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An informal list of ideas about Indian music: (under construction)
Ancient Indian music was very different from current-day Carnatic
The term "sruthi" has been warped, redefined, misused
or even abused over the years!
Bharatha's ancient musical system DID NOT have 22 musical
entities. In fact, he had even LESS THAN 12 notes.
Carnatic music uses MORE THAN 22 "melodic atoms" today, and these
be exhaustively listed.
Of these various melodic entities, only and exactly 12 are
CONSTANT-PITCH entities without pitch inflexions, whose tuning and
intonation are flexible and context-dependent. But it is incorrect or
incomplete to say that Indian music uses only 12 "flexible" notes. The
inflected notes are equal in stature, equally indispensible and
The number 22 has no significance today. It is NOT EVEN an
approximate number by any means. This number is COMPLETELY irrelevant,
The tuning tables initially put forth by Westerners and repeated
authors like Prof Sambamoorthy have no
scientific or experimental basis and have been shown to be incorrect.
These tables merge values from
two theoretical Western tuning systems - Pythogorean
and Just Intonation. They have no role in Indian music. In fact,
even in the Western world today, reputed scholars in music psychology
and cognition doubt the usefulness or relevance of such tuning schemes.
Rational numbers and cycles of fourths and fifths are given undue
importance by many Indian musicologists. But mostly they have no
connection to actual practice at any point in Indian music history. BUT
some rational numbers like 3/2 and 5/4 may be useful if treated as
SYMBOLS and not as exact numbers like 1.5 and 1.25. But once you start
multiplying them and produce numbers like 256/243 or 27/20, all reason
and rationality is lost!
Though the human ear can perceive minute differences in pitch,
fact does not imply that all of them are distinct musical entities. For
example, many humans can easily perceive a 5-cent difference between
two consecutive pure tones. But a lot of people confuse the number of
entities that ARE used, the number of entities that COULD BE used and
the number of distinctly perceivable sounds.
The phenomenon of BEATING is not necessarily the primary cue, and
possibly even irrelevant, for the perception of good tuning or
Each swaram has multiple varieties or versions, and these
versions may appear in the same ragam. For example, to say that Gaulai
or Saveri use a "lower" Ri1 is incorrect since MULTIPLE VERSIONS of Ri1
appear in these ragams. The Sa-based upward inflexion is what many
people call the "eka-sruthi-rishabham" today, but this "lower" Ri1 is
NOT the only Ri1 that appear in these ragams. Furthermore, most other
ragams with Suddha Rishabham use this "lower" Ri1 version too.
It can be measured and shown that the pitch of the
"eka-sruthi-rishabham" is indeed lower than the constant-pitch Ri1, but
doing so invloves AVERAGING the pitch of the so-called
"eka-sruthi-rishabham." Actually, the latter is intentionally
time-varying and involves pitch inflexions. In fact, the peak of such
inflexions may far exceed the pitch of the constant-pitch Ri1.
Nevertheless, the average measured value and the perceived effect are
Pitch inflexions are a TWO-DIMENSIONAL phenomenon. You can NOT
place them at a specific point in the octave. But you can use 2D curves
to model and describe them. Trying to describe Indian music using only
a set of fixed intervals is futile and incorrect.