To Westerners Indian music is simply a melody without a specific beginning or a definite end and to many even in India it is more a gymnastics in sound. As such to many its technicalities seem a little too baffling. This volume presents an introduction to the classical music of India-both the Hindustani system of the North and the Karnatak of the South-and is intended to serve as a guide to readers, Indian and foreign, for the appreciation of Indian music.
In its ten chapters the volume deals with all the significant features of Indian music, namely, melody and rhythm and form and style covering both vocal and instrumental. A study of the evolution, structure and aesthetic aspects of Indian music as also an assessment of the musical scene then and now have been included in the volume. The note on the contribution of pioneering composers and musicologists lends further value to the volume. The reader will find the discography at the end particularly useful.
There are quite a number of books on Indian music, a few of them excellent. Some are highly technical, of interest only to specialists; some, though simpler, are out of date. A few have restricted themselves either to the Northern or the Southern system of classical music. An attempt has been made here, therefore, to present an introduction to our music in a comprehensive but simple manner. While this volume is not a learned tome, neither is it a bedside book, much less a tourist guide. Certain amount of earnestness and interest are expected of the reader. Also the book is intended both for Indian and foreign friends. It may even interest a specialist, because of its analytical methods.
The approach throughout has been: go from the known to the unknown. Hence current musical practice is always given prominence; for this is the only music one can hear, appreciate and understand. The historical material goes only to give a backdrop against which the present are can get a perspective. So, history has a secondary place here. Even there, I have tried to relate music to the larger social dynamics of Indian culture.
The historical process of cultural development has been us two systems of sophisticated music: the North Indian (Hindustani) and the South Indian (Karnatak). Whether these two resulted from the bifurcation of a more ancient single 'Indian' music or are the consequences of fusion of regional styles is a question that need not be discussed here. But both are "Indian', howsoever one may define that word; they have a high degree of commonness, though quite clearly distinctive also. Hindustani music is performed and understood throughout North India and the Northern districts of Karnataka and Andhra; Karnatak music is confined to the Southern peninsula. The present book treats both together, though not necessarily as 'one' music.
The reader may recognize two sections: The grammatical and the socio-historical. The first is a description of the structure of Indian music; this analyses the raga, the tala, the prabandha and so on. It helps the reader-listener to understand the actual way of the construction of the music. The second part is the socio-historical background and the aesthetics of Indian music. This gives the necessary orientation and viewpoint required for the appreciation of this art.
True understanding is always a total comprehension which is different from synthesis. The latter implies putting together things which are different; but understanding is total immediate perception which cannot be communicated by 'words' and 'notes'. So analytical has the modern mind become, that it has entailed a 'guide to listening'. To many a Westerner, Indian music may be a melody without a specific beginning or a definite end. To many Indians it is more a gymnastics in sound. A help to listen has, therefore, to be provided sometimes. This book is an attempt to introduce mainly the classical music of India to both kinds of listeners who are earnest but find the technicalities a little baffling.
The best beginning is to listen to, and if possible, produce the music. The second may not be possible to all, But with modern adjuncts like the gramaphone, the radio and the tape-recorder it is always possible to hear music. To assist the reader, therefore, a discography and also a small bibliography are added at the end; the author is grateful to Sri O. Varkey, Librarian, Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, for assistance in the preparation of these, from the material available in their archives.
New Delhi, 1973
Preface to Second Edition:
The present volume is the second and revised edition of the book which has been well received by those interested in Indian Music. Certain errors have been corrected in the light of new information, as for instance the biographical details of Sri Purandara dasa. A few sections have been added on the nature of varja scales, melodic elaboration, moorcchana, Agra gharana, the gharana situation today, concert patterns, tabla gharanas, raga and rasa, post 'independence' era, East-West encounter; the discography and the 'suggested reading' have been revised.
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