Carnatic music

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Galaxy of lady Musicians

Carnatic music or Karnāṭak music or Karnāṭaka Saṃgīta is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

Quotes[edit]

...According to the Mela Kartas system, these ragas correspond exactly to the 72 basic scales in the ascending and descending structures.
Goovinda Dikshitar’s Sangitasudha in the middle of the 16th century....
  • Classical Carnatic music is but the continuance of ancient Indian music as it was prior to the advent of Persian influence and the attendant evolution of the Hindustani style. The Tamil areas in the South had from pre-historic times a well-developed, scientific, distinct style known as Pann. The Indian (later called the 'Carnatic' from the days of the work Manasollasa) and the Tamil Pann had coalesced invisibly during the middle ages and presently the South has the Carnatic music and the North has the Hindustani music - of course, both raga-based with common and distinct features.
    • N. Rajagopalan, in "Another Garland (Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers & Musicians) (Book II)", in Preface
  • ...invested Indian music, more particularly the Carnatic music of South India, with a tremendous range of nuances and aesthetic values retaining the basic religious and spiritual core...South Indian music belonged primarily to temples and gained its momentum from devotees of the Lord who often spurned royal patronage.
    • Venugopal, in "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009) P.xxxii
  • The major works in the rich musicological tradition are Matanga Muni’s Brihaddeesi (9th century) Saarnggadeva’s 13th century classic Sangitaratnaakaraa, Raamamaatyaa’s Svaramekalanidhi three centuries later and Goovinda Dikshitar’s Sangitasudha in the middle of the 16th century.... Govinda Dikshitar’ son Venkatamakhi is the first landmark classic that still has a bearing on contemporary Carnatic music. His Caturdandi Prakaashika (1660) is relevant today mainly for the classification of the Carnatic raga system, although his actual descriptions of raagas prevalent in his time are of only historical interest now....The Carnatic music as we know today is very different from the music that was described in these treatises.
The 24 Nayanmars.
  • The region south of the Vindhyas was referred to as Karnatakam and hence the name. The word Karnatakam also stands for ‘that which is very old’ and scholars have interpreted it to mean that this music form is an old one. Yet another explanation is that the word derives from Karna (the ear) + Ata (to haunt) or ‘that which haunts the ear’. That would certainly be an apt description for Carnatic Music.
  • Around the seventh and eighth centuries South India saw also a great surge of devotionalism with the emergence of a number of devotee-poet singers who expressed their deep devotion in thousands of metered verse set to classical music. ...These poet singers were the Alvars and the Nayanmars, who to a great extent constructed the foundation on which the edifice of the future Carnatic music was built.
    • In "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.452
  • ...the South witnessed the birth of great devotee-musicians such as Ramadasa, Puranadaradasa, Annamacharya, and Kshetragnya.
    • In "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.453
  • ...in the South [South India], the 16th and 17th centuries were of tremendous significance in the history of Indian musical literature. The Swaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya, a Minister of Rama Raja, Prince of Vijayanagar, focuses attention on the fact that the music of South India was evolving in its own way and acquiring a distinct identity and character. In fact one of the most important treatises on the Karnatak system was the Caturdandiprakashika of Venkatamakhin written in 1660 AD, in which the Classification of Ragas in terms of 72 basic scales (Mela Kartas) was first advocated. According to the Mela Karta system, these ragas correspond exactly to the 72 basic scales in the ascending and descending structures.
  • Purandara Dasa of the fitheenth-sixteenth century, who is said to be the father of present day classical Carnatic music, initiated a system of teaching Carnatic music and presented the initial scale of notes to be taught to a beginner. Purandara Dasa was a great devotee given to spending his whole life in meditation on God and singing his praises.
    • In "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.453
  • The contributions of these great people culminated in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century in a golden era of Carnatic music. Three great composers – Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikhsitir, and Shayamasastry - dominated the scene, and Carnatic music reached a pinnacle in both its aesthetic and its technical aspects. P. 453
  • Carnatic music as we know today can at best be traced to the early or middle of the eighteenth century. One of the most important reasons being the unbroken lines of guru-sisya (teacher–disciple) that have come down to the present day bringing with them compositions and musical practices of distinct traditions.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 2
  • Carnatic music being not the family heirloom of isolated families, but rooted in the community spawned a lot of talent, largely people who could participate in group singing, and of equal importance, several generations of composers, all in all in and around the cultural centre of s South India - Tanjaavur (Anglicized as Tanjore)
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 3
  • In general, Karnatak music is characterized and structured by a great degree of precision and rigidity in framework and is based on a strictly organized system. The percentage of fixed compositions rendered by artists is also relatively high in Karnatak music...embellishments on fixed compositions is one of the prime elements of a Karnatak musical performance. Further in Karnatak system instrumental music very closely follows the vocal pattern.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", pp. 42,44
  • In Karnatak music, a great deal of emphasis is also placed on the Sampurna (heptatonic) scale types, Melas as a means of classifying ragas [musical scales]....the 17th century text Chaturdanda Prakasikha lists out all the possible melas which could fit into the Karnatak system of music. This 72 Melakarata system still provides the basis for classification in the Karnatak music.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 45
Karnatak music is characterized by an absence of purely instrumental compositions. The vocal form referred to as Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi is generally the main item at a Karantaka Kacheri (musical recital)...
  • Karnatak music is characterized by an absence of purely instrumental compositions. The vocal form referred to as Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi is generally the main item at a Karantaka Kacheri (musical recital). The term Ragam refers to Alapana, unbounded by a fixed time measure. This is followed by Tanam, which though rhythmic is unmeasured. The final section is the Pallavi, a composition of words and melody set on a particular |Tala. The composition could be traditional or composed by the performer himself.... Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi is the longest item in a recital in Karntak music. It reflects and skill and imagination of the performer.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", P.66
  • Other forms include the Varnam, a completely composed piece, designed to show a Raga in all its pristine purity. Pada and Javali are two kinds of love-songs depicting poetic imagery characteristic of the Bhakthi movement. The Tillana is rhythmic and is in very fast tempo.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", P.66
  • ...the musical ambience in the cultural centre of Tamil Nadu – in and around Tanjaavuur in the times of the great composers, several factors point in the direction of the Carnatic music fraternity being fairly large and also a fair amount of musical sophistication can be attributed to them. The bhajana tradition had exposed the common people to a lot of music. For instance, consider the practice unjavrutti (going along the streets singing and collecting food for the day) that, unarguably, the greatest composer of Carnatic music – Thyagraja - is supposed to have unfailingly followed all his life. It meant that the community in which he lived was exposed to his music every day of their lives
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 3
  • ...the robust health of the Carnatic music fraternity made the “golden age” of Carnatic music possible...became possible because of interaction in the music community, the “core” musical knowledge that the composers could take for granted and the intense awareness of the tremendous musical activity by the composers.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 5
  • ...to learn the idioms and phrases that define the ‘grammar’ of the major ragas of Carnatic music is through learning the great compositions of these ragas....in Carnatic music, fixed texts are used to create the ‘lexicon’ of Carnatic music and ‘grammar’ of particular ragas
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 5
  • ...the Carnatic music system is arbitrary in principle, even though some features may be conditioned by mathematical laws....the only law of mathematics that Carnatic music adheres to is the law of doubling the frequency of the fundamental for the octave.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 17
  • In Carnatic music, one can create new ragas (not just tunes) which have never been though of before. In that sense, raagas are open ended in Carnatic music.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 19
  • ...the Carnatic music representation requires only a three (or at most four) levels of flat structuring (i.e. with no internal hierarchical structure), theorists of Western music have argued for the need for an enriched structure. Thus while Carnatic music seems to be satisfied with the limited structuring at the phonological/phonetic levels, Western Classical music seems to work from the syntactic end.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 25

Another Garland (Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers & Musicians) (Book II)[edit]

N. Rajagopalan:...Purandara Dasa fully understood it; and had thoughtfully followed the Sthula Arundhati Nyaya in taking the students of music step by step. The method is named after the venerable lady and not after her exalted spiritual spouse Vasishta!...

N. Rajagopalan, in Another Garland (Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers & Musicians) (Book II)

  • The Tallapakkam stalwarts, Purandara Dasa and the Trinity could have struck mines of gold but chose, by deliberate intent and conviction, to practice the concept outlined in the song 'Nidhi chala sukhama.' The Saint of Tiruvisanallur, an intellectual seer, cried to the Lord not to curse him with wealth.
    • In pp. 13-14
  • The word 'Karnafacam' refers not only to some undefined parts of Peninsular India but also to what is traditional and ancient. 'Carnatic' is presumably a derivative of it. Carnatic Music is taken as the Indian music legated to posterity by ancients like Bharata, Sarngadeva, et al, as invasions and external influences happened to mould in North India a modified style now broadly classified as Hindustani music. Carnatic and Hindustani styles do retain the common heritage of being raga-based. In the Tamil areas of the South, 'Pann' or Tamil Isai has had a hoary antiquity.
    • In p. 23
  • Luxuriant Tamil music metamorphosed into Carnatic music. Someswara Bhooloka Malla Varman (1116-1127 A.D) of the Western Chalukyas who authored the prominent thesaurus Manasa Ullasa called the music of the South - of the Tamils included - as 'Karnataka Sangeetham and the term has turned immortal.
  • The kritis of Tyagaraja and others, on the contrary, are conceived generally as musical compositions; and their poetry, however impressive, is mainly a verbal scaffold for raising a musical structure. Musical thought, rather than poetic thought, seems to determine their structure pattern.
    • In p. 25

Carnatic Music Learning Series - Volume 1, English[edit]

Vocal musical concert

Jyotsna Srikanth, Rathna Srikantiah Carnatic Music Learning Series - Volume 1, English

  • Purandara Dasa is regarded widely as the father of Carnatic music, giving a structure to the teaching aspects.
  • In p. 35
  • Vocal music, instrumental music and Dance, all the three combined together is referred to as Tourya Trikam
    • In p. 27
  • Avarat is a cycle of talam.
    • In p. 27
  • In order to facilitate easy and accurate method of reckoning musical time, six angas have been devised. They are known as Shadangas. Shad is Sanskrit for 6 and angas means part.
    • In P.27
  • Swara is the musical note which is pleasing to the ears. A group of musical sounds are called swaras that give melody and pleasant feelings to the ears and is called Sangeetam. Ancient writers hold the view that vocal music, instrumental music, and dance together constituted Sangeetam. Later, dance was separated from the first two, while no specific information is known about the period to understand or attribute this change to any individuals.
    • In p. 30
  • Geetam means song. The simplest union of Dhatu (music or swara) and Matu (words or sahitya) is known as Geeta. Geetas are the simplest of Carnatic melodies.
    • In p. 31

The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts[edit]

Bruno Nettl The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts (2005)

  • The right way to do something is to sing the right song with it
    • A Music teacher, in p. 160
  • No room for innovation in Carnatic music
    • A Music scholar, in p. 290
  • In the culture of Carnatic music in Madras (Chennai), the term Katcheri is used for a large concert with an ensemble. Briefly, the ensemble consists of various levels of leadership and accompaniment: For example, a solo singer is the principal, a virtuoso in singing technique and improvisation, and a master of the complex musical system. He or she is accompanied by a violin, which follows along, repeating and recapitulating the singer’s improvisations, and a mridangam (drum), which accompanies the metric passages. The violin, which occasionally gets to improvise, is accompanied by a second violin, which also follows, and assumes the main accompanying function when the first violin plays solo. The mridangam, too gets to improvise to solo and is accompanied by a second percussion instrument, a ghatam (actually a pot of fired clay). It is a complicated structure, but the principle is that there is always leadership and accompaniment, various levels of it, and that the leader (or temporary leader) gets to make musical decisions and must be followed by the accompanist. The tamboura, a large four-string lute, which plays drone throughout, performs an essential function but outside the system.
  • In South India, singing in popular religious genres was accompanied by drums often played by women. In Carnatic music, however, women were mainly singers, and sometimes played violin or vina, but very rarely played flute, and never I think the oboe like nagaswaram... one of the characteristics of South Indian classical music has been its tendency to absorb and adopt foreign, mainly Western instruments incorporating them into the sound ideal of Carnatic music. I am talking about the violin and the harmonium in the nineteenth century, and the saxophone, clarinet, guitar, and mandolin in the twentieth century.

Famous musicians[edit]

Sri.V.Sriram: A senior contemporary of Purandara Dasa was Talapaka Annamacharya (1408/1424-1503) who composed entirely on the deities of the Tirumala temple. Several of his songs were discovered engraved on copper plates in a sealed chamber in the Tirumala temple at the turn of the last century....
Many royal personages adorn the pages of India’s musical history and amongst them the position of Swati Tirunal, a versatile genius, a linguist, a gifted musician...
  • Purandara Dasa was amongst the greatest of the saints who was not only a pioneering musician but also one of the renowned composers of Karnataka Music.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", P.19
  • The 14th and 16th centuries, Vidyaranya, Ramamatya, and Vithala were among the notable scholars and musicians who helped mould the Karnatak system.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 67
  • Purandara Dasa (c.1484-1564), a prolific composer is credited with as many as 475,000 songs, in Sanskrit and Kannada. he succeeded in presenting the quintessence of the Upanishads and the Purana in his compositions. Clothed in fascinatingly simple tunes, these songs are simultaneously reflective of sublime thoughts, high ideals and are characterized by beautiful similes and proverbs which make them expressive in content... .Significantly his compositions contained the signature: Porandara Vitthala. Realizing the importance of imparting musical knowledge, he composed the Svaravali, Alankaras, Ghanaraga Gitas and Prabhandas. In fact the art form: Kriti which attained unprecedented heights of perfection at the hands of Tyagaraja, originated with Purandara Dasa.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 67
  • Purandara Dasa, who belonged to a sect of Vishnu worshippers called the Haridasas (also referred to as Dasa Kootas), referred to as the Pitamaha (Grandsire) of Carnatic music, who codified the beginners’ lessons and also gave the art a concrete syllabus for learning that is followed till date with very minor variations. Purandara was a prolific composer, but unfortunately in the chaos that prevailed in the years after his death owing to the break up of the Vijayanagar empire, the tunes of most of his works were lost though the lyrics of many songs have survived. These are now sung in various tunes by present day musicians.
    • Sri.V.Sriram, in "A brief history of Carnatic Music (2007)"
  • A senior contemporary of Purandara Dasa was Talapaka Annamacharya (1408/1424-1503) who composed entirely on the deities of the Tirumala temple. Several of his songs were discovered engraved on copper plates in a sealed chamber in the Tirumala temple at the turn of the last century. Though some of the plates mention the ragas in which the songs were originally set, the absence of any notation meant that the music of Annamacharya is now lost. His songs were tuned by several contemporary scholars and composers. Annamacharya is referred to as the Pada Kavita Pitamaha, or the Grandsire of the Pada, which is a form of song. Certainly, it is in his works that one comes across for the first time the use of a pallavi (beginning line) and several charanams (verses). Annamacharya was among the earliest composers whose works adhered to alliteration and prosody.
    • Sri.V.Sriram, in "A brief history of Carnatic Music (2007)"
  • If gold could be found with fragrance, it is Tyagaraja, Kshetragna, Purandara Dasa and Jeyadeva, Tyagaraja immortalised Purandara in his Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam. Purandara stands unapproached as the supreme leader of the science no less than the art of music. Four centuries have passed and yet he remains the "Sangita Pitamaha". None could unseat him from that [[w:Pedestal|pedestal.
    • Dr.V. Raghavan, in P.62
  • The period c.1750-1850 was indeed a remarkable one in musical history, for during this period there flourished the three musical geniuses Shyama sastry, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar, collectively referred as the Musical Trinity or Trimurti….all three great men scholarship were in fact contemporaries, proficient in Sanskrit, well versed in the Vedas, shastras, sacred lore and belonged to Tiruvaiyaru in the Tanjavur District of South India.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 68
  • Shyama Sastry, born in 1762, a scholar, well versed in Sanskrit and Telugu, was an ardent devotee of Mother Goddess Sri Kamakshi. He was a person who spoke to the Goddess and to whom the Goddess spoke. His mastery over Tala and Laya was indeed exceptional. He composed in intricate time-measures and signed as Syama Krishna...He was also architect of the musical form called Svarajatis, which was originally a dance form converted into an attractive musical form.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 68
  • The second jewel of the Musical Trinity, saint Tyagaraja, has been immortalized by his Pancharatna Kriti. An author of both music and Sahitya (literature) or an Uttama Vaggeyakara, his compositions mostly emanated from him as a Dhatu-Matu-karu (one who is the author of both music and literature) during his inspired moments. His kritis are noted for their musical content and beauty of language and presentation....Perhaps the supremely divine quality of his music emanated from his spiritual prowess and devotion to Bhakthi as also his irrevocable faith in Lord Rama.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 70
  • The lyrics of Tyagaraja are often in the form of a “dialogue”, where he converses with God and solicits divine response. Some of them are also in the form of “exercise” in self-introspection, “discourses” on God’s glories , and “philosophical expositions” highlighting the impermanence of human existence and of worldly possessions.
    • Venugopal, in "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.xxxii
  • The songs of Thyagaraja reflect the spiritual climate of the Vedas and the Upanishads and also implied teachings of the epics and the puranas.
    • Venugopal, in "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.xxxii
  • To Thyagaraja one sure method of purging one’s mind of all evil and of purifying the mind is through music, remembering God and reciting his glories. To him music was not a source of sweet sounds; it was verily the path to God. Thyagaraja clearly says that those who do not understand music do not qualify for salvation. He goes to the extent of saying that music itself is in the form of God. . **Venugopal, in "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.xxxiii
  • The greatness of Tyagaraja seems to lie in the fact that here was a man who lived close to our times, but still was able to realize and express the ancient spirituality of the Hindus to us in a form we could understand easily and appreciate.
    • Venugopal, in "I Want To Be In The Creative Field", 3E (1 November 2009), P.xxxiii
  • The sheer range of ragas and talas of these ‘simple’ divyanama compositions [of Tyagaraja] with their repetitive structure must have taught the people around the great composer the essence of Carnatic music.
    • K. G. Vijayakrishnan (2007), in “The Grammar of Carnatic Music”, p. 4
  • Muthuswami Dikshitar, the third of the Musical Trinity, composed Kritis and Raga Malikas. A wanderer in search of spiritual bliss and a master in Sanskrit literature, famous are the Tiruttani Kritis that he composed in praise of Lord Subramanya. Later, while on a pilgrimage to Kanchipuram, presided over by Goddess Kamakshi, several master pieces were composed by Dikshitar in praise of the Goddess.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 70
  • Many royal personages adorn the pages of India’s musical history and amongst them the position of Swati Tirunal, a versatile genius, a linguist, a gifted musician and composer in as many as six languages Sanskrit, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi and Urdu, it was during his time that Travancore became an important centre for music.
    • Vijaya Moorthy, in "Romance of the Raga", p. 70
  • M. S. Subbulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal and M.L. Vasanthakumari are widely considered the 'Female Trinity' of Karnatic Music. They performed in an era in which the Karnatic world was male-dominated.
    • N. Rajagopalan, in "Another Garland (Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers & Musicians) (Book II)"

Music Musings[edit]

Concert in both Carnatic and Hindustani music

Music Musings (3 February 2005)

  • The annual Music festival season in Chennai is a felicitous reminder that music continues to be a way of life for hundreds of performing artistes and thousands of ordinary people.
  • The kutcheri form itself is not older than 200 years. Historically, there are any number of examples in Carnatic music of interaction with, and adaptation from, other musical systems (the adoption of the violin in the 19th century being the earliest and most obvious instance).
  • If millions cherish this music, it is because of the power and beauty of its imaginative and emotional appeal.
  • Acoustic quality is a real concern to artistes, since the overall impact of a performance depends on the symmetry between appropriate amplification and feedback on the stage. Debate on some of these wide-ranging issues will shape the future of Carnatic music in the 21st century.
  • It is vital for the mega event — the extraordinary Chennai music season — to retain the character of a self-regulating enterprise, something it has managed to do over many decades.

External links[edit]

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