This book is an exhaustive treatise on. the concept of Rhythm in Indian Music. In the first two chapters, the fundamental concepts of Indian music are dealt with comprehensively. The history of Indian Music and its phases are dealt with in the first chapter. The second chapter deals with the concept of Tala and its significance. The third and the fourth chapters discuss the place of tala in Indian Classical Music. In these chapters the author has dealt with in detail about each and every tala and its variations giving a variety of illustrations from Classical Music as well as Folk Music. The fifth chapter is a complete treatise on percussion instrument supplemented with Nirth Indian and South Indian Music, discussing the salient features of both comparatively and highlighting the differential traits. The seventh chapter and the three subsequent chapters deals with the development of major talas and the scientific concepts of tala and public taste. Throughout, the book is a harmoneous synthesis of scholarly treatment, rational scientific outlook and musical aesthetic trait of the book is the meticulousness and insight with which the matter and the illustrations have been collected.
A rare Combination of literary talent, scholarship, fair for research and musical creativity, Dr. Arun Kumar Sen was the former Vice-Chancellor of Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagrah-the only University of Music and Fine Arts India.
Throughout academic career, Dr. Arun Kumar Sen displayed not only musical excellence from a very young age as a Vocalist but also won laurels at the graduation and post-graduation level in his academic career. He was awarded Ph.D. Degree by Nagpur University for this work on ‘Analytical Study of tals in Indian Music’.
Encouraged by this achievement, he has published many research papers on current topics of Music and Music education. His cassettes on Geet Ramayan, Geet Natank, Geet Mahavir, Geet Vivekanand, Vocal Music lessons and the books accompanying them are indicative of his love for music education, culture and religious thought with a secular outlook.
In the literature of Music, either in Sanskrit, Hindi or English, one does not find much writing on two very important aspects of music i.e. the Laya and Tala. Both these constituents of music are comparatively abstract and have less verbalised through literature.
While one does find the philoshical aspects of time given attention in certain treatises on music , the concept of time becomes comprehensible in music, since it gets ”unitised”, and the flow absorbs the relationship, the human being has with life and its pulsations. These very important elements of time, flow and pulsation, deserve special attention. Dr. A.K. Sen has attempted to define the role to these elements in Indian Music. He has ably shown the different shapes and patterns, time or the tala take and how these express themselves into a variety of pulsations, at the same time maintaining unity through comprehensability for the human mind, one can find arithmetic units in musical time, but it should be remembered that music uses the seemingly unitised mathematical flow only suitable to its aesthetics and to un-definable beauties of musical time.
The vastness of Indian Tala system has been well discussed by Dr. Sen. There is hardly any book in English on the Indian Tala System and the treatment given by the author has provided necessary background. The English translation done by Dr. Smt. S.N. Gayatonde of the author’s Hindi book deserves praise.
The book is a outcome of much labour and study and is a very welcome addition to the existing literature on music, particularly in English.
The author deserves our priase for writing on a subject which has not received much attention.
History is not a mere compilation of events which are inter-related. They are significant and meaningful only when the entire structure of the culture development of the society and the nation is erected before us through the medium of various events. History of Indian Music is so vast and so great that volumes can be written on every period. Swami Prajnananda states :
“The time for writing the history of Indian Music has not come yet. History is the first messenger which acquaints us impartially or most objectively with every subtle or excessively subtle event. Not a single fact is trivial as far as history is concerned. Even today innumerable ancient manuscripts lie unpublished. Unless these are appropriately and accurately published by scholarly musicologists, the writing of a complete history of music is impossible”.
Periods of the History of Indian Music
The history of Indian Music can e broadly divided into three periods :
(a) Ancient period (Pre-historic period and-Vedic period to 1200 A.D.)
(b) Medieval period (1201 A.D.to 1800A.D.)
(c) Modern period (1801 A.D. up-to-date)
(a) Ancient period (Pre-historic period and-Vedic period to 1200 A.D.)
The Vedic literature comprises of four Vedas viz. the Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. The Rgveda is a compilation of hymns to Agni, Indra, Vayu, Varuna and Soma by sages like Visvamitra, Vamadeva, Atri and Bharadvaja.
The Yajurveda provides the liturgical details. The Samaveda comprises of two parts-the Arcika and the Staumika. The Staumika is a collection of Samans or Rcas set to tune. These Samans were sung in different ways. The four types of Samagana were Gramageya, Aranyageya, Uha and Uhya. The Uha and Uhyagana were the post-Vedic Gramageyagana. In the Samagan, there were three Stomas-Varnastoma, Padastoma and Vakyastomas. The significant use of metre rhythm metres and laya (tempo)were used as they are used today. For example, the recitation of Anustup, Brhati, Pankti, Tristup, Jagati, Virat were for getting fame, ritual, courage, herds and for getting food.
In Samagana there are references to the seven notes in the form of the following-Prathama (first), Dvitiya (second), Tritiya (third), Caturtha (fourth), Pancharma(fifth), Atisvara and Krsta. The seven notes i.e. Sadja (Sa), Rsabha (Re), Gandhara (Ga), Madhyama (Ma), Panchama (Pa), Dhaivata (Dha), and Nisada (Ni); the three Grams (Sadja, Madhyama, Grama); 21 Murchanas and 39 Tanas or Svara Mandala were mentioned by Narada in Naradasiksa. In Samagana, there is reference to five types of intonation viz. with accentuated word or note, with an understanding of the difference between two styles and embellishing them according to one’s desire on the basis of the following factors-(i) height or duration of the pitch, (ii) improving the quality or the world or note (iii) inter-relation of the intermediate notes between various notes of various duration. The bar sin (1) was used to indicate pause. The notes, which lay between two bars were called parva. One or more parva could be combined into a Pada or a Verse. In Samagana, there were rules for uttering such as Prekshva (oscillated)Vinata (lengthened), Karsana( stressed), Atikarma (skipping over), Abhigita (sung).
Thus, in the Vedas, especially the traditions of Indian Music are established. In the Vedas, there are clear references to various percussion instruments but there are no discussions on tala forms in them. In Samagana, Druta (fast), Laghu (short), Guru (lengthened or long), Pluta (Lengthened to a greater extent) had a very important place.
Form the 6th Century B.C., Kinnaras and Apsaras were systematically studying laya forms. The tradition of keeping time by counting the matras (time measures) with the hand, in accompaniment to music and dance was prevalent. The women of Yajurvedic times were expert in the science of rhythm (tala) and they displayed it in music and dance. There is a reference that Dundubhi (a kind of drum) was made of wood, its face was of tanned skin of leather and it was fixed on all sides with leather braces. To keep them smooth, they were anointed with oil.
The high status of percussion instruments in Vedic times is evident by the above mentioned facts. The rules of tala (rhythm), which were of a highly systematic nature, as a result of their roots being in the Music of the Vedic times, are worth emulating. In singing, the tradition of breath control was there and this breath control was known as parvan. Similarly, the short, the long and the very long i.e. Hrasva, Dirgha and Pluta of those times could be identified with the later anudruta, druta, and pluta of later times.
Music in the Upanisadas :The recreative aspect of Music is referred to in three ancient Upanisads viz, Chandogyopanisad, Brhadaranyakopanisad and Taittriyopanisad, song, dance and instrumental music are referred to. In the Chandogyopanisad, there is the discussion of the Mantras like Hrasva, Dirgha and Pluta. In the singing and chanting of the mantras of Chandogya, matras were used in the following way :
Om-3, Adam-3, Aum-3, Pivam-3, Om-3 etc.
Sama means the production of the notes with proper equilibrium, Santana means Vakya (sentence) or word in proper sequence. The importance of balance in laya is made clear by these references.
Music and Laya in the Pratisakhya and Siksa (Post-Vedic literature of a Supplementary nature) : In Siksa and Pratisakhya works, references are found to be the basic elements or characteristic features of the music education of those times. Practical training in various layas were given to enable the students of music to get a complete knowledge of music. After giving training in a Vilambita (slow) laya for melodic variations with repetitions druta laya (fast) and for the actual exposition of composition madhya laya (of medium speed) was used.
Epic Period (400B.C.-200 B.C) : The Ramayana and Mahabharta are the greatest war poems of the country. In these works, there are references to dance, song and instrumental music, almost in every Canto or Section. In the period of Ramayana, music was specially respected. Correspondingly from royal dignitaries, Brahmanas and Purohitas to sages, this art was practiced with dedication and devotion. In the Uttarakanda of Ramayana, when Ramacandra organised an Asvamedha sacrifice there is a reference to the singing of the Ramayana in Svar and Tal, in the traditional manner. For this, skilled musicians were invited.
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