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Indian Music Essays

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Indian Music


The music of India is one of the oldest unspoken musical traditions in the world. The basis of for Indian music is “sangeet.” Sangeet is a combination of three art forms: vocal music, instrumental music (Indian music). Indian music is base upon seven modes (scales). It is probably no coincidence that Greek music is also base upon seven modes. Furthermore, the Indian scales follow the same process of modulation (murchana) that was found in ancient Greek music. Since Greece is also Indo-European, this is another piece of evidence for the Indo-European connection (Dance and music of India).

The vocal tradition is especially strong in Indian music. It is understood that the song is probably the most ancient form of music. Vocal music occupies a considerable part of Natya Shastra (Indian music). The samaveda is the oldest musical text in India. Most of the classical songs of north India are devotional in nature, but there are few genres which are especially oriented toward religion. Most notable is the bhajan, dhun or kirtan for Hindus, the kawali (qawali) for Muslims, and the shabad for Sikhs (Indian music). Not all the music is serious for there are also many popular genres. The gazal is one style, which is known for it rich poetic, and romantic content. The Hindi geet which is basically just a song and undoubtedly the most popular is the film song (Indian music). There are also a few genres which are oriented specifically toward musical education. The most notable example is a genre called lakshan geet. In this style the words of the song actually describe the rag which is being performed (Indian music). India also has a rich tradition of folk music. These will vary from region to region.

Instrumental music occupies an important position in Indian music. It is one of the threefold aspects of sangeet and has a very ancient history. Instrumental music is known as vadhya sangeet (India, dance and music). Over the years they have become formalized into four major instrumental styles known as: alap, jor, gat and jhala (India, dance and music). The alap is a slow rhythm less elaboration upon the rag. The jor is a section that has rhythm but no developed rhythmic cycle (i.e., tal). The gat is the fully developed piece, while the jhala is a fast rhythmic interplay between the drone strings and the main playing strings (Indian music).

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...e plucked with a wire finger plectrum called mizrab. There are also a series of sympathetic strings lying under the frets. These strings are almost never played but they vibrate whenever the corresponding note is sounded. The frets are metal rods, which have been bent into crescents. The main resonator is usually made of a gourd and there is sometimes an additional resonator attached to the neck (Indian music). Another famous music instrument is tabla. Tabla is a pair of drums. It consists of a small right hand drum called dayan and a larger metal one called bayan. The tabla has an interesting construction. The dayan (right hand drum) is almost always made of wood. The diameter at the membrane may run from just under five inches to over six inches. The bayan (left hand drum) may be made of iron, aluminium, copper, steel, or clay; yet brass with a nickel or chrome plate is the most common material. Undoubtedly the most striking characteristic of the tabla is the large black spot on each of the playing surfaces. These black spots are a mixture of gum, soot, and iron filings. Their function is to create the bell-like timbre that is characteristic of the instrument. (Carnatic music).


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