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Music in India (The Classical Traditions)

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Music in India (The Classical Traditions)
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Item Code: NAE731
Author: Bonnie C. Wade
Publisher: Manohar Publishers and Distributors
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788173043956
Pages: 284 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 370 gms
About the Book

Music in India encompasses a vast panoply of instruments, forms, performers, principles, and history in the religious, folk, tribal, hybrid’, film, dance, theatre, and classical traditions. This book focuses on the two traditions of Indian classical music: North Indian, or Hindustani and South Indian, - or Karnataka. This is the Indian music most familiar to Western audiences and most readily available through live and recorded performances.”

Music in India is written for the uninitiated Westerner. It is an introduction to the principles ideas, and systems of two traditions of Indian classical music. It is geared it the listener as well as to the performer. Chapter 1 concerns the listener and the effect of music. Performance situations are described to show how theory is put into practice. Chapters 2 and 3 contrast concepts in Indian and Western classical music as well as classification of melody type, ideas about notating and notation systems used in Indian traditions are also explained. Chapter 4 describes the primary melody-producing instruments. Chapter 5 contrasts Hindustani and Western concepts of rhythm and meter.

Additional chapters are concerned with those performance genres which can be heard on available recordings. The final chapter combines all of the various elements by commenting on the requirements of a good musician.

In this new edition, the author has revised the source materials, pertinent information, and dates so that the reader is directed to more current readings and audio-visual materials and where to find them. Thus, in the Appendix the bibliography has been revised; the discography and filmography have been updated.


About the Author

Bonnie C. Wade is Professor of Music, Dean of Undergraduate Services and Chair of the Deans of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She has done extensive field work in South Asia, primarily in India, mostly in North India. A member of the Society for Ethnomusicology, she is a former Vice-President of the American Musicological Society and former member of the Directorium of the International Musicological Society. She is the author of several books including Khyal: Creativity with in North India’s Classical Music Tradition and Imaging Sound: An Ethno musicological Study of Music, Art, and Culture in Mughal India.



Students and informed amateurs of the history of music have long needed a series of hooks that are comprehensive authoritative, and engagingly written. They have needed books written by specialists—hut specialists interested in communicating vividly. The Prentice-Hall History of Music Series aims at filling these needs.

Six hooks in the series present a panoramic view of the history of Western music, divided among the major historical periods—Medieval. Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, Romantic, and Contemporary. The musical culture of the United States is viewed historically as an independent development within the larger Western tradition, and a similar approach is accorded to the music of Latin America. A hook devoted to the traditional music of India draws comparisons with Western music. In another pair of books, the rich yet neglected folk and traditional music of both hemispheres is treated. Taken together, the eleven volumes of the series will be a distinctive and, we hope, distinguished contribution to the history of the music of the world’s peoples. Each volume, moreover, may be read singly as a substantial account of the music of its period or area.

The authors of the series are scholars of national and international repute—musicologists, critics, and teachers of acknowledged stature in their respective fields of specialization. In their contributions to the Prentice-Hall History of Music Series their goal has been to present works of solid scholarship that are eminently readable, with significant insights into music as a part of the general intellectual and cultural life of man.


Preface to the Revised Edition

This book, Music in India: The Classical Traditions, has remained a popular book since it first appeared. in 1979 published by Prentice-Hall in its History of Music Series. It has been reprinted in that original version several times, both in the United States, by Riverdale Press, and in India by Manohar. I am pleased that it has proven so useful to generations of students of Indian music. Since it is being reprinted so frequently I thought that I should revise the source materials, pertinent information, and dates so that the reader is directed to more current readings and audio-visual materials and where to find them, Thus, in the appendix the bibliography has been revised; the discography and filmography I have updated hut also kept the original lists because they were keyed to the text, I have opted not to tinker with the bulk of the book primarily because the basic structures and ingredients of Indian Classical Music remain the same. However, I have made some minor revisions to reflect more recent events and changes since the book originally appeared.

Since l wrote Music in India two decades ago, I have some additional acknowledgements to make; The enormous generosity of the University of California at Berkeley, for research funds; my colleague Benjamin Brinner for stimulating and insightful interchanges; the students of my Music of India classes for the inestimable give-and-take in the process of teaching this course; several former graduate students and their work—George Ruckert’s extensive studies on the style of scrod master Au Akbar Khan; David Roche’s on the tabla and adivasi ritual music; Jennifer Rycenga’s work on Tyãgaraja; Kristina Nelson’s studies on Qur’ anic recitation; and two present graduate students, Partow Hooshmandrad, who is working on Persian music, and Rajna Klaser, on Turkish music. I also thank Riverdale Press in the United States and Manohar in India for reproducing this volume and Gerald Barrier’s South Asia books for making it so readily and easily available. Also, since this book was originally published I have written two other books on aspects of Indian music, one on the Hindustani vocal genre Khyal, and the issue of creativity within tradition, and the other on the depiction of music making in art, Imaging Sound, using miniature paintings and other sources for the documentation of North Indian music in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

I am hopeful that the revisions made herein will prove beneficial to the next generations of readers of Music in India: The Classical Traditions.


Preface to the First Edition

Music in India encompasses a vast panoply of instruments, forms, performers, principles, and history in the religious, folk, tribal, hybrid,” film-dance-theater, and classical traditions. Since it is not possible to treat all of these aspects in a single volume with the thoroughness they deserve, this book focuses on the two classical traditions: North Indian, or Hindustani, and South Indian, or Karnatak. This is the Indian music most familiar to Western audiences and most readily available through live and recorded performances.

This introductory text is written for the uninitiated Westerner, and tries to achieve a balance between technical and nontechnical discussion. I have provided transcriptions from good available recordings so that the reader may follow the music referred to and learn what to listen for.

A chapter each is devoted to the listener and Indian music, melody, melody instruments, rhythm and meter, rhythm instruments and drumming, and performance genres of the Hindustani and the Karnataka traditions. A historical map is provided for reference. Photographs and musical examples are given throughout. The appendix contains bibliographic sources, a discography, and a filmography. A glossary and index are also provided.

In the preparation of this book I have benefited enormously from the suggestions of innumerable friends, to whom I owe many thanks. First, to my teachers of Indian music (mentioned in the order they came into my musical life): Shaikh Hasan, my instructor in sitar during my residency in Pakistan; M. Giersarz, who first instructed me in the Karnatak tradition and rind at the University of California, Los Angeles; Sumati Mutatkar, my advisor at Delhi University and an invaluable source on Hindustani classical vocal forms; Pandit Pran Nath of the Kirana gharana, my teacher in Delhi of Hindustani vocal music, particularly khyal; and Shri Sita Ram of the Delhi bãj, my instructor in Delhi on the tabla. Special thanks are extended to Pandit Sharda Sahai of the Benares bäj, who for the past several years has been my teacher in labia and Hindustan rhythmic theory and drumming.

I am deeply grateful to Professors Prem Lata Sharma of Benares Hindu University, and Harold S. Powers of Princeton University, who were provocative and exacting taskmasters at various stages in my development as a scholar of Indian music. Special thanks are also due to Professor Nazir Jairazbhoy of UCLA, who read the manuscript in various stages and offered invaluable advice.

The idea for this book was born and developed during the years when I taught at Brown University, and I am beholden to that institution’s resources, students, and faculty for helping it hear fruit. I have benefited from my students in the general Asian Music survey and, in particular, the Music of India courses at ’Brown University, and most recently at UC Berkeley, and from my teacher-students in the National Endowment fur the Humanities 1975 Summer Seminar for College Teachers. Discussions with four graduate students—Shrrish Korde, Amy Catlin. Frances Shepherd, and Sharon Woodruff—clarified the form of presentation and lent fresh perspectives.

A number of friends and colleagues who teach Indian music and who shared my need for an introductory text have provided valuable information and advice: Peter Row, binkar and sitarist, on tunings and instrumental practice; Charles Capwell on the scrod and its tradition; Robert Brown on instruments and forms of the Karnatak tradition. I have also taken many useful suggestions from Harold Powers, Sudesh Aurora, Regula Qureshi, Bruno Nettl, Kamala Vendanthan, and Sara Stalder.

I am especially indebted to David Schonfeld for his advice and help on South Indian notations and transcriptions, as well as transnotations and translations from Tamil and Telugu. To my friend Dr. Stanley Summers of Providence, Rhode Island, I express thanks for his interest in the project and his excellent photographs.

Prentice-HaIl editors Norwell F. Therien, Jr. and Ted Jursek, who recognized the necessity fur such a hook, prodded and encouraged me all the way.

H. Wiley Hitchcock has been a thoughtful and thorough general editor, and his counsel is greatly appreciated. My final debt, as always, is to P., who was helpful with every facet of the preparation. The errors are mine alone.



Until the second half of the twentieth century most Westerners had been secure in their belief that there was but one sophisticated system of music in the world, and that it was theirs. But in the wake of Sputnick, in the late 1950s, came a flood of federal and foundation monies for foreign-language and area studies, which exposed Americans to worlds outside of Europe and demonstrated the power and near timelessness of the great civilizations of Asia, Africa, and pre-Columbian America. Slowly but inexorably, we have become aware of the complexities and majesty of the arts of those Continents, one of which is their music.

Although we are no longer at the threshold of understanding music inside of the West, we have not yet become intimate with all of them, for knowledge of a musical system requires much of the person who seeks it, the least of which is access to the music as performed and guidance to understanding the cultural and historical values of the civilization under study. These requirements are perhaps no better demonstrated than with the classical music of South Asia.

The avenues to the study of Western music are diverse, and certainly readily available. One can learn to play an instrument or join a chorus, check books out of a library and read for oneself, or enroll in classes for more personally guided learning. Think of the literature available on Western classical music alone—the volumes upon volumes devoted to the history of musical styles, the editions of compositions, the theoretical treatises and histories of theory, the biographies of great and not-so-great composers, the studies of musical instruments and their builders, and the like. The number of authors is large: several generations of scholars have worked in many European, North and South American countries, Australia and New Zealand, and all of them have been interested in facets of the art and liturgical music of Western civilization through time.

The avenues in the West for studying Indian classical music—an at least equally enormous subject—are practically the same (except joining a choral organization), but they certainly are not as readily available. Instrumental instruction can still be found mostly in some major urban centers and at a few universities. Instruments on which to practice have similarly sparse distribution.

The literature on Indian music is small, relatively speaking, and much of it is in Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and other languages of the subcontinent. Many of the remaining sources are in English, the lingua franca in South Asia from the mid-eighteenth century until relatively recently. Most of these have been written by Indian scholars and have been geared to the thought patterns of South Asians who have recourse to other sources for checking unexplained terminology and who do not need the same type of framework established for them that Westerners do. Regrettably, such sources confuse rather than clarify matters for beginning Western students.

Most of the other older sources in English were written by British colonial administrators who lived on the subcontinent for an extended time. Many of these writers evince warmth and respect for Indic civilization and often an understanding of it. But their level of awareness of Indian music was not that of the trained observer, and their works were written for an audience prone to consider Indian music a cacophony of primitive screeches.

Several books were produced as a result of the fad for Indian music in the United States during the 1 960s. Unfortunately, these were couched in Western-centric terms, and thus evince little real understanding of the complexities of South Asia’s cultures. A few were “sing-along-with-the-sitar” types.

Even without the Indian music fad, however, interest was growing within the then-young field of ethnomusicology. Dissertations on specific features of Indian classical music were produced by young scholars, most of them in the United States hut also in Europe and more recently in Australia, demonstrating the seriousness with which the study of Indian music has increasingly come to be undertaken in the West. We who write about India’s music try to transmit an empathy and respect for Indic cultures similar to that of Fox-Strangways and Day early in this century, but we do not write for the same audience. We write for a public who are not only receptive to learning about what they already respect hut who also have Indian music easily accessible in multiple media.

In order to understand a music, one must be able to know what to listen for in it and also to learn in the thought patterns of the culture. These are the avenues, first and foremost, that this book hopes to provide. The challenge in writing such a volume is that it must range—if I may make a cross- cultural comparison—from a book comparable to one on basic Western theory to a sophisticated analysis of musical masterpieces. The problem is exacerbated in that two classical-music traditions, the Hindustani and the Karnatak, have flourished simultaneously in the Indian subcontinent since about the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Recordings of music from both traditions are available in the West, but very often listeners do not realize that they may be hearing two different traditions.

One of the usual tasks of ethnomusicologists who specialize in Indian music is to learn about both traditions, although most choose one or the other on which to concentrate their research. This volume undertakes to explain both the Hindustani and the Karnatak traditions and to compare and contrast them.

The musical repertoire of South Asia is mammoth: it includes far more than the Hindustani and Karnatak traditions of Indian classical music. It also includes urban and rural repertoires that are as vast and as varied as the many cultures and subcultures within the subcontinent. Yet until recently there has been relatively little research on the varieties and, thus, limited access to sources on them, This led me to focus on the theorized “classical” traditions in the original book and the intent in this revised volume remains to acquaint the reader with the theory of South Asia’s two classical- music traditions and to provide a practical manual for learning to listen to and appreciate Indian classical music. A discussion of all Indian music is better left to other and entirely different types of hooks. (See the appendix for a guide to sources.)

One might expect from an ethnomusicologist a textbook that puts heavy emphasis on the cultural context of the music. This book does and does not.




  Foreword IX
  Preface to the Revised Edition XI
  Preface to the First Edition XIII
  List of Plates XVI
  List of Musical Examples XVIII
  List of Charts XXI
  Map of Indian XXII
  Introduction 1
1 The Listener and Indian Music 6
  The Setting 6
  The Relationship between listener and performer 9
  Diversity: A Characteristic of India Culture 14
2 The Shared Tradition: Ensemble, Pitch, Notation, and Drone 21
  Introduction 21
  Hindustani Notation 24
  Karnatak Notation 37
  The Melodic Drone 48
3 Melody 53
  Introduction 53
  Hindustani Melodic Concepts 56
  Karnatak Melodic Concepts 68
  Origin of Ragas 74
  Classification of Raga 79
4 Melody Instruments 88
  Tata Vadya: The Stringed Instruments’ 89
  Sushira Vadya; The Wind Instruments 106
5 Meter 115
  Hindustani Metric Concepts 115
  Karnatak Metric Concepts 122
6 Rhythm Instruments and Drumming 128
  Ghana and Avanddha vadya; Idiophones and Membranophones 128
  Karnatak Drumming 141
  Hindustani Drumming 150
7 Performance Genres of Hindustani Music 158
  Vocal Genres 158
  Instrumental Genres 184
8 Performance Genres of Karnatak Music 189
  Varnam 190
  Kriti 194
  Ragam-tanam-pallavi 501
  Light classical genres 204
9 Musicians and Musicianship: The Performance and the Audience contexts 260
  Appendix: A Guide to Source Materials 212
  General Information 212
  Bibliography 213
  Discography 224
  Film/Videography 236
  Original filmography 238
  Glossary 241
  Index 250

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