Tonal structure in Indian music 1

An x-ray of two raga-s: Darbari Kanada and Jaunpuri Colonial musicology and its language The colonial heritage of musicological thinking starts from language. English became the dominant world language, American its neocolonial pendant. The choice of language inevitably brings along a mindset that derives from the culture to which that language belongs. The English musicological vocabulary is both inadequate and confusing when speaking of other musics. Speaking of Indian music for instance, there simply is no word in English for raga. On the other hand the concepts of [...]

Tonal structure in Indian music 12023-02-15T09:13:16+02:00

Improvisation versus Reproduction

Abstract India has been particularly resistant to the infiltration of Western culture. Conversion to Christianity has been quite ineffective, and many other Western ideas, values and institutions have only been appropriated to a limited extent. Music is no exception and over the past centuries a controversy has arisen about the superiority of Indian versus Western music. Indian musicians and musicologists have championed improvised music as part of a living oral tradition, whereas Western music has been derided as a dead tradition of replicating written scores. This discourse may be [...]

Improvisation versus Reproduction2021-12-26T10:07:05+02:00

The AUTRIM Project, Music in Motion

Back in the 1980's the team of the Indian Society for Traditional Arts Research (ISTAR) started work on computer assisted research of Hindustani classical music. It was the engineer and computer scientist Bernard Bel who created a laboratory at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai with the support of the same institution and the Ford Foundation. Apart from Bernard the team included Joep Bor (botanist and sarangi player), Jim Arnold (musicologist and dhrupad singer) and Wim van der Meer (anthropologist and khayal singer). Joep, Jim [...]

The AUTRIM Project, Music in Motion2021-07-28T05:58:55+02:00

Works and Ragas

The key concept of Indian music is the raga. The European tradition doesn't have ragas, but somewhat similar is the work1 or piece. With European tradition I mean the type of music we generally call "classical music". It doesn't include popular music which also has a somewhat similar concept that we call song. The Indian music that is raga-based is also generally referred to as "classical", a concept borrowed from the European tradition. In India it takes two main variants: Hindustani in the North and Carnatic in [...]

Works and Ragas2021-06-07T08:33:47+02:00


"There is too much noise", my guru Pandit Dilip Chandra Vedi said on his deathbed. And it only got worse over the past decades. People buy machines for doing things and then they have to put those machines to work. Grass mowers, hole drillers, electric saws, hedge trimmers. They love noise. Ghetto blasters and car-radios with power woofers. There is too much mindlessness. People do things before they think about it. They say things before they think about it. They don't think. They are mindless, most of the time. Perhaps [...]


La Musique Barbare

Hell is other people's music  Paraphrasing Kristeva – the barbarian is the subject whose music is so unknown to us that it doesn’t even appear to be music. It sounds like “noise”.  The question of cross- or transcultural listening to music is hopelessly confused. Moreover, we can extend this problem to cross-subcultural listening and also historical listening. When the journalist Momus noted:  ‘Hell,’ said Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘is other people’. I'd qualify that slightly. People are fine; it's their music that's hell”, he was talking about a subcultural issue: “When I [...]

La Musique Barbare2020-06-22T08:43:27+02:00

Chalukya music sculpture

The Badami cave temples are a complex of four Hindu, a Jain and possibly Buddhist cave temples located in Badami, a town in northern part of Karnataka. The caves are considered an example of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya architecture, which dates from the 6th century. Badami was previously known as Vataapi Badami, the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, which ruled much of Karnataka from the 6th to the 8th century. Badami is situated on the west bank of a man made lake ringed by an earthen [...]

Chalukya music sculpture2020-06-07T20:27:43+02:00

Musical instruments in Hampi sculpture

Hampi is located in east-central Karnataka India. It became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagar Empire capital in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travellers, particularly the Portuguese, state Hampi was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city  with numerous temples, farms and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world's second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing and probably India's richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained [...]

Musical instruments in Hampi sculpture2020-06-08T07:29:52+02:00

Musical instruments in Mysur temple sculpture

In 2006 we visited some towns in the southern part of Karnataka, near the city of Mysuru (Mysore). The pictures presented here show a sample of musical instruments mostly from the 12th century. We come across two types of drums, barrel shaped and hourglass shaped. The latter could well be the melodic drum we know today as the iddaka or eddaka. The flute we see—often in the hands of Kṛṣṇa—is a rather thick transverse flute. And then there are the vīṇā-s, typically stick zithers with or without frets. They [...]

Musical instruments in Mysur temple sculpture2018-04-04T13:15:14+02:00

What you hear isn’t what you see…

WHAT YOU HEAR ISN’T WHAT YOU SEE: THE REPRESENTATION AND COGNITION OF FAST MOVEMENTS IN HINDUSTANI MUSIC Wim van der Meer, Dept. of Musicology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, wvdm[at] Suvarnalata Rao, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai 400021, suvarnarao[at] Abstract Keywords: visual representation, melography, ornamentation, pitch perception. In Hindustani music the space ‘between the notes’ is often more important than the discrete notes themselves. With the help of melography, and more in particular the use of advanced models of pitch perception in computer software, we can actually ‘see’ the precise forms of meend [...]

What you hear isn’t what you see…2020-06-08T07:58:06+02:00
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