Topic started by Shashi (@ fw1xlate1.mayo.edu) on Wed Oct 7 17:16:33 EDT 1998.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.
I found this very interesting peice of conversation between Tagore and Einstein on the net. I am going to paste this under this topic. I encourage every music lover to go thru this discussion.
Rabindranath Tagore by his Rabindra Sangeet tried to integrate some western thoughts (harmony etc..) in Indian melodic structure. The film music we hear today belongs to such a category as well.
My previous concerns about Raja composing theoritically using his mind is of genuine concern that the melodic aspect of Indian music--the heart and soul of OUR MUSIC should not suffer. MSV on the other hand did have less WCM knowledge but the melodic content in his songs are high--this could be one of the reasons his music appeals to persons who not only try to listen to music but try to feel it within their hearts (as in both North and South Indian Classical music). I myself was a listener at one time. Now I think I have started to feel.
Please do not interpret this as Raja's music does not necessarily appeal to the heart--it definitely does too.
The discussion to follow.
- From: Shashi (@ fw1xlate1.mayo.edu)
on: Wed Oct 7 17:18:16 EDT 1998
TAGORE: There is in human affairs an element of elasticity also, some freedom within a small range which is for the
expression of our personality. It is like the musical system in India, which is not so rigidly fixed as western music. Our
composers give a certain definite outline, a system of melody and rhythmic arrangement, and within a certain limit the
player can improvise upon it. He must be one with the law of that particular melody, and then he can give spontaneous
expression to his musical feeling within the prescribed regulation. We praise the composer for his genius in creating a
foundation along with a superstructure of melodies, but we expect from the player his own skill in the creation of
variations of melodic flourish and ornamentation. In creation we follow the central law of existence, but if we do not cut
ourselves adrift from it, we can have sufficient freedom within the limits of our personality for the fullest self-expression.
EINSTEIN: That is possible only when there is a strong artistic tradition in music to guide the people's mind. In Europe,
music has come too far away from popular art and popular feeling and has become something like a secret art with
conventions and traditions of its own.
TAGORE: You have to be absolutely obedient to this too complicated music. In India, the measure of a singer's freedom
is in his own creative personality. He can sing the composer's song as his own, if he has the power creatively to assert
himself in his interpretation of the general law of the melody which he is given to interpret.
EINSTEIN: It requires a very high standard of art to realize fully the great idea in the original music, so that one can make
variations upon it. In our country, the variations are often prescribed.
TAGORE: If in our conduct we can follow the law of goodness, we can have real liberty of self-expression. The principle
of conduct is there, but the character which makes it true and individual is our own creation. In our music there is a
duality of freedom and prescribed order.
EINSTEIN: Are the words of a song also free? I mean to say, is the singer at liberty to add his own words to the song
which he is singing?
TAGORE: Yes. In Bengal we have a kind of song-kirtan, we call it-which gives freedom to the singer to introduce
parenthetical comments, phrases not in the original song. This occasions great enthusiasm, since the audience is constantly
thrilled by some beautiful, spontaneous sentiment added by the singer.
EINSTEIN: Is the metrical form quite severe?
TAGORE: Yes, quite. You cannot exceed the limits of versification; the singer in all his variations must keep the rhythm
and the time, which is fixed. In European music you have a comparative liberty with time, but not with melody.
EINSTEIN: Can the Indian music be sung without words? Can one understand a song without words?
TAGORE: Yes, we have songs with unmeaning words, sounds which just help to act as carriers of the notes. In North
India, music is an independent art, not the interpretation of words and thoughts, as in Bengal. The music is very intricate
and subtle and is a complete world of melody by itself.
EINSTEIN: Is it not polyphonic?
TAGORE: Instruments are used, not for harmony, but for keeping time and adding to the volume and depth. Has melody
suffered in your music by the imposition of harmony?
EINSTEIN: Sometimes it does suffer very much. Sometimes the harmony swallows up the melody altogether.
TAGORE: Melody and harmony are like lines and colors in pictures. A simple linear picture may be completely beautiful;
the introduction of color may make it vague and insignificant. Yet color may, by combination with lines, create great
pictures, so long as it does not smother and destroy their value.
EINSTEIN: It is a beautiful comparison; line is also much older than color. It seems that your melody is much richer in
structure than ours. Japanese music also seems to be so.
TAGORE: It is difficult to analyze the effect of eastern and western music on our minds. I am deeply moved by the
western music; I feel that it is great, that it is vast in its structure and grand in its composition. Our own music touches me
more deeply by its fundamental lyrical appeal. European music is epic in character; it has a broad background and is
Gothic in its structure.
EINSTEIN: This is a question we Europeans cannot properly answer, we are so used to our own music. We want to
know whether our own music is a conventional or a fundamental human feeling, whether to feel consonance and
dissonance is natural, or a convention which we accept.
TAGORE: Somehow the piano confounds me. The violin pleases me much more.
EINSTEIN: It would be interesting to study the effects of European music on an Indian who had never heard it when he
TAGORE: Once I asked an English musician to analyze for me some classical music, and explain to me what elements
make for the beauty of the piece.
EINSTEIN: The difficulty is that the really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.
TAGORE: Yes, and what deeply affects the hearer is beyond himself.
EINSTEIN: The same uncertainty will always be there about everything fundamental in our experience, in our reaction to
art, whether in Europe or in Asia. Even the red flower I see before me on your table may not be the same to you and me.
TAGORE: And yet there is always going on the process of reconciliation between them, the individual taste conforming
to the universal standard.
- From: Kanchana (@ spider-wa061.proxy.aol.com)
on: Wed Oct 7 18:15:09 EDT 1998
Thank you very much for sharing this dialog. The discussions around individual contributions of melody and texture as well as the differences in flexibility in compositional structure and interpretation between the two musical systems are illustrated briefly, but well.
- From: Anand Mahadevan (@ tnt01-abe-018.fast.net)
on: Wed Oct 7 20:03:20 EDT 1998
Excellent and informative conversation .Thanks for the info.
This clearly outlines the balance one has to strike between melody and harmony.WCM has some overindulgence in harmony and Indian classical has no harmony at all.Each of these form stands on its own but fusion between these two would be ideal.
- From: N.C. Ramakrishna (@ spider-we011.proxy.aol.com)
on: Wed Oct 7 23:12:33 EDT 1998
Great work. Thanks for sharing the informative conversation.
To strike a balance between melody with harmony is I think one should make balance between heart and brain. He/she should be a genius as well as sensitive.
The music which touches the heart I think is apart from the brain. I mean it may not come from calculation. It has to be natural. Most of our music has come from heart.
For example Thiagaraja's compostions are natural. They just broke out from his heart. Similarly if you see many saints composition never had any anology. If I am not wrong. Thats why our music is great and more people are enjoying it.
- From: The Fan (@ spider-wa032.proxy.aol.com)
on: Thu Oct 8 00:01:32 EDT 1998
Extremely revelatory. I always felt that harmony was something that we missed in our music. but we haven't missed much. melody is what music is all about and harmony is the garnishing factor. our saints had to decide do we sing melody or harmony. since a saint operated alone, melody was only possible no harmony. also, maybe the saints sang such difficult ragas, teaching people to sing in such ragaas was next to impossible, so how for heaven's sake could they have taught harmonic choral singing to their devotees!!!
this is what if feel about the atmosphere at the time of the Trinities.
- From: Sriram Lakshman (@ sf-dnpqh-042.compuserve.net)
on: Thu Oct 8 04:29:33 EDT 1998
Tagore's approach to music is amply clear with the statement "What deeply affects the listener is beyond himself".
- From: Srinath (@ socks15d.raleigh.ibm.com)
on: Thu Oct 8 10:42:06 EDT 1998
To me there were two ideas in this conversation that were significant simply by their utterance rather than in the entire context.
"In creation we follow the central law of existence, but if we do not cut ourselves adrift from it, we can have sufficient freedom within the limits of our personality for the fullest self-expression."
"...whether to feel consonance and dissonance is natural, or a convention..." ! Phew ! That's a billion dollar question. That could be a discussion topic all by itself !
Interesting ! Thanks for the lovely article Sashi.
But IMHO, IR's music is far more balanced in melodic and harmonic content than either his immediate predecessor, MSV or his immediate successor, ARR. But his use of harmonic elements appears more pronounced because we have not seen anything like it before in TFM. Similarly, ARR's recording quality is amplified because it has not been seen before. Much in the same way, Deva's copies are emphasized because no one has dared to be so blatant before ;-)
But to return to my original point, the core of IR's music (if we were to ignore percentages) is not algorithmic - the surplus might be, but definitely not the core.
Thanks once again, Sashi.
- From: Anand Mahadevan (@ freedum.proxy.lucent.com)
on: Thu Oct 8 11:23:30 EDT 1998
I chanced upon this quote while reading a book on
"One of the characteristics of a genius is that his chosen field is so imbued with his work that anyone wishing to transcend that work,to carry it into new areas,is practically forced to deal with the work of the genius. That is to say,we can well begin by arguing with the genius".
guess IR fits the bill properly.
- From: Shashi (@ eed02990.mayo.edu)
on: Thu Oct 8 12:32:57 EDT 1998
Thanks for all your feedback. I tend to agree for the most part with all the comments made so far.
In my own opinion the right mix of melody and harmony is a matter of individual taste. Again it is my own feeling that of the of songs Raja has composed during his entire career the initial 10-15 years or so had a majority of songs with an ideal mix of of melody & harmony. The latter years this pattern has reversed.
BTW, I was listening to one of my Raja collections and was struck by the amazing melody+harmony mix in 'Yaar thoorigai thantha Oviyam....'(a song from Raja's earlier era) and 'Sangathamizh kaviye...' (a song from the later era). The earlier song is also said to be one of Karthick Raja's favorites (His other favorite he has mentioned numerous times is 'Yetho moham Yetho thaagam...')
- From: Murali Sankar (@ 188.8.131.52)
on: Sat Oct 10 16:58:40 EDT 1998
Dear TFM fans,
Let me place some of my humble views. The very definition of music can be stated as:
"The natural expression of emotions through a well balanced homogeneous mixture of selected frequencies following one after the other in a rhythmic pattern that transcends all barriers of humanity only to elevate it to the the status of divinity."
The "Naadha brahma swaroopa" description of almighty stems from this definition only. The principal similarity in the Western Classical approach and that of Indian Classical is that both try to express "Love". But the difference lies in the goal that they try to reach. When most of WC is based on love between two human forms(materialistic), IC stresses on the relation between the human and spiritual forms( non - materialistic). At this juncture let me clarify one point : I am not saying that WC is not at all spiritual,but that most of the compositions are based on Romance. It is this that in the opinion of our IC musicians which makes IC superior. This has misled them to the "Holier than thou" attitude. Any anyaswaraprayoga is seriously scorned at. By remaining in the closet they have refused to take the necessary elements of harmony from the WC. To a hard core IC musician who had not previously heard any of the Mozart or Beethoven compositions they appear to be a string of anyaswaras in a particular raga without much hold on thala. For a WC musician , similarly the IC seems to be a formless one with every artist singing it his own way. He wonders if there can be any music without harmony.
But take the case of an open listener. A commoner set in the village shall definitely not appreciate the vocal nuances of IC artist. For him the WC orchestration seems to be too monotonous and repetitive with the violins flowing along with others in an ununderstandable fashion. It is at this time that the break down of conventions come into picture. It is at this point that IR enters the scene with his own fusion style of music which pleases every commoner apart from the Classical gurus- both WC and IC. It is at this juncture that POP hits west. The commoner rejoices, but the WC classical gurus are utterly displeased with this eruption of this New form. Music - something to which only the knowledgeable had the access, became a commoner's routine method of relaxation.
Finally I want to stress that we be open to all forms of Music. The greatest asset of IC is the complicated lead notes and that of WC is the orchestration. I remember one article in "The Hindu" - Music Supplement which visualized the orchestration of "thyagaiyyer" Krithis. Regarding the discussion about the Melody + Harmony content in IR songs,I want to qoute "Chamber Welcomes thagaraja" which has a portion of "thulasi Dhala Mulasi" brilliantly orchestrated by the troupe of Raja. Personally I feel that IR is the best for a possible orchestration of "Thyagaraja"'s songs. After all he is probably the only one among the contemporary world composers to know almost every form of Music and compose in them. These are my personal opinions and i welcome critical remarks for a better understanding of Music.
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