There are variations in the way in which artistes of each genres are skilled to achieve pitch purity
“The one thriller in life is why the Kamikaze pilots wore helmets,” mentioned Al McGuire.
Different mysteries are proper up there too — why khayal performers use the harmonium to accompany their extremely nuanced melody; or how Western classical musicians tolerate an equally tempered scale; or why Carnatic vocalists don’t practice particularly for pitch purity and the way a major quantity amongst them get away with various levels of sruti misalignment.
McGuire’s thriller has a poignant humour about it — there’s nothing poignant or humorous about my questions. However they’re mysterious alright.
Pitch is prime to all music. Totally different sorts of music the world over have their very own engagement with pitch — in method, aesthetics and philosophy.
American musician Jody Stecher, talking of his discovery of Indian music, mentioned that when he heard Ok.V. Narayanaswamy at Wesleyan College instructing the scales of Mayamalavagowla “as in the event that they have been crucial melody on the earth, I used to be shaken and profoundly moved. Who sings scales with that type of involvement? After which once I found dhrupad and in addition good khayal, I noticed how a lot you’ll be able to pull out of a single pitch.”
Carnatic and Hindustani music are melodic — the music doesn’t have vertical layers like Western polyphony and concord do. The sophistication of the music lies within the subtleties of how pitch is approached, how the ‘similar’ notice is subtly totally different throughout ragas, and the way phrases are shaped by weaving these myriad pitches via quite a lot of ornaments to evoke the raga. We negotiate these nuances not via evaluation or calculation however by ear, by musical intuition honed by listening and studying, the oral/aural method.
Sruti shuddham or pitch purity is considered a lot a necessity in Carnatic as sur is in Hindustani music. Srutirmaataa layahpitaa — sruti is the mom and laya the daddy — goes a well-liked saying within the Carnatic world.
In her immensely entertaining guide Raga’n Josh, Sheila Dhar recounts how her guru Pt. Amarnath refused to transcend the apply of a single notice, the shadja, for a lot of courses and months. To him, no progress was doable till she had perfected the ‘Sa’ and was capable of sing it sharp and regular like a ray of sunshine. So Dhar was “parked on the Sa” for a lot of weeks. She compares notes with a South Indian buddy who had, in that length, already learnt just a few varnams and kritis. When Dhar nervously mentions this to her guru, his dismissive response displays a typical opinion of Hindustani musicians about sur in Carnatic music — stereotypical and exaggerated however not with out a kernel of fact.
The purpose to ponder is that there’s nothing in Carnatic music to parallel the type of coaching a Hindustani singer undergoes for pitch purity. In certainly one of his podcasts, Sanjay Subrahmanyan responds to a listener asking how his daughter can enhance her sruti shuddham. In his typical, no-nonsense type Sanjay says, “Sing on a regular basis. Preserve a tambura, even an digital one, and sing daily. Her sruti is certain to enhance.”
Undeniably, it would. However past enchancment, there’s a finer engagement with sruti that may develop an intense pitch sensitivity, which is probably what Tyagaraja indicated in that intriguing line ‘kolahala saptaswara grahamula gurute mokshamura’ (understanding the place within the physique the tumultuous seven swaras originate is itself moksha). I typically marvel what at this time’s Carnatic musicians make of this line or if they’re even interested by it.
The early morning ritual of Hindustani singers, the kharaj sadhana, sung to a well-tuned tanpura (one is reminded of the charanam line in Tyagaraja’s ‘Kaddanuvaariki’), goals at growing regular intonation and sensitivity in direction of sur and the minute hair’s breadth lapses which might be really easy to make. This intense concern with pitch produced a Kishori Amonkar who spoke of getting a “darshan of the sur”. “I consider sur as God and once I sing a raga, I urge the raga to point out me the sur, to let me have a darshan.”
In actuality, attaining that pinpoint precision and mergence with the sur in the course of the act of singing shouldn’t be one thing that simply occurs. When endowed with a tuneful voice, it does seem to occur naturally however when the spirit is as concerned because the voice equipment on this sadhana, and when that mergence happens due to an intense, unwavering engagement with the tanpura, then the music beneficial properties a transcendent luminosity.
A special music
Carnatic music shouldn’t be Hindustani music — it’s melodically extra complicated. Hindustani music is about notes held lengthy and a leisurely unfolding of the raga. Within the time a Hindustani musician sings the nishadha of a Raag Yaman, the Carnatic musician would have sung fairly just a few phrases of Kalyani with hardly any restful pauses on notes. Carnatic is extra closely ornamented, with the shake, the kampita, all pervasive. The shake of a Thodi’s ‘Ga’ would possibly sound out of tune to the uninitiated, however that isn’t the problem right here.
Definitely, the intonation of Carnatic music is vastly totally different from that of Hindustani, however there’s such a factor referred to as sruti shuddham and that isn’t one thing Carnatic musicians practice for individually or with depth.
To get again to the mysteries I started with, the reason for the primary two is banal comfort. As for the third, given Carnatic music’s immense complexity in melody, lyrics, accompaniment and in laya, pitch imperfections aren’t observed for essentially the most half as a result of consideration is wolfed up by all these different, not so delicate, facets. Actually, Carnatic music live performance is among the many most participating experiences one can have, even when the sruti is a slight casualty at occasions.
Simply because the khayal world tolerates the harmonium, the Carnatic world too tolerates sruti lapses — minute or not-so-minute pitch lapses aren’t discerned by everybody. However certainly musicians ought to attempt to develop such acute pitch sensitivity if solely to see what trajectory their development then takes.
The writer is a Chennai-based
musician and author.