Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pitch Problems in Indian Classical Music (2)

Some responses & the clarifications

1. “Western Classical music uses even tempering where each note is 100 cents from the previous note”

Equal Temperament’s entry into western classical music took place around 18th century  ;  (‘Equal temperament tuning was widely adopted in France and Germany by the late 18th century and in England by the 19th.’;

Prior to which, Just intonation was the tuning system.

Even after the introduction of the Equal Temperament (ET), vocalists & violinists, when unaccompanied by the keyboard music instruments (designed for ET), followed Just Intonation.( For more details; 1.’Science of Music’ by  Sir.James Jeans; 2. ‘The Physics of Music’ by Alexander Wood)

Just Intonation is based on the consonant relations of the fifth & fourth. The actual intervals (frequency ratios) can be different in different kinds of music, all over the world. Both ancient texts in Tamil and Sanskrit have evidences that the Indian music followed the above consonant relations in the tuning. In my view, following that tradition, our great gurus in ‘pANi’ (carnatic), and  Gharana’ (Hindustani), set their own pitch standard, and the tuning system, using ‘tampoora’.

Tampoora’s  replacement by the western imported ‘sruti box’ ( formerly manual box set to the pitch standard of the period & western country it came from; & now electronic sruthi box, following western pitch standard} was a great tragedy;  gradually destroying ‘the pitch standard’ and the tuning system, followed by the great gurus of the Indian music. Fortunately from their recordings, and related texts, they could be ‘restored or even resurrected’, using the tools developed in the technology involving digital signal processing as well as ‘MICROSOUND’ (‘MICROSOUND’ by Curtis Roads) ) .; one of the reasons for my introducing ‘Music Information Technology’ as a common  elective ( all disciplines) to the B.Tech students in SASTRA University, Thanjavur, and National Institute of Technology, Trichy.

2.“The table  (source shows the relationship between the 22 sruthis in Indian music and the 12 notes in the Western tuning system.” Compiled by Mohan Ayyar using various sources such as books by Bhagyalakshmy and Sambamoorthy. 

When did the word ‘sruthi’ entered into the Indian music related terminologies? When did the concept of 22 sruthis entered into Indian music? What is the earliest reference for the method of calculation and the resulting frequency ratios of 22 sruthis, published by Sambamoorthy? 

3. International pitch standard referred to the pitch standard ( A= 440Hz), adopted at the World Music Conference, London, in 1939. Still many orchestras all over their world follow their own pitch standard, for their own reasons. (Note below)

Pitch standard and the tuning system together will decide the actual frequency of the musical note, referred for the tuning.  Whether Western music, Carnatic Music, or any music, before the performance, the musicians on the stage, need to tune their instruments by choosing a pitch standard and a tuning system for tuning their instruments. While the tuned intervals serve as a kind of guiding references, the musicians will ‘HAVE’ to deviate from the tuned intervals to bring ‘LIFE’ to their music to bring out the musical aesthetics  in the compositions they perform. Hence “the myriad use of microtones and inter-notes” are involved in the performances of all music in the world, but follow the tradition, unique to the kind of music performed.

Very many music application software are in the market that could study not only the above variations, but also ‘TRANSFORM’ the recorded music to different pitch standards, different tuning systems, different ‘timbres’, etc, limited by the skills of the technician.

To understand the ‘Western influences’ that crept into the Indian ‘Classical’ (the word itself, a western import, causing superiority/inferiority/untouchability in South Indian Music, as I had discovered & published in my posts;  refer post dt. November 13, 2013 ;’ இசையில் ' தீண்டாமை'  காலனியத்தின் ‘நன்கொடை’யா? Is ‘untouchability in music’, a Colonial ‘donation’?’;;

due to the Christian missionaries and the colonization, we need open minded, intellectually honest  research with hard work. In view of the increasing demand for ‘new music’ in the world music scene of  decreasing original compositions, and the socially spiritually enriching role of good music, ancient Indian music minus the ‘corruptions’ of the colonization, has the potential to ‘fill’ the gap.

In Tamilnadu, especially after the ascending of the Dravidian parties, I had come across ‘emotional attachment’ to one’s own perception among  pro-Tamil, pro-Tamil Music, pro-Carnatic Music  ‘experts’, preventing open minded, objective, & intellectual honest discussions.

I wish the responses to the posts, follow open minded, objective, & intellectual honest direction, leading to the ascending of the Indian Classical music in the world music scene. 

Note 1:

Yet despite the fact that a standard has been accepted, orchestras frequently deviate from this standard.
The San Francisco Symphony (reportedly) tunes to 441 or 442 Hz
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (reportedly) tunes to 444 Hz
The New York Philharmonic (reportedly) tunes to 443 Hz
and The Berlin Philharmonic (reportedly) tunes to 445 Hz
I know there's a tendency for some European countries to tune to 442 Hz and German orchestras are among others who tune to 445 Hz. But what makes an orchestra choose one of these numbers? Who makes the decision, the orchestra's leaders/committee or the conductor? What is the point of making this distinction? Why, after standardizing a tuning system, go to the trouble of changing it by so slight a degree?
(For the sake of this question, let's not take into account period instruments or ensembles which are famously tuned to anything from 415 Hz to 490 Hz)

Note 2. Rhythmic acrobatics can be enjoyed as ‘dance’, only by dance illiterates.

           While tampoora based Hindustani music may ‘survive’ as ‘music’, tampoora’ ‘divorced’ Carnatic music may ‘survive’ only as ‘aural acrobatics’, sacrificing ( through Western style class room education with ‘easy’ sruthi box  ) ‘traditional Guru guided’ ‘pANi’ school proper pitch standard & tuning system – essential for proper tuning before starting the music performance.

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