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The Art and Science of Carnatic Music (With Notation)

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Item Code: NAL836
Author: Vidya Shankar
Publisher: Parampara Publications
Language: English
Edition: 1999
Pages: 228 (2 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 340 gm
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description
About the book

This book explains the art of music from the aesthetic point of view, and at the same takes the reader, step by step, to an understanding of music as a science. It is a critical interpretations as well as an appreciation of the Carnatic traditions in Music.

The book comprises a series of lectures which the author delivered to a group of scientists and music lovers at the Kalpakkam Atomic Energy Centre and in other institutions. She has succeeded in guiding the reader on the correct lines of appreciation of good music and its scientific basis.

A lucid exposition of the musical scale, the classification of raga-s and tala-s, the concept of sruti-s, the fretting of the Vina and the teaching of music are the highlights of this self-sufficient treatise. These will benefit the lay reader, the student of music and the erudite musicologist alike. Noteworthy, as showing the practical slant of the book, are the masterly illustrations from the songs of the great composers to elucidate her exposition of the delicacies of sruti-s and the patterns of the several ragas.

The charts in this book add a new dimension to Indian Musicology.


About the Author

Vidya Shankar, B.A., B.T., had her training in vina and vocal music under eminent Vidvans- Sangitakalanidhi Sabhesa lyer, Madras Sabhapathi lyer, Syama Sastry (great-grandson of the composer Syama Sastry) and Sangitakalanidhi T.L. Venkatarama lyer. She has taught music, mathematics and Sanskrit in Kalakshetra and was a lecture in Musicology in the Central Collage of Carnatic Music, Madras. She was awarded the vina Shanmukha- Vadivu Prize by the Madras Music Academy in 1973. She is a member of the Advisory Experts’ Committee of the Madras Music Academy.

She has been giving vina- concerts and lecture- demonstrations over the A.I.R. and Doordarshan, in universities and institutions in India and abroad; was the convenor for the lecture- demonstrations held at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 1987 and 1988; directed and conducted the vina workshop, crash course in Musicology and Vina- playing in the exhibition ‘Stree’ held at the Festival of India in Moscow in 1988; delivered the Dr. Raghavan Sashtiabhtapurti Endowment lecture on ‘Maha Vaidhyanatha Sivan’s Melaragamalika’ in ’88 and Vidwan Sabesa lyer’s Endowment lecture for a Bodhaka on ‘Compositions of pallavi Doraiswamy lyer’ in ’95 at the Madras Music Academy. At the exhibition of musical instruments held at the Music Academy in ’92, she displayed a sruti- Vina designed by her earlier for her lecture- demonstrations on the 22 and additional sruti-s.

She was honoured for her services to music in general and her research and deep study of Syama Sastry’s compositions in particular by Sri Kamakoti Peeta Carnataka Sangeetha Seva Trust at Thiruvarur in 1993; was awarded the birdu “Nadakkanal” in ’95; “Nadhabrahmam” in ’98 by Narada Gana Sabha Trust, Chennai; TTK Memorial Award at Madras Music Academy Annual Conference, January ’99.

‘She is noted for the traditional style and purity of her vina- technique, vast scholarship and lucidity of expression in her lecture- demonstrations’.

In addition to the numerous articles in journals, her publications include a biography “Syama Sastry” published by the National Book Trust of India in 1970; Aesthetic and Scientific values in Carnatic Music; “Syama Sastry’s Compositions”, “Compositions of Subbaraya Sastry and Annaswamy Sastry” , ”Five Padas of Justice Ananthanarayanan”, all with text, translation, transliteration and notation with Gamaka signs.



Most books on Indian Music are of little use to the lay reader or lover of music. This is one of the reasons why so many people think that music is beyond their understanding. Book so far published may be classified either as text books for the students following a given syllabus or treatises on the science of music for the scholar or research student. There is hardly any takes the reader, step by step, to an understanding of music as a science.

In a series of lectures delivered to a group of scientists and music lovers at the Kalpakkam Atomic Energy Centre, Smt. Vidya Shankar, eminent vina artiste and musicologist, tried to bridge the gulf by first explaining to her listeners music as a fine art and then taking them gradually to its fundamental concepts and theory. These lectures have now been arranged in the form of a book. The other lectures included in this book were delivered at the Madras Music Academy and other institutions.

The musical scale is first explained in simple language and then the phenomenon of mela-s and system. The classification of raga-s is dealt with in detail, and, tala or rhythm is explained in two chapter with suitable examples. This is followed by an illuminating chapter on musical form. The concept of sruti-s has always been an intricate problem in musicology, and the clarity with which this complicated subject is explained in two chapters is remarkable. Smt. Vidya has an original approach to the problem of sruti-s, and as an ardent student of the vina, she has contributed some original thought to the explanation of the complex problem of sruti-s.

Fretting of the vina has always been her pet subject, and the chapter on this topic shows her originality. The book is rounded off with chapters on Gamaka-s, Sanskrit and Music and lastly Teaching of Music, thus making it a complete manual.

Smt. Vidya has prepared elaborate charts to explain the many aspects of musical theory dealt with in the book, and many of them have been presented in this unique form for the first time, The enormous trouble taken by her, and ingenuity are praise-worthy, and the charts add a new dimension to Indian Musicology.

The book is thus a complete treatise which can be studied with profit by a lay reader, a student of music and a musicologist who will find aspects of our music projected from a new angle. The calculation of sruti-intervals constitutes the author’s own contribution to Musicology.



This book comprises various lectures that I delivered on the art and science of Carnatic Music. The main. The main body of the work, the first thirteen chapters, consists of the series of lectures that I gave at the Kalpakkam Atomic Engrey Center, Tamil Nadu. A group of young men and women lay music lovers, from the Centre approached me to initiate them into the fundamental aspects of the structure, science and art of Carnactic Music , so as to enable them to appreciate the art better. Having acceded to their request, I found that I had not realized how difficult the task would be. To condense the richness and diversity of classical music into a few lectures is in itself difficult. To do so without adversely affecting the interest of the less initiated music-lover would make it even more so.

As it turned out , the series of thirteen lectures that I gave between September 1978 and January 1979 was a very enjoyable experience for me. I had perforce to use several teaching aids like charts demonstrations, tapes etc., to enliven the lectures. The positive response of the audience, as well as the subsequent requests from other interest groups to repeat these lecture-demonstrations led to my shaping them into a book. They are now presented with minor modifications. Some commonly known facts have been deleted and certain others somewhat elaborated. Some aspects of music dealt with are on the basis of deep personal experience. The expressions used are in actual usage in the character of a lecture.

The fourteenth chapter ‘Derivation and Application of Additional Sruti-s’ was delivered at the Madras Music Academy Annual Conference Sessions in December 1980. The gist of this lecture, under the heading of ‘The insufficiency of 22-sruti-s’ was presented by me at the seminar held by the Shanmukhananda Fine Arts in Bombay in 1981. ‘The fretting of the Vina’ was featured in a lecture on Sruti-s’ in the Madras Music Academy and also at the seminar held by the Musicological Research Association in 1980 in the A. C. Collage, Madras. The chapter on ‘Gamaka-s’ is derived from the article contributed by me to the Music Academy Journal, Vol. No : XIV, 1943 and from my lectured-demonstration at the Music Academy Annual Conference in 1968. ‘Sanskrit and Music’ was delivered at the Sanskrit College, Mylapore, during the Centenary Celebrations of the Universities of Music’ is a summary of the lectures delivered at the Universities of Music, Baroda, Madurai and Trivandrum, and before music circles in Calcutta, Lucknow. Kalakshetra in Madras and other institutions.

I thank the various organisation and institutions for having provided me the motivation to express my thoughts and experiences pertaining to the subject.

This book approaches classical music with the seriousness of a student of science. Accordingly the concept of the scientific basis of classical Carnatic Music is emphasized.

I feel singularly fortunate in having received from the well-known writer Sri T. Janakiraman a note of appreciation, as he called it, on the eve of his passing away. To Sri T. S. Parthasarathy, eminent musicologist of Madras, I acknowledge my thanks for his support. For his genuine and generous encouragement in bringing out this book, I offer my sincere thanks to Sri S. S. Batliwala of the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute, Bombay.

My grateful thanks are particularly due to the authorities of the Madras Music Academy for readily agreeing to my request and publishing my work. For their prompt and patient co-operation in getting up the book in record time, I thank Messers Ramani Brothers, Printers.




  Foreword by T. S. Parthasarathy i
  Appreciation by T. Janakiraman iii
  Preface v
1 General Introduction and Fundamental Concepts 1
2 Musical Scale 15
3 Formation of Scales 21
4 Ragas and Mela-system 33
5 Classification of Raga-s 44
6 Graha- bheda 52
7 Tala- I 61
8 Tala- II 71
9 Bhava 85
10 Musical froms 94
11 Kalpana-Sangita 106
12 Sruti-s- I 118
13 Sruti-s- II 130
14 Derivation and Application of Additional Sruti-s 138
15 Fretting of the Vina 145
16 Gamaka-s 152
17 Sanskrit and Music 162
18 The Teaching of Music 171
  Index of Charts 177
  Index of Chompositions quoted/referred 178
  Bibliography 185
  Key for Pronounciation of Non-English words 186
  Glossary 188
Sample Pages

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