The Grammar of Carnatic Music (With CD)

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Item Code: NAF225
Author: K.G. Vijayakrishnan
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788121512336
Pages: 357
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch X 6.5 inch
Weight 690 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This book argues that Carnatic music as it is practiced today can be traced to the musical practices of early/mid eighteenth century. Earlier varieties or “incarnations” of Indian music elaborately described in many musical treatises are only of historical relevance today current practices. It is argued that earlier varieties may not have survived because they failed to meet the three crucial requirements for a language like organism to survive, i.e., a robust community of Practitioners/listeners which the author calls the carnat ic music fraternity a sizeable body of musical texts and a felt communicative need. In fact the central thesis of the book is that Carnatic music like language survived and evolved from early/mid eighteenth century when these three requirement were met for the first time in the history of Indian music.


Vijayakrishnan approaches his subject from two perspectives which are rare in themselves and almost never joined in one individual. He is a veena player who is keenly aware of the principles and practice of his art, and can explain them clearly to others. He is also a linguist specializing in the study of speech the musicians and the phonologist in a one man interdisciplinary project has resulted in the ambitious account of Carnatic music presented here certainly the first which aspires to the status of a testable scientific theory.

The book can be enjoyed at many levels. The casual reader and music lover will appreciate the wealth of information about how Carnatic music is performed and received. We learn especially about the author how Carnatic music is performed and received. We learn especially about the author own chamber music style of veena playing whose characteristics he exemplifies throughout in the accompanying MP3 collection. But he also paints a vivid picture of various other styles and schools of vocal and instruments music including the more flamboyant concert hall style again with illustrative analyses of performances by various well known (but mostly unnamed) artists. Vijayakrishnan discussion is generous and even handed and he never lapses into proclaiming guidelines for musicians and their audience to follow indeed his only strong words are directed against the hegemony of normative orthodoxy in Carnatic music circles. Thus the book provides a fascinating inside view of the current state of one of the world great classical musical traditions. But this information serves a larger purpose in the book. It situates and forms part of the rich empirical evidence for the formal characterization of the Carnatic tradition musical grammar. In other word Vijayakrishnan treatment of Carnatic music is neither prescriptive nor merely descriptive: it is analytic and explanatory. The reader who makes the effort to accompany him all the way on this intellectual journey will be well rewarded.

Musical competence is seen as a cognitive system that distinguishes potential grammatical performances from ungrammatical ones and assigns them musical structure. It constitutes the internalized musical knowledge that participants in the tradition acquire through experience and training on the basis of their innate capacity for processing combinatory system. Musicians must have such knowledge in order to perform even when they may not be able to articulate it and even if part of it may not be able to articulate it and even if parts of it may be beyond intuitive introspection accessible only through theoretical reflection. The goal is to model this implicit and the understand its properties.

Vijayakrishnan argues in detail on ground that often parallel recent linguistic conclusions that the most suitable framework for characterizing the grammar of music is optimality theory (OT). OT is a non derivational theory it relies on constraints that apply in parallel not on rules that apply in sequence. Its simple key tenets are that constraints are ranked and violable and that violations are minimized. One of the attraction of OT is that is provides a praise reconstruction of concepts such as preference rule and relative complexity that have long figured in musical analysis as well as an explicit account of how competition between preferences is negotiated within a constraint system.

Vijayakrishnan also adopts some (but not all) of the specific assumptions about the nature of grammar that come from optimality theoretic work on language. He posits two main types of constraints: Markedness constraints and faithfulness constraints. Markedness constraints assumed to be psycho acoustically grounded function to assess the intrinsic complexity of various configuration. For example the basis twelve tones of the scale are less complex (less “marked)” than their various modifications. Faithfulness constraints the musical “lexicon” that defines a raga Vijayakrishnan shows how the complex formal patterns seen in musical practice emerge from the competition between appropriately ranked simple constraints of these two types. A particularly interesting observation here is that context sensitive distributional restrictions on marked tones can be explained as due to their avoidance in salient positions.

The proposed constraint system is a parallel interpretive system which maps pitch values into musical representations. It shares many substantive features with those assumed in recent linguistics as the author duly points out. Familiar themes whose musical aspects are dealt with in the book include the emergence of the unmarked the tension between modular organization and parallel evaluation and between bottom up parsing and top town effects a predictive factorial typology and the principle ranking of special constraints over general constraints (e.g. context sensitive constraints trump context free ones and raga specific constraints trump general ones). In these respects the analysis offers supports for the OT model in a domain for which it was originally not designed.

Yet this theory is no slavish adaptation of readymade linguistics. It reveals fundamental formal differences between music and language. The most striking of these is that Carnatic music has no analog to syntax. It requires only a few levels of representation all of which have counterparts in phonology. Vijayakrishnan cautiously restricts his claim to Carantic music noting that western music might have additional levels of organization including even syntactic once. Such radical differences between two musical tradition would be quite surprising so the issue Vijakarishnan has raised here is a crucial one. The case is by no means clear cut white it is true that phenomena such as phrasing and grouping into hierarchical melodic constituents have led researchers to posit a quasi syntactic organization for music they can arguably also be modeled with the enriched representations that have come out of prosodic phonology let us also note that the traditional notion of syntax as the sole site of creativity is challenged by constraints based models of language of the sort that this book adopts.

Creativity is perhaps the central problem of art this study distinguishes between several levels of creativity. There is Chomskyan creativity the everyday miracle of the productive use of the linguistic system (or in this case the musical system) to generate novel discourses or performances, which has long been the focus of linguistic research. Above it and of special interest for esthetics is Humboldtian creativity the kind which renews the very system in which it is manifested. Here vijayakrishnan introduces an illuminating distinction between scalar and idiomatic ragas and uses it to define two levels of Humboldtian creativity. Scalar ragas are defined by a unique scale which is decomposable into smaller units that resemble other scales. Musicians may form new scalar ragas by analogically combining elements of existing scalar ragas as easily as they may introduce stylistic novelties into the tradition. Idiomatic ragas on the other had are not just scales but sets of raga specific tonal and melodic constraints which are handed down from teacher to student through traditional compositions. The invention of new idiomatic ragas given to a only a few individuals of genius (Tyagaraja and veena Dhanam are cited) instantiates the very highest form of creativity an awesome mystery that eludes scientific study at least at present.

On the basis of his distinction between scalar and idiomatic ragas Vijayakrishnan proposes a well reasoned reform of music instruction modeled idea is that the student should be led from simple to complex melodic form without ever being taught ungrammatical renderings in the name of simplification.

Here is an exciting new take on the formal analysis of Carnatic music. If all goes well this treatment will provoke many others and it may one day be surpassed by new ideas that we cannot even begin to imagine yet. But if will always retain the distinction as s pioneering document of the field and if a universal musicology eventually does take shape it will be thanks to works like this.


There are innumerable references to music and extensive and detailed descriptions of musical practice in both the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions. Entire treatises on music have also been produced from time to time by renowned scholars poets and musicians. The major works in this rich musicological tradition are Matanga Muni Brihaddeesi (circa 9th century) saarngadeevaa 13th century classic sangiitaratnaakara Raamaatyaa swarameeswarameelakalaanidhi three centuries later and Goovinda Diikshitar santiitasudhaa in the middle of the 16th century. Although the descriptive detail are confusingly varied when it comes to the core issue of the microtonal nature of Indian music following Brihaddeesi Sangiitaratnaakaraa traces the origin of the idea of 22 frutis (microtones) within an octave to Bharataa (I will have more to say on the microtonal nature of Carnatic music in chapter 4 and 5). Goovinda Diikshitar son Veenkatamakhi is the first land mark classic that still has a bearing on contemporary Carnatic music. His caturdandi Prakaasikaa” (1660) is relevant today mainly for the classification of the Carnatic raagam system although his actual descriptions of ragas prevalent in his time are only of historical interest now. As veenkatamskhi says quoted from (Ranga Ramanuja) Ayyangar (1972:159),

Many of the ragas described by veenkatamakhi met the same fate as sarngadeevaa’s. the point that I wish to make is that Carnatic music as we know of it today is very different from the music that was described in all these treatises. The ragas that veenkatamaskhi described (not more than nineteen according to Ayyangar (1972:158) fared no better than the two hundred and sixty four described in Saarngadeevaa. But what has survived for better or for worse (see ayyangar critique of Caturdandi Prakaasikaa chapter 17, 155-174) is Veenkatamaskhi scheme which created the logical 72 full scales Meelakartaas given the 16 tone scale with four tones with dual functions (see chapter 4 details).

There is no denying the fact that Indian music as we know it today has had a long, perhaps continuous tradition enriched by several centuries of practice. But the systems the treatises mentioned above described and the types of composition by they set forth are only remotely if at all connected with current practice. It seem almost like reading the grammar of a language we do not know. What we get from the texts is a vague feeling for the strange language and at time an intriguing sense of something tantalizingly similar to the language we know. Continuing the language analogy going through to the treatises on music is like reading the grammar of Sanskrit and telling oneself that so many of the sound affixes word syntactic patterns and word order peculiarities of Sanskrit find echoes in modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars. In fact it may not be too far off the mark to say that the earlier varieties of music described in the treatises are as much related to contemporary carnatic music as Sanskrit is to modern Indo-Aryan languages.

Carnatic music as we know it 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 Sifya (teacher disciple) that have come down to the present day bringing with them composition and musical practices of distinct traditions. It is really remarkable that though the great Indian music tradition has remained oral down the ages and is largely oral even today ignoring a few small islands of literacy only the practices of the last two and half centuries have survived without much damage. The question to ask is what are the factors which contributed to the survival of Carnatic music from the mid eighteenth century Noticethat whereas in the three centuries between saarngadeeva classic Sangitaratnaakaraa and Veekatamakshi catudandi prakaasikaa everything had been lost but so much has survived in the following three centuries. Obviously one cannot attribute both the facts to the oral tradition.

If one can hazard a guess one may attribute the survival of musical practices from the mid eighteenth century to two factors namely to unbroken line of teacher disciples and the bhajana tradition which was an offshoot of the bhakti movement in the south of India (approximately thirteenth century onward,). While the singing of religious verse in temple communities by singers called ooduvaars (literarily meaning one who chants) has survived in small pockets form this time (or earlier s claimed by some) the musical practices of group singing must have caught on much later. Whereas the former was restricted to individuals and families the latter enjoyed community participation. Like many Indian tradition which were guarded family secrets these practices were more likely to get weakened/lost rapidly than those which found community participation. Therefore hypothesis is that rudimentary (working) knowledge of music found community participation. Therefore my hypothesis is that rudimentary (working) knowledge of music was inculcated by the bhajana tradition and the widespread knowledge of music helped in preserving carnatic music in the last three centuries.

Thus for the first time Carnatic music not being 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 and around the cultural centre of south India Tanjaavuur (anglicized as Tanjore). My central thesis is that Carnatic music like language cannot thrive in isolated minuscule groups as long as the music fraternity remains small below the critical mass it will remain esoteric and will inevitably disappear.

The analogy that comes readily to mind specially to a linguist by training is that secret languages that children the world over love to invent. Its very universality points in the direction of the faculty being innate. Yet these secret forget then as they grow up. Attempts to elicit complex data to construct the grammars of these secret language from adult informant (who were once practitioners) often prove futile. For example when several Tamil speaking adults were interviewed for data pertaining to the Tamil secret language ka-baasai it turned out that the data set was not unanimous and ambiguous between speakers. I am told that several versions of the secret language are extent among Telugu children (and interestingly sometimes the intended Telugu words are not uniquely recoverable from the secret language data). The point that I wish to make is that as long as a language or a language like system remains esoteric its cultural transmission to posterity cannot be ensured. Indian music before the early mid eighteenth century must have been confined to small pockets of users lacking a large enough following to ensure cultural continuity.

In this context if we consider the musical ambience in the cultural centre of Tamil Nadu in and around Tanjaavuur in the times of the great composers several factors points in the direction of the Cinematic music fraternity being fairly large and also a fair amount of musical sophistication can be attributed to them. The bhajana tradition has exposed the common people to a lot music. For instance consider the practice of unjavrutti (going along the streets singing and collecting food for the day) that unarguably the greatest composer of Carnatic music Tyaagaraajaa is supposed to have unfailingly followed all his life. It meant that the community in which he lived exposed to his music every day of their lives. Not only did they listen to the man singing his compositions they may have even joined him and sung along with him several divyaama and utsavasmpradaaya kiirtanaas (compositions in Praise of God and those sung during special occasions/festivals respectively). Let us take a brief look at some of the dicasions/festivals respectively). Let us take a brief look at some of the divyanaama and utsvasampradaaya kiirtanaas of Tyaagaraaja. The musical ground that these compositions cover is truly remarkable. The sheer range of ragas and tallas they cover point to a fair degree of sophistication of the lay’, i.e. untrained group of singers.

The sheer range or ragas and taalas of these simple divyanaama composition with their repetitive structure must have taught the people around the great composer the essence of Carnatic music.

I cannot help an aside here. Just imagine how a modern gathering of bhaktas (devotees) would react to so much Carnatic music. In contrast to the common people to Tyaagaraajaa days devotees now demand simple/filmy tunes to display their devotion. The teacher practices of the carnatic music fraternity have in a large measure been responsible for alienating the general public pushing them away from Carnatic music to more popular modes. One must not underestimate the importance of the music fraternity for maintaining the health of the Carnatic system. It must be remembered that carnatic music unlike many other systems of music is not an art from that is purely a performing art. It is a cognitive art like language and requires the same conditions for its nurturing namely a robust community of performers and listeners. In this connection it is pertinent to say that as of today there seem to be more performers (whatever their quality) than listeners (if we go by attendance in many concert halls). This is surely not desirable. If the alienation of the general public continues along present lines, the music reviews/discussions of today and why even this book may seem like the earlier treatises t future generations mostly incomprehensible.

As I said earlier the robust health of the Carnatic music fraternity made the golden age of Carnatic music possible. There must have been more interaction between performers and listeners and between performers too. This is the only explanation for the fact that though the great group of composers lived within a small radius of one another very importantly chose to compose in distinct styles. The pattern of composition has never been so varied after their times. The model of pallavi Goopalayyat a senior contemporary of Tyaagaraajaa is quite distinct from Muttuswaami Diikshitar and shyaamaa Shaastri not only with respect to the overall approach to composition of even their musical phrasing they seem to have been intensely aware of each other. As N.S. Srinivasan demonstrates (see(2) on the next page), the opening phrase of the composition Raamakathaa and Paalintsukaamaaksi of Tyaagaraajaa and Shyaamaa Shaastri respectively are distinct arguing for the two composers being aware of each other compositions.

Perhaps it is difficult to sustain such a degree of intensity over a period of time. But there can be no doubt that the miracle of the golden age of Carnatic music became possible because of the 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.

Carnatic music a fortunate by product of the Indian music system is like language in yet another way. A language requires a speech community and importantly it must fulfill the community communicative needs to be a living language. Carnatic music too waited for the music community to grow to a reasonable size to blossom as a full fledged living system and I advance the view that its communicational needs were realized for the first time when musical composition of amazing range and complexity emerged with the great compositions of the Carnatic music trinity i.e. Tyaagaraajaa Muttuswaami Diikshitar and Shyaamaa Shaastri and their contemporaries.

Before we take up the role of compositions in the health and development of Carnatic music let us consider the importance of the communicative aspect of language for this survival. In India we only have to look at our minority languages to see how quickly languages can die. In many cases though the speech community is not really extinct its languages becomes extinct if the communicational needs of the community are not met by its first language but by some other dominant language in the neighborhood. Thus for a language to survive it is essential that it serves the communicational needs of the community. In the case of carnatic music, what, could we say is the equivalent of a communicational need? I am convinced that it is the composition which satisfies this need. Till the mid eighteenth century by and large set to music (of a repetitive kind) (the case of the hymns of the bhakti movement) or devotional text or merely setting of names of Gods and Goddesses set to music to attract the devotees. In either case music was merely a vehicle to convey religious ideas.

However with the advent of the great composition of the trinity and composition types like the varnams the music took on a life of its own. The musical exuberance of viribooni the Bhairavi raga varnam in Ata Taalam by Paccimiriam Aadiappayyer or the great sangatis of Cakkaniraaa of Tyaagaraajaa in raagam karaharapriyaa are enough to prove the points.

Music had come of age and the language text was clearly subservient to the music. The range of musical and rhythmic ideas explored emotions hinted at were the communicative meanings that Carnatic music had to convey. And this communicative need grew from strength to strength in more and more elaborate venues for its exploration. Once again the germs of the ideas were in the compositions. For instance the rules for kalpana swaram (rhythmic improvisation) were already set out in the varnams and the great pancaratna kritis of Tyaagaraajaa the seeds for niraval (rhythmic variations on a line of the composition) in the sangatis etc.

The logical extension of the freedom of the performer to communicate his/her musical ideas was the freedom allowed in rendering compositions. The so-called fixed compositions were no longer all that fixed; they only boundary was that of the communicative expectation of the listeners. The rendering of a composition will not be acceptable to the listeners if it crosses a certain threshold of acceptability. So as in language what restrict the speakers/performer is the shared grammar of the community nothing else. Therefore logically there is nothing like copyright in Carnatic music (as in day to day language). There cannot be. Once a composer has finished composing the thing composed is no longer in his/her hands. The performer has the right to interpret it meaning change the musical change the musical lines ever so slightly add sangatis add cittaswarams and so on. I demonstrate below two extent versions of a kriti of Tyaagaraajaa to illustrate the point that at times renderings of the same musical composition can become unrecognizably different. The composition in question is Paripuurna Kaamaa in the raagam puurvikalyaani set to Ruupaka taalam.

The two versions are of course so different that we cannot by any stretch of imagination call them the same composition. The interesting twist to the issue of authenticity of a rendering of a composition (as composed by the composers) is that is yet another Tyaagaraajaa kriti in the same raagam namely paralooka saadhanamee (4c) which beings exactly like version I above. I leave it to eh judgment of the reader to decide which of the two version is likely to be closer to the original keeping in mind the fact that this composer never repeated his own melodies nor of other composers he was aware of.

For a learner the only way to learn the idioms and phrase that define the grammar of the major ragas of Carnatic music is through learning the great composition in these ragas (see chapter 8 on the task of constructing the lexicon of Carnatic music). Thus for beginner specially early attempts at improvisation (the equivalent of spontaneous speech) usually means repeating idioms and phrases from compositions that they have leant or render sequences allowed by the scale. On acquiring greater sophistication a performer learns to avoid quotations form composition or give them a slight twist and use them to display irony wit etc. (see chapter 7, pp. 207-214 for a full discussion) so unlike language where one learns the language without the help of fixed texts in Carnatic music fixed text are used to create the lexicon of Carnatic music and the grammar of particular ragas. Once the process of learning is at an advanced stage the initially internalized (see chapter 8 for details). However performers (and listeners to some extent) have access to both the lexicons namely the lexicon of compositions as well as the more cognitive de-composed lexicon as performers have to render compositions without the help of any written prop in Carnatic music is used to build the lexicons of individual ragas extracting the finer points of each raagam thereby creating the vocabulary to enable free flowing musical discourse.

The point I am about the to make now is the first lesson that we linguistic learn: that there is no such thing as an inferior language and by implication an inferior variety/dialect. All languages and all dialects are equally adequate efficient and there is no such thing as one language/dialect being superior to another. Bu implication it means point of view. A particular variety is elevated to the level of a standard purely for political and soico-economic reasons. Thus a naïve view like standard British English is better than other varieties of English is nothing but prejudice. The state of affairs is rather worse in languages in Indian in English. In the Indian context there has been a systematic drive to deny the dialects their rights and so we come across language pundits holdings forth on the child not knowing her/his first language even when she/he does speak the language perfectly.

Similarly in Carnatic music too there is no such thing as a pure variety or a superior school of music. Just as in language variation in the practice or Carnatic music arise out of varying social cultural and aesthetic considerations and certain verities acquire prestige once again for extra musical reasons (see chapter 9 for a discussion on styles in carnatic music.)

Going back to variation and language the philosophy of learning to respect language variation ties in rather well with the now firmly established doctrine of bio-diversity in organic systems. We now know that diversity is not only interesting (from a theoretical point of view) but essential for the survival of organic systems. Language display all the properties of organic systems like change self organization evolution breaking up into distinct related systems etc. it could be argued that suppression of diversity in a language will result in language entropy just as in organic systems.

I believe that argument can the extended to Carnatic music also. Firstly the earlier varieties of Indian music (‘avataars’ “incarnations”) did not survive precisely because the community of practitioners was sub-optimal perhaps not allowing enough room for diversity. Secondly perhaps the communicational function of music was also severely limited. If we look at the contemporary scene we find that the various, distinct types of south Indian music systems have benefited from each other over the years. For instance the use of simplified carnatic music in film music has brought in fresh blood into the sphere of Carnatic music more has enabled composers of film music to re-define the grammar of film music radically and so on. Finally if we take a dispassionate look at the Carnatic music scene we will agree that each variety/style of carnatic music acquires its value in the context of other style and the value of a style itself undergoes radical change over the decades giving the value of a style itself undergoes radical changes over the decades giving rise to re-evaluation of earlier styles etc. in short the existence of distinct styles makes for enlarging the Carnatic music community bringing fresh ideas to bear on the shaping of the grammar of carnaic music and not least adding to the health of the music system as a whole.

Given the view that Carnatic music is comparable to language the notion of grammar itself must undergo a radical change. The view in modern linguistics is that the man function of a grammar is to describe the practices at tested in a homogenous speech community. In the case of language the basic assumption in the postulation of a homogenous speech community this is a necessary abstraction as speech communities are never all that homogenous. Individual who make up the speech community quite often display degree of variation even within the so called same dialect Take for instance the first and second pronunciations listed in many English dictionaries. But the abstraction is nevertheless necessary to construct a coherent grammar of the group of users. Therefore in linguistics an ideal speaker listeners (most often the author herself/himself) is postulated and her/his language is taken to be the object of analysis. In attempting a constraint basted grammar of carnatic music I shall take on the role of the ideal performer listener as I have unlimited access only to my own practice and intuitive judgment. Of course when I compare two style I will be comparing my style with that of a specific practitioner.

I am aware that in the case of Carnatic music unlike language not every member of the community is at the same level of proficiency. But the assumption I am making is that given enough time motivation etc. every member of the canratic music community can in principle arrive at the style bias). In reality of course as the communicational pressure to go the whole way in acquiring the system is much, much less in Carnatic music than in language many members may never acquire the grammar of Carnatic music completely. Therefore much more than in language (but perhaps as much in second language varieties) the inequalities in the level of mastery in a community is a real as well as a theoretical problem in Carnatic music. I shall largely ignore this problem assuming that the object being described is applicable to all competent performers and to most intelligent listeners of Carnatic music whom I will call the carnatic music fraternity. However I shall address the question of the progress from the composition learning stage of de composing the Carnatic music lexicon in chapter 8 clearly hinting that not all learners/listeners may make it to the advance clearly hinting that not all learners/listeners may make it to the advanced stage.

However to the general public the word grammar conjures nightmarish pictures of punishment/negative marking etc. grammar to them implies prescription and judgment. Prescriptive grammars may have a limited function to perform learning at best but they are or of no interest to theoreticians. Whatever the merits and demerits of using grammar in language teaching certainly grammar plays no role whatsoever in the acquisition of the first language by children or even in the learning of the second language in contexts other than the classroom. It is language use which facilitates the learning of a language. Thus the focus in linguistic circles is on descriptive grammars which are analytical tools for various theoretical purposes. Coming as I do from this generative linguistic tradition I have at tempted a descriptive grammar of Carnatic music. Clearly it is not meant to set down prescriptions for improving the standard of performers methods of teaching or in analyzing the drawbacks of the music setup etc.

Once again to make it amply clear to the reader the primary objective of this book is to outline a descriptive grammar of contemporary carnatic music applying the principle of generative linguistic theory. It this objective is satisfactorily met then it becomes possible to compare the cognitive principles which are at work in language and carnatic music. Thus the subject matter of the book is narrowly confined to the melodic system of Carnatic music (with a brief look at some principles of rhythmic organization). I have nothing to say about the history of the system the philosophical religious or stylistic merits of the language text of the music composition the literary merits to say about the history of the systems the philosophical religious or stylistic merits of the language texts of the musical composition). I have nothing to say about the history of the system the philosophical religious or stylistic merits of the language texts of the musical compositions and types co compositions the intricacies of rhythm in Carnatic music etc. the reader is advised to go elsewhere for a discussion on these topics.

As the book is addressed to a mixed audience of lovers of music lovers of Carnatic music and language theorists certain sections may be too rudimentary for some reader. So the reader are requested to judiciously skip chapter which are likely to go over material already familiar to them. For instance the first half of chapter 2 comparing the design features of language and music may by skipped by language theorists and musicians who are already convinced that language and music share many properties in common. Similarly large part of chapter 4 which explain the scalar tables of carnatic music mill be well known to most lovers of Carnatic music and hence may be skipped.

The plan of the book is as followers. Chapter 2 lays out the similarities between language and music in general and variation in language and Carnatic music in particular claiming that the architectures of the grammar of language and carnatic music are similar. Chapter 3 briefly outlines one of the current models of linguistics namely a constraint based approach to grammar. Chapter 4 and 5 argue that like the grammar of language which requires phonetic form or rule mechanism for interpreting sound into abstract elements carnatic music too require rules to interpret the pitch values and pitch ranges as noted or swaras and determine musical phrase and musical line boundaries. Chapters 6 and 7 take up the contentious issue of grammaticality and meaning respectively and try to show how the notion meaning in language is very different form what constitutes meaning in carnatic music. The chapter show what types of rules could be postulated for the construal of meaning in Carnaitc music. Chapter 8 dealing with the cenral issue of the lexicon in carnatic music shows how the lexicon is organized and constructed from line phrases and idioms and how at advanced levels of learning/listening it passes through stage of de composition into more abstract principles. Finally in chapter 9 I take on the reality from differences in the Carnatic music and show how different style can arise from differences n the lexicons differences in the ranking of constraints and differences in performing criteria.


Foreword by Paul KiparskyXI
Foreword by Aruna SairamXV
Chapter 1Introduction1
Chapter 2Language and (Carnatic) Music14
Chapter 3Issues in modeling the grammar: Language and Carnatic music37
Chapter 4Conversion of pitch values to notes73
Chapter 5Classifying pitch variations and assigning structure to a line of Carnatic music104
Chapter 6Construing meaning in Carnatic music: Determining grammatically139
Chapter 7Construing meaning in Carnatic music: style/stylistic issues180
Chapter 8The lexicon of Carnatic music229
Chapter 9Accounting for variation in Carnatic music267
Appendix 1A note on the roman notation296
Appendix 2Another take on the mathematics of the twelve notes299
Appendix 3An annotated selection of Carnatic music webpages301
Appendix 4Carnatic music glossary307
Author and composer index335
Subject index337
Raagam index341
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