Splitting a word while singing

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kvchellappa
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#1 Splitting a word while singing

Post by kvchellappa »

Can a word be split while singing rendering it meaningless?
It is pertinent to note as a musician has done that the composers themselves have split a word distorting the meaning while notating
1. En duku II daya radu II
Ra sri II rama Chandra II
Charanam
Ja kela II idi sama II
Ya me gadu II
Je site II
2. Manasuloni I mar.. mamu I nu telu suko II
(singers split at ‘mar’ before uttering ‘ma’ because of swaras with no corresponding letters.
Such examples are numerous.
It is not that the composer has no regard for meaning (that is an absurd conclusion), but music gets precedence.
While singing a neraval, I believe all singers go into music more than meaning. When the last oscillation-predominant (I do not know the technical term) part is reached, no word seems to be in shape at all, let alone splitting, it is mangled beyond hope. But, it is engaging and we enjoy.
When MMI/MDR sing even a Tamizh song, they seem to dwell on the swaras to the exclusion of the words.
It is of course a fact that many singers do not care for the meaning. Some even proclaim so, not just one musician.
Barring a very few, most singers mispronounce Samskrtham words from my native land.
Is it pedantic to expect that the words must be sacrosanct and when one comments on the splitting, has the musical part been kept in mind?

sureshvv
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#2 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by sureshvv »

While for musical reasons it is OK to split words, most good singers sing it the correct way at least once among many sangathis. This is a consolation that meaning is not thrown to the winds totally.

arasi
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#3 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by arasi »

Ah, you have touched a raw nerve there!
In my extreme moments about clarity in words, I squirm--that is, when bhAvA is missing too in the singing. Yet, I remember the mistakes I made as a child, not knowing the language of the song then. But the bhAvA of the words somehow got into me! As a composer, I would come across this occasionally, and quickly amend the line to make it easier to be sung without padachEdam (damage of words).
So, the old belief still stays: at least for the songs you choose to sing, get the meaning (to emote better) and pay attention to the pronunciation :)
A close to home example is when my uncle heard my aunt sing 'nAn oru viLaiyATTu bommaiyA, jagan.....nAyakiYE, umaiyE' and asked, who is this Jagan? Then he seamlessly sang the word together and how expressive the line became!

Sachi_R
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#4 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by Sachi_R »

I find Amrutha Venkatesh never breaks a word wrongly.
I feel a deep understanding of the meaning of words and the nuances of a language go a long way.

sureshvv
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#5 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by sureshvv »

Sometimes the composer gets naughty and purposely makes the lyrics hard not to split (also because how the beats are woven in). Traversing these requires a lot of adroitness. So can not blame the singer some times.

kvchellappa
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#6 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by kvchellappa »

I too see the sense in keeping to the sense, but when the composer himself has split the word in notation as in the examples, my point is how will the singer keep the word intact while keeping to the notation also (VVS has got it).

shankarank
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#7 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by shankarank »

This is largely to do with confusing teaching with performance. This notation being sacrosanct must have started with teachers splitting in a way that student can receive when rhythmic control is tough to begin with. Guru Bhakti and preserving tradition have been reduced to preserving notations!

So all the knowledgeable people show up to Audit how many sangatis come out, when even a absence of a good sangati created by a musician later is pointed out, it falls on deaf years. SSP doesn't have it goes the logic.

manasuloni should be paused right there , to take marmamulu together into the dRtam.

niddurA nirAkarinci! not nIdu rAni rAka rinci! Get out of slumber! As jAmbavAn Dr BMK admonished his fellow bhakts - hanumans!

sureshvv
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#8 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by sureshvv »

Part of a good musician's training is to be able to stretch or shrink syllables at will - just for the musical effect, so the beat/emphasis falls at different places in the sahithya. Over the last couple of days, I noticed that Anahitha has this talent in hordes. The same talent can be put in place to ensure that words remain integral while singing.

HarishankarK
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#9 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by HarishankarK »

Amrutha Venkatesh takes special care on this aspect

thenpaanan
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#10 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by thenpaanan »

It would be nice if we could get it all -- good melody, rhythm, and lyrical integrity. But the reality is that it is very difficult to achieve. It is not always clear why.

Sometimes it feels (especially in many Dikshitar kritis) that the songs are not composed with a singer in mind. The evidence that this seems to be happening is two-fold. The problem with long words without an obvious place to rest or take a breath. One many argue that this is a flaw in the singer's training who has inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit and thus does not know where the appropriate splits are. But modern day Sanskrit scholars aver that you cannot simply split the words without further modification -- e.g. if you want split 'bhajEham" and you want to take a breath at "bhajE" then the Sanskrit scholars tell us that the next word has to "aham" and not just "ham". Second, many a kriti has a line that goes to hold a very high note with a closed syllable such as "m" which is very common in Sanskrit word endings. If the composer had sung the kriti in public in those unamplified days it is hard to imagine that they would have chosen that melodic-syllabic combination. So it does look like perhaps these kritis were not always designed with a singer in mind. So a singer has to make do.

Next, the manner of singing a kriti may have evolved to the point that the original composition is obscured by centuries of modification that did not pay attention to the particular nuance that we wish to pay attention to. The tyAgarAja kritis mentioned earlier all make us wonder whether tyAgarAja would have sung them the way the tradition teaches us or is a result of generations of non-native singers. But there is no way to know. So a singer has to decide for themselves and if it moves them to forge their own way. And many have done so in recent times.

My own teacher has given me these guidelines. If you know where to make a word break (and this is a big if), everything from one break to the next should be sung at uniform volume and without taking breath. When holding a syllable for a period of time your volume for the syllable should be highest when you start the syllable. As you hold the syllable your volume can stay constant or decrease and you cannot add extra syllables or vowels unless they make sense as words. This is not as easy as it sounds. My teacher was very strict on carefully modulating the voice even during the flourishes at the end of an avarthanam after a held note (is there a technical term for this common practice?) to avoid the perception of an extra break. The ultimate goal as stated is that it should sound like you are singing a poem, not a bunch of disjointed words set to a given ragam and talam.

I have no idea how prevalent such thinking is in the world of CM. I have never had a long discussion with anyone on this topic.

There are some who don't care about the words ("let them fall as they may"), some who care somewhat and keep words intact but will not cross traditional lines (so if they learned it as "nijamar -- mamulanu" that is how they will sing it but in other places they may be more careful such as in a pallavi, the great majority of important singers fall here), some who care about the words very much and are mindful but they have only an unsystematic ad hoc way of dealing with it (many of the great vidwAns like ARI, GNB, KVN were in this category), and then people who actually have a set of rules of how to deal with word breaks and breath breaks (MDR, KVN, BMK, etc probably had one but never spoke about it explicitly). Each performer in CM chooses their preferred category according to their own lights. Audiences largely seem to not care.

There is nothing in general as far as I know that the tradition teaches us on this topic -- every man for himself it seems. For a musical tradition that lays much store by lyrical strength (we are fond of bashing the simple construction of the Hindustani khayal) this is a curious and to me unacceptable gap.

-Thenpaanan

Sachi_R
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#11 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by Sachi_R »

Well put, Thenpaanan!
The ultimate goal as stated is that it should sound like you are singing a poem, not a bunch of disjointed words set to a given ragam and talam.

shankarank
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#12 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by shankarank »

thenpaanan wrote: 22 Dec 2017, 02:35 The tyAgarAja kritis mentioned earlier all make us wonder whether tyAgarAja would have sung them the way the tradition teaches us or is a result of generations of non-native singers.
Just `coz that is how musical tradition survived i.e. non native speakers , does not mean that defines the guideline for us to make a decision. Since we are capable of questioning we can question, but without ascribing fault to the elders. This is like saying the dance tradition was practiced by sadir dancers and hence it is their dance, ignoring the metaphysics and the fact that it is also sampradayic not whimsical. For if it were to be considered a mere technique - Prabhu deva also dances and has a bunch of techniques - so what is so important about this technique - dance has reached all - is what we should conclude.
thenpaanan wrote: 22 Dec 2017, 02:35 Second, many a kriti has a line that goes to hold a very high note with a closed syllable such as "m" which is very common in Sanskrit word endings.
Probably the reason why dIkshitar was not in vogue outside of vINA players may be in the early days! What is the earliest known dIkshitar 78 rpm?
thenpaanan wrote: 22 Dec 2017, 02:35 There is nothing in general as far as I know that the tradition teaches us on this topic
There is nothing in tradition other than Sruti Suddham, even laya Suddham is an after thought or by product of community practices. At least nature has some say on Sruti. After reflecting on what I said about layam, I have an after thought about whether the Sruti is also sacrosanct :lol: .
thenpaanan wrote: 22 Dec 2017, 02:35 Audiences largely seem to not care.
The Audience cares about lot of things initially. First they have their own Sruti sense , as Carnatic Sruti sense is it's own thing! Then they bring their bias of what is good pronunciation, word being clear and so on.

Once they seem to be committed, probably they get over all of it and listen to something called the true music :D

musicofmdr
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#13 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by musicofmdr »

These pages may be interesting w.r.t the original topic :-)
https://musicofmdr.com/music-or-lyrics/
https://musicofmdr.com/brahmalayam/

shankarank
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#14 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by shankarank »

From that link!
For example, in the below “angArakam ASrayAmyaham“, see how he handles the “dIna rakShakam”
I cannot still but wonder, how he is able to catch the split at kaTAkshA... anugrahapAtram! Such a tantalizing act! Well that I remember from a faster rendition - not this one. His forays were once compared to actress walking the stone steps across a pond in old tamizh movies. One faulty step would result in drowning.

musicofmdr
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#15 Re: Splitting a word while singing

Post by musicofmdr »

@shanakrank,
You are right! I love it too! One can also hear "rAshyAdhipatim" being split as "rAshi" + "adhipatim", bringing a different feel to that line. In this rendition, I also love how MDR handles "mangaLa vAram bhUmikumAram vAram vAram" (and when mrudangam is in synch, the effect is amazing), "vina-tA-shrita", micro/mini gaps between some words (creating lovely feel), handling of madhyamakAla sAhitya, his way of chiTTaswara singing etc. I can keep hearing it again and again!

In general, MDR's kruti renditions have plenty of such interesting and unexpected splits. If you go through the different pages in the site, you can find many more!

As you rightly pointed out, splitting words like this is a very tricky path. In general, if an artist takes risks and succeeds, the result may be wonderful and unique. On the other hand, if the risky attempt does not work out well, there may be lot of criticism, and, in today's world where news spreads so fast, one may not be even able to predict the consequences! So, most artists take the "safe" route (and due to this, we may be missing some amazing stuff). Only few have tried to do "bold" things, (two names that come quickly to my mind are MDR and BMK, there are few others as well). And, as expected, there are instances when MDR had to scramble up things due to the extreme stuff he was trying, but on most occasions, he succeeded in his attempts!

#musicofmdr
https://musicofmdr.com/

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