Wednesday, March 25, 2009

INDIAN MUSICOLOGY REVISITED: The Ancient Music culture of 22 srutis

The Ancient Culture of 22 Srutis Music

     Please read this blog in conjunction with my Presentation slides placed at the link:

     A mere academic treatise focused on the modalities for employing 22 tones or 12 tones in classical music is NOT the main theme of my Book “THE MYSTIC CITADEL OF 22 SRUTIS MUSIC”! My Study  goes deeper into the very rudiments of ‘music’ in terms of tracing its origin to the pre-Vedic era and the directive principles involved in its design.

     Indian ‘music culture’ seems to have permeated through several millennia of oral traditions; transcription of these traditions, however, was a relatively recent event, i.e. as late as 200 B.C. (the period of Bharata Muni and Dattila). Alas! It had been rather too late! Ambiguities and haze had already crept in and scholars of the posterity remained busy since then trying to interpret the transcripts, only to find themselves in deeper and deeper dogmatic mire.

     In my Book “THE MYSTIC CITADEL OF 22 SRUTIs MUSIC”, I had taken the view that this veil surrounding our ‘Ancient Music’ is by no means ‘accidental’; it was probably a deliberate act of ‘encoding’ on the part of an advanced (now extinct!) ancient civilization that had reveled in this music! Notwithstanding this act of concealment, ‘they’ seem to have left some ‘keys’ in our cultural processes that would enable its ‘recovery’ at a ripe moment during the long haul of ‘time’. Dissemination of these ‘keys’ was not confined to any specific cultural group; it was lateral and cross-cultural. By this I mean to imply that this ‘Ancient Music’ is our ‘common heritage’, as viewed from the global perspective.

     While studying the available musicological literature of India, I found that the ‘keys’ to crack the codes were contained in ‘Sadja-grama Scheme (the most fundamental inheritance; we may roughly describe this Scheme as ‘a group of minor notes’!), Madhyama grama’ Scheme (a derivative of the Sadja-grama Scheme; may be described as ‘a group of major notes’) and ‘murchanas’ (14 derivatives evolved from both the grama schemes, somewhat similar to the ancient ‘modes’ of Greek music).
       In this context, please read the following blogs and Presentations:   (Sadja-grama blog)) (Sadja-grama--presentation) (Madhyama grama, BLOG) (Murchanas re-interpreted (Blog)

     These systems had been trickling down the line of our music history as such without anyone realizing that they were vital keys for opening a precious jewel box! Vertical development of music was, however, taking place along the peripheries of these grama-murchanas, obviously, in a tangential trajectory. During 17th Century, the grama-murchanas were modified by Sri. Venkatamakhin and re-cast as ‘72 Melakarta’ (Carnatic Music traditions) and later by Shri. Bhatkhande as ‘10 Thaats’ (Shastriya Sangeet traditions). These schemes are currently in vogue among contemporary musicians of India. That’s how the mystery surrounding our ancient musical culture had remained unresolved.

     Having missed the ‘opportunities’ for ‘cracking the ancient codes’ by means of the grama-murchana processes, medieval Indian musicologists had deviated from the “intended” trajectory and handed down to the posterity only a de facto ‘Equal Temperament’ system. During the last century, some musicologists had added an additional spin by ‘drifting’ our music towards what is known as the ‘Just Intonation’ system, by synthesizing additional swara-sthaanas based on arithmetical manipulations.

    In my view, the ‘family of simple fractions’ (as identified by me during my research work, after cracking the ‘codes’) is the swara-base over which the edifice of ‘Ancient Music’ is required to be erected. It is interesting to note that this family of ‘simple fractions’ (named by me as “N-Fractions”; the prefix ‘N’ denoting ‘Nature’) is ‘highly structured’, as viewed from several perspectives and therefore, most suitable to provide the vital constituents needed for the resurrection of our ‘Ancient’ music. These features have received extensive elaboration in my Book.

     The ‘22 tones’ as designed by our earlier civilization and as identified by me now are listed below along with their fractional values and cent values: - Sadja (Tonic) (1/1, 0.00 cents); Rishabha-1 (12/11, 151 cents); Rishabha-2 (11/10, 165 cents ); Rishabha-3 (10/9, 182 cents); Rishabha-4 (9/8, 204 cents); Rishabha-5 (8/7, 231 cents); Rishabha-6 (7/6, 267 cents); Gandhara-1 (6/5, 316 cents); Gandhara-2 (11/9, 347 cents); Gandhara-3 (5/4, 386 cents); Gandhara-4 (9/7, 435 cents); Madhyama-1 (4/3, 498 cents); Madhyama-2 (11/8, 551 cents); Madhyama-3 (7/5, 583 cents); Madhyama-4 (10/7, 617 cents); Panchama (3/2, 702 cents); Daivata-1 (11/7, 782 cents ); Daivata-2 (8/5, 814 cents); Daivata-3 (5/3, 884 cents); Nishada-1 (12/7, 933 cents); Nishada-2 (7/4, 969 cents); Nishada-3 (9/5, 1018 cents); Nishada-4 (11/6, 1049 cents); Sadja Octave (2/1, 1200 cents).

     A mere knowledge of 22 tonalities is not adequate to resurrect our ancient musical culture of 22 srutis. This class of music is firmly founded on the built-in principle of ‘persistent consonance’ or what may be called ‘streaming melody’. As opposed to this, contemporary classical music is poorly disciplined; i.e. it affords undesirable ‘flexibility’ while composing melodic phrases. For example, komal Rishabha can be succeeded by komal or suddha Gandhara or suddha/ teevra Madhyama or Panchama and so on. In the 22 srutis music environment, there are strict rules as to what all notes can be sequentialised for evolving melodic phrases. These cannot be diluted. Therefore, the musical composer has to overcome plenty of challenges before realizing this ideal of ‘streaming and unbroken melody’. The musician, on his part, is also expected to conform to such compositions strictly. However, he can innovate further in the due course of time as he becomes proficient with this combination grammar. In this context, please read my Presentation at link:
     The ‘N-Fractions’ also have a halo of mind-boggling ‘mysticism’ around it; it had consistently defied the attempts by our fore-fathers to gain access to its true identity. I have devoted a separate chapter for highlighting the mystic elements contained in N-Fractions. My perception of mysticism is slanted towards the Hindu religious thoughts, as I am a born Hindu. However, it is my firm belief that Readers from other religions could also gather an appropriate perception of ‘divinity’ based on their conditioned mindsets. In this context, please read my Presentation at link:   

     In this Book, I have shared my views with the Readers regarding the concept of reviving and installing the ‘Ancient Music based on 22 srutis’ in today’s environment. I would also welcome the Readers’ views for any alternative options towards this end.

     Some Western analysts had been quite critical about the ability of ancient Indian musicologists to divide the octave geometrically into 22 equal parts, (as it involves the use very advanced mathematics that is chronologically incompatible with our historicity). They have also questioned the concept of ‘Pramana Sruti’ as narrated in Bharata Muni’s ‘Natyasastra’. In my Book, I have addressed all these issues quite frontally and attempted to resolve them reasonably well.

     May I solicit comments from the Viewers on this ‘blog’ please? My contact tele: 91 20 26729256, 98902 66845, 98501 21834. My e-mail id:  Also please visit my web-site: My Book “THE MYSTIC CITADEL OF 22 SRUTIs MUSIC” is available with me at the following postal address: Srinivasan Nambirajan, A-7/ 103, FLORIDA ESTATE, Keshav Nagar, Mundhwa, Pune-411036. (Bank drafts / cheques are welcome in the name of Srinivasan Nambirajan at Rs.450/- only. The price tag for viewers residing abroad is $ 35 (US) only. I do retain the discretion of offering discounts for Educational Institutions, Senior citizens and Research Scholars).