Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Building Blocks

Alright. In our last post about the roots of music, we paid our tributes to the "Sangeetha Mummoorthigal".

We all know that the building blocks of music lies in the 7 swaras. It is believed that originally the hymns in the praise of God were sung in 3 notes and it later evolved into 7 notes. They are:

Sa - Shadjam - Giving Birth
Ri - Rishabam - Morality
Ga - Gaandharam - Fragrant/Light
Ma - Madhyamam - Middle
Pa - Panchamam - Fifth
Da - Dhaivatam - Of Gods
Ni - Nishaadam - Sit/Lie down

On the other hand, references to 7 swaras is believed to be found in Silapathikaaram. And according to Tamil literature, the 7 swaras are:

kural = C (sa)
thutham = D (ri)
kaikilai = E (ga)
uzhai = F (ma)
iLi = G (pa)
viLari = A (da)
tharam = B (ni)

Even references to scale, grahabedham etc. are believed to be found in the works of Elango Adigal. Let us keep the debate of Sama Veda vs Silapathikaaram aside and move on to what a scale means. Once we learn alphabets (A-Z), don't we try and form words & sentences to convey our emotions? The same way, these alphabets of music (7 Swaras) can be combined to form melody.

Scale is a group of the notes in ascending and descending order that forms melody. Didn't we hear that Raaga is also group of certain notes in ascending and descending order? So, is Raaga same as scale? Look at the two pictures. Do you find any difference between them?

Obvious, isn't it? Though both the graph are plotting the same points, the former is more fixed, discrete and rigid. Whereas the latter is more smooth and free-flowing. This is the best I could explain the difference between scale and raaga. Scale is the former, Raaga the latter.

If both Raaga and Scale are based on the 7 notes, how does Raaga get the smoothness? It has a unique great weapon - Gamakams!! We will see more about this in the coming posts.


முருகேஷ் said...

In the past, I gave few attempts to understand the swaras and raagas but all in vain. I either couldn't understand it or the lessons were not up to layman's understanding.

Emjay, this is a good starter for me. I look forward to see your posts on this series (Building Blocks).

Btw, What is the term for 'scale' in Tamil?

Vinith said...

Emjay, this is really a good attempt. Please continue to do so. I'll learn something abt music :-)
How long can i be a layman :lol:

scale means "kattai" - right?

Emjay said...

Vinith - I am no expert. But, "Kattai" relates to "Pitch" and "Shruthi".

Scale is the combination of notes to give rise to melody.

Murugesh - Scale is called as "Pann" or "Paalai" - I think. Someone can correct me, if I am wrong.

New kenny on de block ;) said...

Astounding, way to gooo! Keep adding more information alike. Have a good one!

Emjay said...

Thanks Kenny.

Kavi said...

Scale is a collection of notes in ascending and descending order.

There are actually 12 diff notes. Look up this link. Havent read thru the link fully.

Scale is sort of like what notes are selected for that particular MelaKartha Raaga (my understanding)

Emjay said...

Thanks for the link, Kavitha.

Yes, though there are main 7 swaras, I am planning to cover the other 5 variation notes of Ri, Ga, Ma, Da, Ni in my next post.

kanna said...

Actually, if we were to look at it fully, there are many more than the twelve notes that the keyboard offers us. At the very least, 16 notes are needed for all melakarta raagas to be realised, and various scholars have estimated the number of notes as 22, 24, 48, 96 etc. I have some resources on this at home, I will scan and compile and send them to you sometime over the next week. Quite interesting to read.

Meanwhile, do continue this wonderful series of articles. Understanding the 12 note system is essential to progress any further, and I think you're doing a great job in enriching all our knowledge. :)

Emjay said...

Thanks Kanna. I appreciate if you can send the scanned copy of the resource. I have covered about the 12 notes/16 notes in my recent post.

Arun said...

Now, you are making me learn and I am willing to at this pace and ease.

Thanks MJ.