Thanks for your missive on Bach, the fugue and the music of the Renaissance period. I found them to be very interesting. What is mordent? What are grace notes and trills?
Is the below one piece or a compilation
Why do you think western music was able to diverge into the harmonic path, while Indian music continued on the gayaki path that you talk about? Is it because Indians didn’t think “instrumentally?”
Ok, my turn. I am not an expert in Carnatic music so I will tell you what I know. Also, my tutorial will meander unlike yours which follows logic 🙂
The most famous composers of Carnatic music are Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, and Shyama Shastry, all of whom were more or less contemporaries. They are called “The Divine Trinity” and had signatures. A Thyagaraj krithi or song will end with his name in the last line. Dikshitar’s signature was ‘guruguha’ which would come in the last paragraph or charanam. Shyama Shastry’s signature was “Shyama” also towards the end of the krithi. This way, novices can figure out the composer.
A Carnatic krithi is divided into three parts: Pallavi, usually containing two lines. Anupallavi, with four lines. And charanam of varying length. Now, on to the composers
Thyagaraja: The most salient thing about Thyagaraja is that all his songs were infused with bhakti. They were like conversations to God. Lord Rama, in particular, was his favorite deity and he composed hundreds of krithis on Rama, often asking/beseeching the Lord to give him divine grace. There is a famous group of Utsava Sampradaya krithis, as they are called, which serenade Lord Rama from dawn to dusk. The first one is called “Meluko Vayya” or “Wake up Lord” and is set in the morning raga, Bowli. And on it goes throughout the day/life till we put the Lord to sleep with the beautiful sleep=inducing ragam, Nilambari, which all Tambrahm mothers use to hum their infants to sleep. The lullaby to put Lord Rama to sleep is “Uyyala Logavayya.”
A famous Thyagaraja krithi is Nagumomu and it happens to be one I love. A long time ago, I asked Jayalalithaa, the CM of Tamilnadu, what her favorite ragam was and she said, “Abheri.” It is a good choice and this song is set in raga Abheri. Carnatic aficionados like my friend, Srikantan in the Bay Area, will know various versions of this particular song– who sung it best in which concert. In fact, Srikantan told me a long time ago that Balamurali Krishna (who happens to be my guru) sang a version of Nagumo in Narada Gana Sabha of Chennai in 1983 and it gave him goose bumps. To appreciate Thyagaraja, you need to know Telugu, which I don’t. His lyrics are simple and sweet. They are explained in the below website/
In terms of rendition, there are several renditions. I am going to give you a modern version
Here is a traditional version, but I don’t necessarily like it too much.
Here is a snippet of the “Laali” song, which is the putting to sleep song in Nilambari ragam.
Next time, Dikshitar. I spent the last hour listening to wonderful songs! What fun.
n 14-Nov-2012, at 12:40 PM, ji wrote:
In my last tutorial, I spoke of the Renaissance period of Western classical music. Before proceeding to the Baroque period, it would be very useful to summarise the salient aspects of the Renaissance period as it will help in maintaining the thread of the argument I am trying to develop.
The two significant developments in the Renaissance period were the beginning of the classification of the human voice into registers and the start of the use of major and minor keys. This could be called the beginning of harmony which is nothing more than a pleasing succession of chords and chords are a pleasing collection of notes played simultaneously according to a set of pre-ordained rules.
I do not know much about Carnatic music but this was certainly when western music began to diverge from Hindustani music. In Hindustani music no instrument may do what the human voice cannot. The gayaki style exemplifies this the best. Also, Hindustani music developed a sophisticated theory of melody. Tansen, who is generally credited with the codification of the ragas, did so in the fifteenth Century.
The Baroque period (c.1600 – c.1750) made progress in the harmonisation of music in fits and starts. I say this because, in other spheres of human activity, there were stalwarts like Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) and Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) who must have given a musical genius like Bach his fascination for metronome-like precision.
This inspired him to write many fugues, the best example of which is:
The best definition of a fugue is in Wikipedia:
In music, a fugue ( /ˈfjuːɡ/ fewg) is a compositional technique (in classical music) in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation(repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.
Another aspect of the Baroque period is the technical development of the instruments. Thus the precursor of the modern piano, the harpsichord, was developed. It also had a foot or pedal keyboard:
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a very prolific composer of both religious and secular music. In his later life he wa the organist and choir master of St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig where he was required to write music for every Sunday Mass but even earlier, he wrote many famous religious works like his Christmas Oratorio:
and the Mass in B minor. Here is the Kyrie (Kee-ree-ay) or Lord have mercy. Notice how he wields the different parts of the choir. This is probably because he himself was a boy soprano when he was a kid.
There was another facet to Bach’s musical genius – that of a great teacher. In fact he wrote the Well-Tempered Clavier only to teach his students the intricacies of the keyboard. It went on to gain fame in its own right.
I have spent a fair bit of time on Bach he is generally considered one of the 3 greatest composers ever. This leaves me with no choice but to have more tutorials for the rest of the Baroque period.
I hope you like it.