Why HM sounds sweeter

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music
Nick H
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#101 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

Thenappan wrote:I was singing a Todi kriti and he interrupted me to correct my soft palate position
Astonishing. I know that music, and even drama, students spend years learning the techniques of voice, the tool of their trade. As a youngster, I did a little of the drama stuff, which included voice projection and "speaking to the person in the back row of the hall." But I never knew, or forgot, that the anatomy of real voice training was so detailed. Some of the musicians are blessed (by the gods of genetics or whatever) with a beautiful voice: perhaps there are even greater heights that they could reach with the kind of practices that you are undertaking.
Rsachi wrote:I feel that also, Carnatic music is less sweet because of a dominance of Sahitya where correct pronunciation of words is more important than sounding sweet
But consider that much of the world's vocal music, from pop to opera, is words-based.

SrinathK
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#102 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

Don't forget that our audio systems and sound settings are terrible for the most part, most of the time they drown out your own voice. And we are music on a budget and cannot afford to build a concert hall with world class acoustics. The fact that I can't hear the tanpura clearly in most recordings is telling -- I have seen Hindustani musicians have a mic for the tanpura.

There used to be a documentary on Dhrupad out there where I remember them saying that the musicians used to practice in special acoustic chambers.

There is another thing to note -- WCM for one has at least 19 aesthetic variations of tempo from I think grave to prestissmo. How many tempos due you see explored in CM? It's really that slow tempo in HM that creates the effect. If HM musicians sang akharas all the time, then you'd see it yourself.

What thenappan wrote about was remarkable to read. That is precisely the very kind of vocal tone production training that's not open knowledge out there in CM.

One other very important thing is that most of our available free recordings are what I call "archaeological" quality -- recorded with very limited means, basic survival level -- that's all people had in the day and they did their best with that. Further losses happened because it's only now we have the means to store everything in pristine high quality audio and video. For some of these you really have to dig through all the defects to get out the diamonds. I find nearly all my free MSS recordings for one to be a real hassle to deal with and still believe few recordings really managed to capture her timbre. MMI was unique in that somehow his tone shone through any recording.

thenpaanan
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#103 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

rajeshnat wrote:Thenpaanan
MMI is the sweetest . Even maharajapuram santhanam comes very close with his sweetness and then perhaps is KVN. I am assuming the sweetness is to hold pitch comfortably (vilamba or durita kalam does not matter) . The shifting of gamakas intertwined with different octaves should have no strain - your ears have to get a continuous sinusoidal experience to get the sweetness.Your post is great.
Thanks. Sweetness is a complex thing. Santhanam was too nasal to be genuinely sweet in my opinion. In the end he became a crooner singing sentimental songs that got him the loudest applause. Genuine sweetness has a combination of power and softness. Consider opera singers -- they can sing extremely loudly and softly as they please. When you have power in reserve, the soft voice sounds sweet (though this is not the only thing you need to sound sweet). A good example of this is Chembai. His early recordings sound resonant and loud. As he grew older his voice mellowed but he hung on to his overtones for a very long time. What started detracting from the sweetness in my hearing was his voice became raspy towards the end and the richness came down dramatically. I don't know why that was. It did not happen to Mallikarjun Mansur who kept on singing sweetly till a ripe old age. May be this has to do with health rather than voice technique, can't say. In any case, Chembai is another example of how to sing well -- you never got the sense that he was holding back with his voice (like you do with BMK). Sometimes his voice just floats delicately which is exactly the feeling you want and something singers should try to emulate. Unfortunately that is easier said than done because he never shared his interior techniques as far as I know.

I once read a review of a ballet dancer a while ago and this line stuck in my head. "The dancer has that economy of effort that is commonly known as 'grace'." Like that dancer we should aspire to be "graceful" in our singing.

-T

varsha
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#104 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by varsha »

-T's lovely narrative made me think of this today
https://archive.org/details/GauDMalhArD ... aikiniAgra
a somewhat thorny climb to the rose garden , atop the hill.

Or .... I Wonder if it is the pining for a soulmate that does the trick :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELf1EYV38sI

Somewhere down the line , the relationships with the Lord above tends to get more formal.
Sweetness involves a bit of let-go-the-hold , does'nt it ?

SrinathK
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#105 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

@thenappan, I feel that Maharajapuram Santhanam had one of the best voices in CM, though the recording quality of his music varies. His shruti shuddham was at the very top and his tone got better and better with time and he had a wonderful ability to dynamically adjust his vocal power the way you have various degrees of dynamics in WCM -- pp, p, mp, mf, f, and ff (from pianissimo to fortissmo), though in later days he did tend to soften up on purpose in the upper octave. I'd say BMK is another musician who does that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRVuJDKtC44 -- somewhere I remember reading that there wasn't a good recording of his Thodi available. Here's one.

Also I do not think that "sweetness" is exactly the best way to describe a man's vocal timbre, though Mohammed Rafi is to me the ultimate example of a very mellow voice. What a remarkably balanced timbre and vibrato!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIB368rc7fc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJCqDLLdKHY

Ideally sweetness is an adjective that I'd use to describe a child's vocal timbre. It's also more applicable to a female voice. Mellow is the best word for the Mohammed Rafi type of voice. Also a very masculine voice isn't always what you would call sweet, sometimes it's what you call "gambheeram".

Also I did listen to that BMK and Bhimsen Joshi jugalbandhi : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDDY0M6ToUI

In the chowka section Bhimsen really gets to show the power and resonance of his voice, but once you get into the heavy akharas or the swaras section, it's pretty much even. I'd even say that BMK has a more clarity in his own area of expertise while BJ blows everyone out of the water in his domain. Heavy akharas is one place where all HM musicians sacrifice their pure tones quite a bit. Then for the fastest passages, they again start singing plain notes and go crazy fast.

You have also made me do some more research and realize that head voice is actually something quite different from a falsetto (I was not aware of that earlier). And Hindustani musicians really know how to eliminate that bridge between their chest and head voices giving them a massive range. Bhimsen Joshi did it amazingly well. So did Bade Ghulam Ali khan. And then there's the legendary Khan Saheb Abdul Karim Khan :

https://soundcloud.com/user461654480/ab ... iravi-1905
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTBPicuY_54 -- he really uses his head voice here.

Many of the singers like GNB, MLV and all were past their prime by the time they were more extensively recorded. Health really takes a toll on one's singing prowess.

Rsachi
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#106 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Rsachi »

So many links, so much great music, so many thoughts.
This thread is like a whole orchard of sweet things!

Ok. Please vote: The same singer but two different types of songs. Which one is sweeter?

A. https://youtu.be/ERsjRsCBlBo

B. https://youtu.be/q36TetCAiNw

Artiste name: Miklosa Erika.

SrinathK
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#107 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

CM can also reach ethereal levels of tonality -- watch this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs058bYKzzM

Listen to that tanpura shruti despite that old black and white grainy video. The level of reverb was just perfect on this one.
Last edited by SrinathK on 05 Aug 2016, 21:38, edited 1 time in total.

Nick H
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#108 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

SrinathK wrote:Also I do not think that "sweetness" is exactly the best way to describe a man's vocal timbre ...
Velvet is the word that used to occur to me when listening to Yesudas. However, I think that sweetness will do just fine for the male voice, partly because it carries with it the warning that sweetness should not become syrup.

ganesh_mourthy
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#109 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by ganesh_mourthy »

I think the term sweetness is absolutely OK to be used. I have no object to it. May be khambheeram ,when used to a female singer , is not the best of quality.

Never did I find Maharajapuram so khambeeram, it was nasal to soft. When dual faceted singers sing Carnatic , it is best in shruthi. They incorporate that through hours and hours of polishing done to surgical precision by the directors ( and the music directors prefers such choice of voice). But the money and popularity leaves them little time to concentrate for CM. Yesdudoss is one such , the best CM voice ever, but could not do enough justice because of filmdom popularity and lack of time. Imagine if had stayed with CM and given all his time and effort to CM. That is the voice one yearns to listen .

thenpaanan
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#110 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

SrinathK wrote:CM can also reach ethereal levels of tonality -- watch this : http://www.rasikas.org/forums/viewtopic ... &start=100

Listen to that tanpura shruti despite that old black and white grainy video. The level of reverb was just perfect on this one.

The link takes me back to this thread. Is that the link you intended to post?
-T

SrinathK
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#111 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

<EPIC FACEPALM> :oops: Sorry everyone, here's the correct link to (you know, who else?) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs058bYKzzM -- I'll correct the original post.

Like I said, the tonal atmosphere in this recording is ethereal. How it shines through a recording of that old quality is a mystery. But enjoy it. Who said that Carnatic Music can't create a trance like sound field?

Rsachi
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#112 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Rsachi »

What an exquisite gem! Thanks Srinath. This video makes my day.

I have a bit of hate/love relationship with the raga Ranjani, much like my misgivings about Keeravani. But this song Sada Saranga Nayane, with its lovely Sanskrit lyrics and wonderful chitte swaras, is so enjoyable.

The vintage of this video is less than 35 years old, seeing Cienu seated in the DD studio. It was still the BW era, and we can make out the tape effect. MSS is in a zone, and the camera work shows her so exquisitely. An all round star performance for composer, chitte swara composer, singer, camera man, collector and uploader.

msuresh55
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#113 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by msuresh55 »

I am not competent to comment on the technical aspects of this important subject but what is astonishing to me is that the complaints have been around for a long time. There have always been complaints about singers whose voices sounded strained when striving to hit the upper octave, and others who simply went off-key. Those carnatic musicians who paid attention to voice culture mostly did so because their personal circumstances demanded it. Chembai, I believe, lost his voice completely; Aruna Sairam struggled with her voice and so did Kalyanaraman. In the Sanjay generation, Balaji Shankar has been lost to us. Possibly others too, who are not known to us.

The problem really needs to be tackled at the stage where children begin learning but I don't really see our "Paatu Mamis/Mamas" taking the trouble to inculcate proper voice culture in their wards. And for the most part, parents do not take an interest in this aspect either.

We are condemned, I suppose, to hear the next generation of Carnatic singers whose voices sound strained. The good news is that discussions like this show an increased awareness but it will be a long time before such awareness trickles down to our "Paatu Maamis/Mamas."

Something should be done urgently, but what?

Rsachi
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#114 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Rsachi »

The vintage of this video is less than 35 years old, seeing Cienu seated in the DD studio. It was still the BW era, and we can make out the tape effect.
Wow. I would like to backslap myself and say Shabhash. This song was telecast on 2 October 1985 on DD! i. e. 31 years ago!
And by the way, thanks to this song, I was able to find out a lot more about the composer Sri H Yoganarasimham of Mysore and his compositions and works. Elsewhere, CRa also mentioned the album New Classicals. Which also I was able to listen to online....

thenpaanan
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#115 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

msuresh55 wrote: The problem really needs to be tackled at the stage where children begin learning but I don't really see our "Paatu Mamis/Mamas" taking the trouble to inculcate proper voice culture in their wards. And for the most part, parents do not take an interest in this aspect either.

We are condemned, I suppose, to hear the next generation of Carnatic singers whose voices sound strained. The good news is that discussions like this show an increased awareness but it will be a long time before such awareness trickles down to our "Paatu Maamis/Mamas."

Something should be done urgently, but what?
The most important question in my opinion is the one you have asked. What does one do? To concur with you, there seems to be a "tyranny of lowered expectations" syndrome affecting our students. I had written earlier that in the last Tyagaraja aradhana in Phoenix a steady stream of students one after another came on stage and sang off-sruthi. A couple of kids were so consistently bad throughout their kritis that it seemed that they were singing to an imaginary tambura that was distinct from what the audience could hear. This would have been ok if at least the kids were singing beginner songs. Indeed they were singing highly complex compositions of the tradition in this manner. What does this say of their teachers? What teacher teaches a meenakshi memudam or a sarasIruhAsanapriyE when the young student cannot even sing in sruthi? But I did not hear a single comment or complaint. Perhaps we are too polite. By the same token a kid came on stage and sang a very simple hindustani piece but she sang with power and on pitch. The applause brought the house down!

More crucially this speaks to the basic lack of pedagogy in our tradition. We have very loose definitions of what to teach a student and when. As a result we see lots of children and their parents thinking that they have achieved something more than what they have. In the old days what passed for pedagogy was sheer attrition. Teachers made sure it took so long for a student to be considered mature that only the extremely determined would survive. But that attrition-based culling of students is no longer effective today where so many options are available. Thus, it would seem that our best artists keep coming up in Carnatic music in spite of our teaching tradition, rather than because of it.

The unspoken tragedy is probably that there are untold numbers of talented students who could have become great musicians if we had the wherewithal to teach them properly. People like AM Sharma are so few that one should really applaud what they do, persisting in an environment where hardly any one values what they are doing. You may disagree with his concepts or techniques, but it is beyond argument that Sharmaji is talking about Carnatic pedagogy when no one else seems to be.

Only recently I have heard about Acharyanet. Does anyone know what their philosophy of teaching students is? Does any teacher/school have a methodical system of determining/matching the capability of a student with the demands of a kriti? If such a thing existed, it would not only help avoid the kind of disasters that I witnessed at the aradhana but also give serious students a way to measure their own capability and an aspiration to learn kritis that are currently beyond their level.

But to answer your question directly, I think what we need is one or two new kinds of artists who sing Carnatic music differently and well enough to capture the imagination of youngsters. For a long time now I have been hoping that some young musician from some place outside Chennai will take the place by storm. And this musician would have developed a different way of singing Carnatic music because they cut their teeth in a different system of music, so they would have escaped the influence of our "traditional" methods but are popular enough that the "paattu maamis/maamaas" have to take note.

Cultural change in conservative systems happens very slowly but when it does it happens in quantum jumps. So it is impossible to predict how this change will happen to our music.

-Thenpaanan

ganesh_mourthy
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#116 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by ganesh_mourthy »

Sometimes carnatic musicians resort ti voice culture trainings , but unfortunately it is not during their "cutting their teeth" or formative years. They realize the seriousness of it especially when many of their public performaces are in discreet places anywhere, and someone can take a swipe on them anytime. At the same time , when the CM community, in general , is oblivious of these tone and perfection , it serves as an insular wall asserting whatever technical skill that they acquired as perfect , frivolous of the tonal perfection.

I have observed that the amateur level reality show singers are producing better tonal output and shruti perfection than a long trained kids of carnatic, and here , I am mentioning less complex carnatic songs or rather the light pieces of CM . I have observed it directly and it is rather a shame . What we have to admit here is a good tonal quality and good pitch is certainly achievable with right practice and direction. I have listened to first hand opinion from notable and lead film singers that most singers of CM genres are very poor in shruti and tone and I have heard the complaint it from HM singers too, which stands to reason. At least they see CM in a poor light, particularly for this reason.

There are many singers in carnatic music that I listen for their academic excellence and not for their music. It gets tiring after a while if the music does not pass from mind to heart.

I was watching a movie of TNS the other day , and I assume he would have rehearsed it several times and in a controlled environment or in a recording theatre where he has the choice to build up the tonal perfection and more resonating music . He did not. The result , not many have heard of the movie nor the songs.

sridhar_ranga
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#117 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by sridhar_ranga »

Thenpaanan is among the most creative handles I have come across here. It evokes a collage of images relating to medieval-era music, itinerant singers, the Tamil language, etc.

I can't help wince at seeing him referred as Thenappan by such highly learned members as Srinath and Sachi. Just to help you guys, here is a syllable-wise break up: then-paaN-an

Here is the name in native scripts:
தென்பாணன்
ತೆನ್ಪಾಣನ್

From the Cologne Online Tamil Lexicon:

ten2:: 1. south, southern region; 2. beauty; 3. chastity; 4. harmony, music; 5. song; 6. sweetness; 6. coconut tree; 7. right side
pANan2: 1. an ancient class of tamil bards and minstrels

SrinathK
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#118 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

Oh. So sorry I didn't realize the typo. Thenpaanan it is.

So far I realize now that I know nothing about the art of the voice at all other than a few best practices and lots of vague ideas and many other rejected ones. I think I should start with knowledge of basic human anatomy of the singing apparatus to know what does what.

I should add though that even with singers who take all the precautions, sometimes bad luck does strike their voices. Balaji Shankar and Rajkumar Bharati come to mind.

Rsachi
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#119 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Rsachi »

Sridhar-Ranga,
Thank you gor educating me. Nor only did I not know the hoary musicality of the "handle", but I also misread it thus far. Guilty as accused.
Maybe pen-name or kAvyanAma as they say in Samskrita would better describe such "handles"! :D

thenpaanan
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#120 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

sridhar_ranga wrote:Thenpaanan is among the most creative handles I have come across here. It evokes a collage of images relating to medieval-era music, itinerant singers, the Tamil language, etc.

I can't help wince at seeing him referred as Thenappan by such highly learned members as Srinath and Sachi. Just to help you guys, here is a syllable-wise break up: then-paaN-an

Here is the name in native scripts:
தென்பாணன்
ತೆನ್ಪಾಣನ್

From the Cologne Online Tamil Lexicon:

ten2:: 1. south, southern region; 2. beauty; 3. chastity; 4. harmony, music; 5. song; 6. sweetness; 6. coconut tree; 7. right side
pANan2: 1. an ancient class of tamil bards and minstrels
Thanks, Sridhar_ranga! That was a pleasant surprise. Just to add a little extra tweak to your excellent exegesis, 'paaNan' was the specific term used for the singers of 'paN' in the Sangam era according to the wiki page (comparable to 'pulavar' for poet). I consider those pANan (as we should all) my musical forebears and thus another reason for the handle.

On a lighter note, the gmail account with this handle has the associated "real" name of 'Southern~Minstrel'. Every so often I receive spam addressed as "Dear Southern...." :D

Thanks again,
Thenpaanan

SrinathK
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#121 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

Here are two excellent videos on vocal registers :

https://youtu.be/lh2H4wubJIY
https://youtu.be/W4Uc5GmNTUo

And a bit of research has shown me that commonly heard phrases such as "Sound comes from the navel" are actually quite incorrect if one looks at the whole mechanism of sound production from an anatomical point of view.

ganesh_mourthy
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#122 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by ganesh_mourthy »

This is one subject I could go on and on and on. I would like more light to be thrown upon the range . Initially we underestimate our range. There used to be a time even singing the upper Sa was a task. But if you do not do some adjustment to your voice and keep the same wide voice of lower Sa ( I dont know the technical term and it is too complicated to explain here ), and try going up , then even the upper Sa becomes hard. You have to make some slight mudulation at the area or dha or ni , to get a smooth glide up to ri and again you have to do a smooth modulation to go further. This is probably what they mean chest , head . Falsetto is completely different. You can do it at anywhere itself. But the interesting aspect is , the best singers ( esp in movie) make these transition very effortlessly and unnoticeably . There are days , I dont know why I find so hard to sing beyond even Ni , and I notice that I keep coming down or hover in that area. And there are days you want to go up and up . I never understood why.

On a different note, I greatly believe that bathroom provides the best acousitics for singing . You can go up or glide down. Small space, your body gets relaxed, wetness, throat is soothed, head and hair gets wet and may be that offers psychosomatic comfort to body and throat , u are cleaner suddenly , refreshed, and then suddenly springs various sangathis and phrases, which sometimes you cannot even remember and reproduce again in a better place like your practicing space. :)

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#123 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by ganesh_mourthy »

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_smUFz9ErAQ

Is that a CM voice or HM voice. ?

narayan
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#124 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by narayan »

I am a very late entrant to this, so please excuse if I have missed something in the numerous interesting posts on the matter.

I attended two concerts this week, one HM and one CM. In one, there were two tanpuras and of course the harmonium, and the hall was full of the sound of the sruti. It was another matter that the ragams were extremely sophisticated - good old Jounpuri was the most straightforward and the rest were treasures of particular gharanas and the like, but the main thing was the atmosphere of musicality that pervaded the hall. In the other concert, there was an inaudible electronic tanpura. The musicians were all more than competent and the ragams were an equal mix of popular and cerebral, but you could not hear the sruti! That is the most striking difference in the two. I have not heard even a mediocre HM musician sing without a properly tuned tanpura that is audible throughout and I think all serious students would know how to tune one and be able to sing with playing the tanpura. Not so in CM - may be we are above it, we don't care, it is not needed, we have better things to do - I don't know. It is not just snob value, it does make a huge difference (at least to me). That is why HM is sweeter to hear.

Pl don't get me wrong, I am (and will be) a die hard listener of CM and am very respectful of all the greatness, but in the interest of truth, this must be pointed out. I can opine (and others have done so more sharply), as to what other comparative desirable qualities both these systems have, but this is the most basic one - respect for the basic musicality of the notes - this is not enough in most CM that one hears. There is artistry, devotion, excellence in composition, wizardry in words, sthalapuranam, dvitiaksara prasam, reference to interesting and obscure facts in various scriptures, rhythmic brilliance, delightful raga ideas and lots and lots of good stuff in CM, but the sound of the tanpura before beginning any ragam, continuity in sound during pauses, striving to get the notes right, CM comes away with an A- or even a B (on average).

I am also aware that I am probably comparing the best in HM with the whole spectrum in CM, but I feel it is such a basic value that I feel it must be articulated.

SrinathK
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#125 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

After spending the day listening to my HM collections, I conclude that :

1) In medium and fast paced passages and brighas, they are in fact pretty even, were it not for the tanpura and acoustics of most sabhas.
2) In heavy akharas and staccato akharas vs brighas, CM is in fact more melodious.
3) Their increased working range comes from the ability to use mixed and head voices seamlessly. Some CM musicians have a weak sthayi, either up or down. I see Western violinists not losing tone even on the edge of the fingerboard.
4) CM voices of a lot of current singers are inaudible without a mic, thanks to apartment acoustics. When I tell you that a group of singers can be drowned out by their own tanpura, be afraid, be very afraid. But alas, real estate is too scarce, and neighbours too close! :mrgreen:
5) HM musicians really rehearse and fine tune their brighas like WCM instrumental work.
6) HM musicians compromise words for melody. In CM, good pronunciation enhances it.
7) A tabla is feebler & makes a more "ringy" sound than a mridangam. I cannot understate the effect of this one variable with bad mic settings. They still play quietly even in rounds of heavy brighas and do not have as much effect on the energy level. Their main job is to set the pace.
8) It's the tanpura really.
9) The slow tempo at the beginning. In all forms of music I know, the tone really shines in the slow movements.
10) Much better mic settings. :mrgreen:
11) CM does not teach tone (either vocal or instrumental) or for that matter even an overview of basic vocal anatomy! :o Did you ever hear about things like -- Sympathetic resonance? Bow pressure? Contact point? Tonal colour? Tongue and palate position? Breath support? Tone production techniques? The root cause of this, in fairness, is that only now do noobs like myself have the means to know and 3-4 generations back, few even went to school. But that was yesterday.
12) Our private collections are of truly atrocious sound quality, but in consolation, we really couldn't have done any better.
Last edited by SrinathK on 22 Aug 2016, 00:38, edited 4 times in total.

shankarank
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#126 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

narayan wrote:In the other concert, there was an inaudible electronic tanpura. The musicians were all more than competent and the ragams were an equal mix of popular and cerebral, but you could not hear the sruti!
You will hear that in old spool tapes of CM - for example SSI concerts. I don't know if the Vacuum tubes had a better feedback handling for base spectrum than the current systems ( by default I mean with amount of effort put into by a typical CM sound man :twisted: ).

If the volume of Sruti is increased that itself feeds back and creates a boom which should be managed first. And many of their voices cannot reach beyond the volume of Sruti. This happened in a Unnikrishnan concert at NGS ( he had his ear piece for feedback) and increased the Sruti volume and nobody could hear his voice.

Plus the violin is base enhanced to avoid Shrill and sitting in a posture where one of the feedback speakers will feed into it's cardioid sphere ( most likely it will be a cardioid Mike :twisted: ). So essentially musicians themselves get to hear only that low volume Sruti.

May be the TMK method of seating accompanists will resolve the issue ;) . That will really be a revelation in the new format albeit in seating :twisted: :lol:

In my years of poor man's mike setting - I had procured only one cheapest speaker that we placed at the center - essentially away from the violin Mike and most musicians were happy. :geek:

In their early years of YACM - our Mike men's response ( in Sabhas like MA I mean) to YACM youngsters was really : I had done Mikes since ARI/PMI days :twisted: . These ideal men / women in their twenties will also probably not venture into greasing them with 10 and 20.

They didn't learn that the fishermen up in Russian North Sea were able to do that with Czar's police until the Revolution! :twisted:

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#127 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

The presence of so many feedback monitors & ear pieces suggests that musicians are not able to hear themselves or each other on stage.

I also think that one source of feedback trouble comes from using a few large speakers near the stage rather than many small ones distributed across the hall.

But shouldn't these issues be true for HM musicians also?

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#128 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

SrinathK wrote:The presence of so many feedback monitors & ear pieces suggests that musicians are not able to hear themselves or each other on stage.
Stage acoustics are a phenomenon. The separation between stage and auditorium is weird. One cannot know how the other is.

How can somebody not hear another person that they could reach out and touch? Until one has been there, it is unbelievable. But true.

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#129 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

narayan wrote:[...]
but the main thing was the atmosphere of musicality that pervaded the hall.
Atmosphere creation has long been a weak point of CM. We may have started out giving concerts under the banyan tree or in the village temple prAhAram or on a busy traffic intersection where atmosphere was impossible to create but we never graduated to singing in an auditorium. :-)
narayan wrote: I think all serious students would know how to tune one and be able to sing with playing the tanpura. Not so in CM - may be we are above it, we don't care, it is not needed, we have better things to do - I don't know. It is not just snob value, it does make a huge difference (at least to me). That is why HM is sweeter to hear.
Forget learning how to strum a tAnpura, even singing on pitch with a tanpura is not a high priority for our beginners, but singing alankAram in the seven tAlas is.
narayan wrote: There is artistry, devotion, excellence in composition, wizardry in words, sthalapuranam, dvitiaksara prasam, reference to interesting and obscure facts in various scriptures, rhythmic brilliance, delightful raga ideas and lots and lots of good stuff in CM, but the sound of the tanpura before beginning any ragam, continuity in sound during pauses, striving to get the notes right, CM comes away with an A- or even a B (on average).
Well said. Our musicians are extremely competent in that it is quite difficult if not impossible to do what they do. So these discussions should not be taken as reductive of their art or skill.
narayan wrote:
I am also aware that I am probably comparing the best in HM with the whole spectrum in CM, but I feel it is such a basic value that I feel it must be articulated.
Absolutely. A friend of mine who is a keen HM listener tells me that there are terrible singers in HM as well. I have not listened to them but that should not be an excuse for us neglecting our art.

Maybe where we have strayed off the path as a musical tradition is when we mistook the rules for the art. MD Ramanathan when quoting Tiger Varadachariar says with a chuckle how T L Venkatarama Iyer would show up for Music Academy meetings laden with big books. One can sense the split there already -- the Tigers and Veena Dhanammals who were more interested in the music and its performance and the rest who happily fought over the position of the madhyamam in Kedaragowlai for example even if they could not really sing it in a way that sounded great.

As you say, we are extremely proud of our intricate system, about our melakartA system (I have even heard a person call CM "scientific", which is so off-putting that it is not worth discussing here). But we say nothing about sound production except for some bromides about 'nAdayOga' or practicing in standing water or something to do with 'nAbhi'.

Regardless of our bellyaching, we will not get anywhere if we don't educate our students differently. If we stick with regular programming, when they mature they will still think that the ultimate in CM is singing long kOrvais or dvi-avadhAna pallavis, not how to sing sa-pa-sa properly.

-T

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#130 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

SrinathK wrote: But shouldn't these issues be true for HM musicians also?
Excellent question. I think there is a difference in singing technique that may be crucial. HM singers are on average much louder than CM singers. So they can afford to have less gain on the amp abd louder acoustic tAnpurAs (though I may be reversing cause and effect here).

The other difference that has already been mentioned is that the mridangam tends to be louder on average than the tablA. Yesteryear mridangam players were much louder than the current ones, so there is progress there. I cannot imagine how CM singers of yore sang with limited or no mic/amplification and a "full bench" of percussionists. When the percussionists all "went for it" in a tIrmAnam, how was the singer audible?

-T

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#131 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

I guess the golden era ( that we can hear now anyways) began with Mic (although not cased in Gold) :lol: . Mridangam may not have gotten Mikes initially. Chowdiah had an advantage as a violinist in producing that volume I am told. Isn't that the reason they sang in higher Sruti to have that reach?

A condenser Mic that is placed closer to the violin relatively might have been sufficient also in some cases.

As regards tIrmanams - are you referring to the ones played sometimes with the singing ? Upa pakkavadyams avoided playing too much then and in a crowded setting - even the supposedly loud Kanjira (in close quarters) will not be audible. Ghatam which is metallic has a better reach.

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#132 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by varsha »

SWEETNEES may be perceived in the brain.
But surely emanates from the heart .
madhur gUnj gUnj
niranthara
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CepmYFJoYcA

Another of Nageswarans claasic recordings via rasokan.Was lucky to be with Nageswaran on a day the whos who of current-cm-crop of artists did not bother to stay back for the slot-to-follow , and listen . Ajoy sang for only thirty of us scattered all over KGS

And just to dispel the thought that near empty halls are only for HM artists .
How I dread the moment curtains go up and the artist sizes up the size of the audience :evil:
https://archive.org/details/01VAtApiGaN ... iDIkshitar
Last edited by varsha on 23 Aug 2016, 09:16, edited 1 time in total.

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#133 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

There is also the problem that the mics these days need to be within swallowing range straight ahead, otherwise they don't pick up.

Feedback monitors have another problem -- lag. By the time you hear a wrong note on the monitor, it's too late. Increase the volume and you get more feedback booms.
And here's a set of online videos of HM ... notice the tanpura sound? It's enormous. I think the pitch is higher too, around B ! (7 kattai)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLyf9VuOHH0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VC0tOGRBvV8

Now a days it is difficult for most of us to sing like this without soundproofing our apartment rooms. Real estate is scarce. Roommates, relatives and neighbours are too nearby.

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#134 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

thenpaanan wrote:Maybe where we have strayed off the path as a musical tradition is when we mistook the rules for the art. MD Ramanathan when quoting Tiger Varadachariar says with a chuckle how T L Venkatarama Iyer would show up for Music Academy meetings laden with big books. One can sense the split there already -- the Tigers and Veena Dhanammals who were more interested in the music and its performance and the rest who happily fought over the position of the madhyamam in Kedaragowlai for example even if they could not really sing it in a way that sounded great.
I am reminded of the lecture by MDR where he recalls the composition of a varNam by Tiger on Rukmini Devi Arundale - on her 60th or something - where a word gets split across a beat - something Mysore Vasudevachar objected to - during review sessions with MDR. When MDR recounts how Tiger was dismissive of that objection ( yeah that old man!!) - in that cast of characters, Tiger certainly comes out there as a child gushing with music from his bones - and Mysore V - a mere scholar! That is certainly one evidence for me that: Music is laya viSrAnti.
thenpaanan wrote:Regardless of our bellyaching, we will not get anywhere if we don't educate our students differently. If we stick with regular programming, when they mature they will still think that the ultimate in CM is singing long kOrvais or dvi-avadhAna pallavis, not how to sing sa-pa-sa properly.
Yeah ArangEtrams galore where that is happening - but the boy or Girl is off key the entire time - not just during the Pallavi. Learning tAlams is one thing - mistaking layam for tAlam is another. Layam may mean a certain control parameter without which Sruti is also not attainable!. If you cannot be sure of time flow - you are anxious to avoid falling apart in tAlam - you don't give enough time for yourself to hit the note.

Most students don't even hear their teachers Sing beyond the classes - and one other place where they could hear Sruti if they sat through the concert - the right side of Mridangam - well decent ( in relative terms to the place you live at ) mridangams and decent Mridangists are always not around to play. Those are things to be walked away from as per tradition given to us from the Meccas of music!

If all the learning students and their parents made it to concerts of visiting artistes ( who must be better than them at a minimum ) without fail most of the time - at least in NA where transportation is not an issue - we will have more concerts and the Children will also listen.

In a large city like Dallas where artistes like Sanjay, TMK and RA-GA sisters get full halls, a violin Duet by Nagai brothers or young singers like Bharat Sundar get about few dozen! People are not inquisitive to find out.

How can you learn music and not come to the free TyAgaraja utsavam locally?! They think nAda yOga is something mystical!

I wish I knew how to repair Mridangams and maintain them and tune a Tambura and keep it in good state.

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#135 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

Nick H wrote: Stage acoustics are a phenomenon. The separation between stage and auditorium is weird. One cannot know how the other is.

How can somebody not hear another person that they could reach out and touch? Until one has been there, it is unbelievable. But true.
I have myself experienced this phenomenon in some rooms and on some stages -- no matter how loudly I sang I absolutely could not hear myself, as if the sound has been spirited away from me and deposited somewhere far away. The audience would be nodding so I know they could hear something, but I could not hear anything at all except some distant sound coming out of the hall speakers! How can that be? How can that dead space be created around me? It has happened often enough that I am convinced it is not happenstance. Perhaps it is because the opposing walls are too far away to reflect the sound, so it is the equivalent of standing on a cliff and shouting into the wind.

-T

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#136 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

shankarank wrote:Most students don't even hear their teachers Sing beyond the classes
I should add here that - not that listening to lot of music by itself is going to result in something - but it likely improves the self correcting/ self healing capabilities while practicing. The only thing they may listen to beyond the classes , even from the teacher , is the recording of the class itself - so they fulfill the "practice" requirements for the next one - which likely self reinforces everything that is wrong :twisted:

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#137 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

SrinathK wrote:
Now a days it is difficult for most of us to sing like this without soundproofing our apartment rooms. Real estate is scarce. Roommates, relatives and neighbours are too nearby.
It was always so. In my college days I practiced assiduously (alas with bad techniques but that is a different matter) in my apartment. I had no idea what the neighbors or my apartment mate thought of my singing. I had closed my door and in my mind I had done my due diligence. :-)

One day a friend from college who was unconnected to my singing hobby called while I was practicing. My roommate picked up the phone and because the door to my room was slightly ajar I could hear and see him on the phone. The conversation went like this:

Friend> Can I speak to him now?
Roommate> No
Friend> Why not?
Roommate> He is practicing.
Friend> What do you mean?
Roommate holds up the phone to my door> Listen for yourself.
Friend> Why is he screaming like that?
Roommate> No, no. That is called singing.
Friend, pitch rising> Singing? Then when can I talk to him?
Roommate> You will have to wait.
Friend> For how long?
Roommate> I don't know. When he stops.
Friend> You mean, you are waiting for him to stop?
Roommate> *Pause* Madam, the whole building is waiting for him to stop.

-T

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#138 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

:lol: :lol: :lol:
Superb! Brilllant!
thenpaanan wrote:I have myself experienced this phenomenon in some rooms and on some stages -- no matter how loudly I sang I absolutely could not hear myself ...
Watching the artists gesturing for more volume, stuffing our ears with more cotton wool, music which should give pleasure becoming simply painful and possibly damaging to the hearing. Sadly, the experience in all too many concerts. It is important to understand that the artists may be having the experience you describe, or that of not being able to hear each other. We should be complaining to the soundmen, not the artists.

Another experience I have had in relatively modern auditoria is trying to explain to the engineers, especially in a group performance, that we on the percussion need to hear the other artists more than we need to hear ourselves.

The absence of the youngsters from the audiences is one of CM's greatest problems (IMHO). Back in my London life, the visiting big names would indeed fill the halls, but, however good, lesser names would play to a dozen or so. I discussed this with one parent,, who told me, "I have three children. That makes five tickets for every concert, minimum GBP50 plus transport. Simply, we cannot afford it." Fair enough. But in Chennai, youngsters and their parents have no such excuse. All are welcome: where are they? :cry:

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#139 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

Nick, in our BT auditorium at IITM, when the hall was empty you could hear the sound of your own breathing from the audience side, every whisper could be heard clearly. We had a mic-less nadaswaram concert there and the ease of it compared to a mike-filled monstrosity was like heaven and earth.

I have also experienced this dead zone on the stage, the booming violin in your apartment is like a teeny tiny squeak and forget about tone when you can just barely be heard! A friend of mine who won that competition warned me that no matter how well he sounded at home, up there he'll be lucky to get 1/10th the sound out. I believe the stage is designed to act more like an anechoic chamber while the auditorium is designed to echo.

I want to know if this dead zone still exists when the mics are switched off. After singing a couple of songs for a deity in a temple with and without the mike, I concluded that the speakers were drowning out the sound of my own voice by a few tens of decibels, causing the dead zone, forcing me to rely on the sound coming from the speaker instead (a couple of relatives later told me that most of my notes were off). I did not have a problem hearing myself when I sang without the mike. The solution was to keep that speaker somewhere far away where it didn't get in the way. I went back home and sang the same thing, and I had no wrong notes, which puzzled not only me, but also my relatives.

When I have played in the CLT, I have not experienced a dead zone on the stage. But Unnikrishnan did perform there, and the unique thing about that concert was that as much as it made my head spin with the sheer loudness, it seemed to me everyone on stage was playing deaf.

At the other end of the spectrum, I just also went down my office staircase (an enclosed, exterior well) and a door slammed. It sounded like a bomb went off! A cough felt like it echoed up and down the walls.

For the record, I have observed that the Music Academy's decibel levels frequently dip below 60 DB whereas another concert in a much smaller hall went past 85 and touched 90. I later realized however, that my smartphone app could not actually pick up the very short transient sounds of percussion, so the sound level in that smaller hall must have been even higher! I for one never felt at any time that hall even needed a mic.

I conclude that whatever sounds "normally loud" to our ears is highly misleading. What is normal is actually just what is on par with ambient noise. Therefore, if musicians want to be heard, the amplified sound level should actually be DECREASED, not increased. Only the tone of their own voices and instruments need to be increased by natural means.

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#140 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

Almost every concert I attend is too loud, even Ragasudha Hall. The only difference is between loud and deafening. Pain is worsened by the reflections from side and back walls.

Two days ago, I went to one of my absolutely-blacklisted venues (Sringeri Mutt hall), because my guruji was playing for a private function. Curious: on stage, he thought that the sound was quite good. To me, offstage, it was the usual acoustic confusion of echoes: horrible. It would surely be hard to build a hall that bad if they had tried!

A rare exception was yesterday at Kalakshetra. Other than the front and back walls and the floor, the building is essentially, acoustically, completely open, so they are few reflections. But that formula never worked for the MFA hall before they added sides, so I am lost for a definite answer to this one.

A travesty, because they have only recently spent so much money on it, is the Music Academy mini hall. Too cold, too loud, and bad acoustics. And lousy sound operators.

What you, and I, seek (mostly in vain: even house concerts are deafening) is called not amplification, but sound re-inforcement.

Also, the on-stage void effect seems to be particular associated with proscenium-arch stages. I would suggest that they forget the curtain thing, and bring the dais right top front of the stage platform, in front of the arch: I'd like to see if it makes as much difference as I theorise that it might.

(My experience of IITM CLT is not to bad. I don't know if I know the BT auditorium.)

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#141 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

After reading about musicians using musicians' earplugs to hear themselves on stage, I conclude that my theory is probably correct. The reflected / amplified sound is so much louder than the primary that it becomes the new normal and the primary sound is totally lost on you. At 80-90+ DB, it was probably 100x louder than normal (the dB scale is logarithmic), no wonder. This is capable of causing hearing damage.

I don't think small chamber sized halls should ever use microphones at all.

And Nick, as far as MFA are concerned, they are right next to a major road and the traffic noise itself might add 70 dB or more. LGJ often used to moan that the constant assault of noise pollution has made it very difficult to hear the music while practicing!

For example, I used to think my office was quiet, until my smartphone app measured an average 55 dB even when you couldn't hear the guy across the desk, this despite its inability to pick up transient noises.

But coming back on track, all the acoustics in the world can't help a tone that was fundamentally weak from the beginning.

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#142 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

But coming back on track, all the acoustics in the world can't help a tone that was fundamentally weak from the beginning.
And you may find that some of those mic-only voices seem to reach no further than the singers toes in those chamber concerts where a mic is definitely not needed. In fact,I'm sure youve been there, heard that, already. Or rather, not heard.

It is a controversy inside my own head: If these people sound great with a microphone, should I decry the fact that they don't sound good without one. I used to have a dogmatic answer, now I am not sure at all. :oops:

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#143 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by SrinathK »

In fact,I'm sure you've been there, heard that, already. Or rather, not heard.
Regretfully, I am one... no space for practicing now means I've got it all in my head, but can't weld mind and body together.
and when I wrote about the impact of today's cubicles, I was speaking from experience.

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#144 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

Hmmm... virtual voice projection exercise needed. Or... If we understood how it is that a stage space can completely absorb the voice, maybe we could implement it at home? :geek:

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#145 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by thenpaanan »

Nick H wrote: It is a controversy inside my own head: If these people sound great with a microphone, should I decry the fact that they don't sound good without one. I used to have a dogmatic answer, now I am not sure at all. :oops:
It is a fair question. Does it really matter that someone can sing audibly only with a mic? In the individual case it definitely does not matter. After all we wear eye glasses and are none the worse for it. But in the collective case perhaps there is something that is lost.

It is not the mic itself that is the problem but what it makes us do. Just like couches and sofas have given us postural habits that are bad for our backs, mics and amps have given us (or allowed us) to inculcate bad habits for our singing voices. The easiest aspect to discern for the lay listener is the (lack of) ability to sing with resonance. Regardless of volume, presence of mic, style of singing, etc a universal aspect of singing seems to me to be this: a voice that is rich in the right overtones sounds pleasing. Of course there are exceptions to this rule but by and large this seems to be hold across all cultures that I have had the good fortune to listen to, whether it is very high head voices of western opera or of North African singers or the throaty voices of Tuvan singers.

What we in CM seem to have lost almost completely is the ability to sing with suitable richness. It is like the difference in sound between a note being played on a grand piano versus a cheap synthesizer keyboard. Both are in sruthi of course but no one can legitimately claim that they are equally good. Furthermore, if a singer produces the grandeur of the piano no one will complain if the volume is low. But in CM we seem to have completely taken the synthesizer route. But what is more we are not particularly aware or bothered about it as Narayan says.

It is quite possible that mics have nothing to do with this. Perhaps as a tradition we were already en route to our present state before artificial amplification was introduced. Regardless, in the current state I feel that artificial amplification provides two things that are fatal to good singing as evidenced by the discussion above -- a false sense of achievement when things seem to be ok and an easy target for blame when things don't go so well.

-Thenpaanan

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#146 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by Nick H »

thenpaanan wrote:It is a fair question. Does it really matter that someone can sing audibly only with a mic? In the individual case it definitely does not matter. After all we wear eye glasses and are none the worse for it. But in the collective case perhaps there is something that is lost. ...
Good. You have given me a clear way to think on this. I appreciate it and all your other wisdom :)

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#147 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

thenpaanan wrote: What we in CM seem to have lost almost completely is the ability to sing with suitable richness
-Thenpaanan
Sri B Rajam Iyer at Cleveland when speaking after nAma sankIrtan by Udayaloor - the first ever visit - pointed to the ability of them holding Sruti and the tonal richness of their voices. He also praised the Mridangist - who a student of Vellore was indeed too aggressive for his pedigree - for the plays and tIrmAnams etc! That is one traditional source not feeding now.

The Tanjorian of Marathi origin - Grundig tape collector veteran was bowled over by the voice of Sri Tukkaram GaNapati on the last day of Cleveland utsavam - after an entire contingent of musicians YACM and pre-YACM came , graced and left the stage! When Tukkaram opens his mouth - suswara flows is what he said ! I don't think he was being a language chauvinist - Tukkaram was singing Marathi Abhangs - as he was a student of GNR the physicist - very unlikely.

Now you are concerned about the co-efficients outside the sinusoidals or to the left of the exponentials ( if you used that version) in the Fourier series - when the ones inside ( the frequency coefficient) is under stress. As Gopalakrishna Bharati said "muppAzhum tAnDi appAlE ninRu" ( Cross three layes of faults and get inside) - we have to cross the integral sign , the outer coefficient , the function itself - get inside the paranthesis first.

Yeah Brindamma's voice may not need equalization - as Hariharan mentioned in the Artery inauguration - but they are music family. ellArukkum anda vazhi kidaikkuma ? ( will every body get that path?) :?: :idea:

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#148 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

By the way a Mylaporean of yester-years shared this: membership passes to Brindamma and MDR concerts were distributed freely to other households in Mylapore - so there you go.

There used to be a gentleman in a prominent US city (all identities withheld as those are not important) - related to a very prominent Golden era musician family. After a Mother and Daughter duo concluded their Lecdem on padams/jAvaLis and sang impecabbly - he spoke. Then outside the venue he told them they were better than their Gurus ( they were very embarrassed !!). Then he turns to me and says Ava ( Brindamma) failed the 5th class - this artiste ( the daughter) has done a Phd!! Well luckily they did not hear that part.

The Marathi Tanjorean Grundig tape collector had just earlier said Sabhash loudly to a passage from Rama Rama padam - when both of them took that in unison so nicely!

So the infatuation of Tambram-dom with Macaulay-an education still continues unabated well into 21st Century!!

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#149 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

varsha wrote: And just to dispel the thought that near empty halls are only for HM artists .
How I dread the moment curtains go up and the artist sizes up the size of the audience :evil:
https://archive.org/details/01VAtApiGaN ... iDIkshitar
Is that Todapalli Lokanatha Sarma ? or ThanjavUr Sankara Iyer ( whom I have not heard - that is a wild guess - based on the fact that it is coming from you!)

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#150 Re: Why HM sounds sweeter

Post by shankarank »

varsha wrote: And just to dispel the thought that near empty halls are only for HM artists .
How I dread the moment curtains go up and the artist sizes up the size of the audience :evil:
https://archive.org/details/01VAtApiGaN ... iDIkshitar
Is that Todapalli Lokanatha Sarma ? or ThanjavUr Sankara Iyer ( whom I have not heard - that is a wild guess - based on the fact that it is coming from you!)

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