle and agricultural rites. In between are many other musical genres of different regions of the country, reflecting the diversity of its peoples. The origins of classical music can be traced to the Natya Shastra, a Sanskrit treatise on drama, which encompasses music as well. Two classical traditions are now recognized; Hindustani in north India and Carnatic (or Karnatak) in the south. Both traditions have inspiration from the bhakti (”devotional”) movements modified by the princely courts. The two traditions share basic musical features but differ in many details, so that followers of one often find the other not pleasing. Both systems consist of un-harmonized melody; a drone (one or more notes sustained against a melody); and the melody line, which may either be composed in advance or improvised. It based on one of several hundred traditional melody matrices called raga . These consist of scales, ascending and descending movements, strong and weak notes, and characteristic phrases. Emotional connotations of individual ragas, associating them with moods, performance times, colors, deities, and so on are great influences on the ragas. A raga can be performed both in free time and in measured time. In free time, the melodic features of a raga are explored gradually in their natural rhythm or flow. In measured time, one of several possible measures, called talas, is used. A tala consists of a repeating number of time units that form a cyclical pattern; within this cycle, specific points receive different degrees of stress. Tala thus involves both a numeric element and an accent or stress element. Many complex talas exist, but those ranging from 6 to 16 units are most common.

In the Hindustani khyal, a vocal concert found in north India today, the composition is generally considered an improvisational concert; normally a lengthy section is performed in a time measure so extremely slow.

Both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions also have vocal forms derived from dance and considered lighter in character. These forms, with their dance-rooted rhythms, are performed at the close of concerts. In the Carnatic system, instrumental music is based on vocal forms. The majority of Hindustani music, in contrast, is a specifically instrumental composition based on the plucking patterns of stringed instruments, especially the sitar.

The Sarangi is the premier bowed instrument of North Indian music. It began to become popluar in the mid-17th century to accompany vocal music. It still retains this vital role today. The Sarangi consists of truncated body. Like the Sarode it has a sound board of goat skin. It has three main playing strings of heavy gut. These are the ones which are bowed. It also has an addition of thirty to forty metal strings, which give the instrument it characteristic sound. Unlike the violin, in which the strings are pressed down on a fingerboard, the playing strings of the sarangi are stopped with fingernails of the left hand. Probably the best-known North Indian instrument is the Sitar. It is a long necked lute with twenty curved metal frets. It is plucked by the index finger of the left hand. Sitars generally have six or seven main playing strings which run above the frets, and an additional twelve or more strings, which give the instrument an shimmering echo when played. The bridge of the Sitar, which is rectangular, gives the instrument its characteristic sound. The Sarode is a fretless lute, with a fingerboard faced with metal. It has a soundtable of goat skin. The Sarode has generally eight to ten main playing strings and eleven to sixteen strings. It is plucked with a pick made ofcoconut shell. It is shorter than the Sitar in length and has a clearer, rounder tone. The sarode is capable of both long slides and fast percussive phrases. The Santur is the relative of the hammered dulcimer of Europe. Stories of a shatatantri vina, or one hundred string Vina, of the ancient past are widely recorded. However, the origins of this instrument are still shroud in mystery. The Santur consists of a finely finished trapezium shaped box, with metal strings run across the top. The strings are usually grouped in three strings per note, called courses. Each of the courses are surported by a small wooden bridge, which alternate on either side of the top. Each course is sounded by striking it with a pair of light wooden mallets. It has been used for over one thousand years. The Tabla is the principal drum, of North Indian music. It is actually a pair of drums played with fingers and wrists of both hands. The right hand, smaller, high-pitched drum is called Tabla, and the left hand one, the Bayan or Dagga. The set is able to produce a wide range of different pitches and tone colors. The Bayan in particularly is reconizable for it low and colorful pitch effects.

The instruments of Indian classical music fall into two main categories: those that carry the main melody and those that accompany. Of the many other melodic instruments, the most prominent are the plucked lutes, sitar and sarod in the north and vina in the south; the transverse flute ba?sri; and the double reeds shahnai and nagasvaram. Accompanying instruments serve three functions: to provide a drone, to provide a secondary melody, and to keep time and give rhythmic support. For the drone the most common instrument is the long-necked lute, tambura. In the south, the Western violin is used to provide a secondary melody; as well as the bowed lute sarangi and the hand-pumped keyboard harmonium in the north. To keep time and provide rhythmic support the Carnatic system uses the double-ended drum mridangam, the small frame drum kanjira, and the earthen pot ghatam. The Hindustani system generally employs the pair of kettle drums called tabla and occasionally the double-ended drum pakhavaja.

Eighty percent of India’s population still lives in villages, and although change is noticeable, many old traditions remain. Except in the tribal areas, men and women are usually segregated in song. Women’s songs, often unaccompanied, are sung at weddings, childbirths, festivals, and during agricultural and household activities. Men’s songs, often accompanied at least by percussion instruments, are connected with devotional practices, particular festivals, and work. In most regions specialist musicians perform for ritual, devotional, didactic, and entertainment purposes. These specialists include priests, religious mendicants, entertainers, storytellers, and theatrical troupes. The role of the village entertainer has died off in many parts of India by the spread of films, which have developed their own forms of music influenced both by traditional Indian and Western music. Classical music, however, remains largely free of these influences.

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