Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music
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Sachi_R
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#1 Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by Sachi_R » 12 Sep 2018, 14:47

Dear rasikas,
After I read Rshankar's eloquent translation of the Surutti Varnam of Sri.Ravikiran aptly presented by Smt.Leela Samson's troupe, I also read some other threads here impinging on the theme about Sāhityam etc.

I just checked and found that the Samskrita dictionary states that Sāhityam is the lyric and literature, the other dimension of aesthetics, music being one. Kalidasa in his Shyamaladandakam amply builds on the mutuality and closeness of the two dimensions manifested from Devi and equally, the two being means of Her worship.

Most importantly, lyrics and literature stem from association of ideas and contexts (that is the etymology). In a way all expression comes from thought associations. That is the unique gift of language to man.

The well-known Subhashita says that a man bereft of musical and literary sensibilities is but a beast without a tail.

These ideas are stated in Apte here:

Image

Then I was curious to research the Vikramankacharita referred therein. Turns out it is a panegyric composed in the 11th century by Kavi Bilhana of Kashmir. The referred verses are copied here from Google Books:

Image


My free translation:
Blessed are they who sing thy praises (oh king!) in music (the fifth veda?) and word adornments (Sāhitya),
For Goddess Sarasvati always shines on their tongues, as if She is playing a melodious veena (in accompaniment?).
Oh poets supreme, guard the riches you have churned from the ocean of nectarine Sāhitya
As literary plagiarists are actively trying to thieve these poetic lines just as the demons were trying to steal the Amrita churned from the ocean!
Last edited by Sachi_R on 12 Sep 2018, 22:18, edited 1 time in total.
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SrinathK
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#2 Re: Sāhityam - its spelndour and relevance

Post by SrinathK » 12 Sep 2018, 19:28

In the beginning, existed silence. All was unmanifested potential.

Then, there was an idea. To create sound.

Therefore unsteady sounds (noises) appeared.

Then, the unsteady sound became steady and unwavering. That was the beginning of shruti. This sound had no concrete form or label, but steady. This was the start of pitch.

Then, sound and silence alternated. This was the beginning of 'laya' (rest) or rhythm.

When sound and silence alternated in patterns, time could be measured, and you could count. Basic math entered rhythm.

Then it turned out that sound could vary in pitch. And so came simple melody and rather basic fluid phrases.

Then it was found that the natural pitches formed a consonance in various intervals. And harmony and the beginnings of swarasthana happened. Sound became frozen into solid frequencies. The first rAgas appeared. The first chords appeared.

Humans tried to produce these sounds with the basic sounds of their voice, and laid the foundation for what would evolve into alApana. This is where speech and music essentially begin to split - with speech arising out of sound that ignores pitch, but gets shaped into forms by the human apparatus, and music is the aspect arising out of pitched sound. The foundations of both music and language is the same. The two begin to diverge into 2 separate existences, as language focuses more on the syllabic sounds that the human being is capable of making, and eventually express his mind through words, while music decides to focus on the acoustic nature of the sound. Eventually, speech and music split at a fundamental level and sound becomes two.

Then someone decided to apply a set syllables to these sounds, and swara was born. The language of rhythm also arose in parallel.

Speech becomes language that gives form to thoughts, ideas and emotions and communication. Eventually language becomes lyric. Lyric returns to music - as both are two different manifestations of the sound principle.

Swaras could be combined in various ways and patterns, and the first gamaka phrases were born. At this point, basic math entered melody.

Soon someone found that they could use their body to count, and tAla appeared.

Then the region between the swaras began to be explored. Soon they found that they could create individual entities by controlling the movements of the frequency between two fixed regions - the modern gamaka appeared.

In this process, melody for a minute, took a step back into more formless territory, the notes melted into unique and fluid phrases, and discovered a new potential that it hadn't realized yet, the potential to create individual identities in sound. The modern rAga appeared.

Regarding the element of bhAva, this was brought in by the user of music and lyric, the human being.

It was when the lyric returned to music that music took a very significant turn - it went beyond a (nearly) free sound form, and became "enclosed" in another category of form altogether. The descent of music into form was complete. The lyric in turn allowed melody and rhythm to adapt in new ways to express the lyrical form into which it had entered and the lyric in turn used music to express itself in many different ways. The contribution of the lyric to provide a scaffold on which musical structures could be built cannot be underestimated - it is folly to deny this. Lyrics are hugely important in many ways.

In this process, music ceased to remain as a mere display of sound - it became a partner of language and all its purposes. One sound essentially became two and then the two combined together to create lyrical compositions.

The trouble is, as soon as you have form, there are going to be differences. Music created distinct entities with sheer sound and silence enough, on its own it did enough to create many different forms and systems of music, but lyric took those differences to the next level of sound altogether - it gave music a far deeper identification with form and differences and all things human than what it's capable of on its own.

So far, you'd not think it's a bad thing despite this. The problem happens thanks to the very entity that fashioned music into form - the human being.

The human being wrongly believes that absolute unity is found in the realm of twoness (and form) - no matter how pleasing it sounds to his inner urge to experience oneness and inclusivity again, he is making a most fundamental mistake that is out of touch with the very nature of existence itself. Forms can only truly experience oneness when they melt down back into a formless (or sufficiently formless) state. To have form, there must be a boundary, which means an experience of separation and limitation must necessarily exist.

This means that humans are in error if they think that all forms can coexist perfectly in the same space and time at once. But when has that EVER worked?

There is a quantum mechanical 'exclusion principle' analogue that is going to create pressure, and that pressure will make you degenerate after a point. :)

Therefore the human has a few solutions in mind - either try to accommodate as many forms as his own limited form will allow, or to dissolve the forms and structures from a significantly crystallized point part way till the point where the forms become soluble enough to one's personal satisfaction, which eventually creates a new form or more down the road -- this causes some people to go back to the tuning fork and its steady sound. Or, if they're too tired, they give up, quit the game, go all the way back into the formless and primordial where it started from. There cannot be a verbal argument between two silences right? Because there is no such thing as 'two silences'.

One way to go back at least part of the way is to remove the grossest, densest aspect of music's entrenchment in form - the lyric. The impact in many ways is like removing the physical body - a significant chunk of identification with form is wiped out, albeit at the cost of an entire dimension. However, as instrumental music based on vocal music shows, the musical structure created with the lyrical form remains even when the lyric has been removed. The alternative is to go for purely instrumental music that is not based on lyrical structures.

Yet another step is to reduce the fluid and more subtle structures created by the gamaka phrases, and reduce music back to plain notes.

All these are efforts to dissolve form a little bit to help relieve the pressure and try to feel a bit more oneness in more formless states of sound.

A very bad way of doing this is to actively annihilate any other form in favour of one's own. This is the result of the urge to expand and feel oneness trying to futilely achieve it within the limits of form, combined with an unhealthy oversized ego. An equally insidious, but passive way is to concede one's own form as inferior and allow another form to take over and be annihilated. Both of these are the ego's attempts to bring its ideas of oneness into its ideas of twoness, and neither way works as intended.

A less controversial way is to have all forms melt a bit and impose themselves on each other here and there, and try to find solubility at some level.

In Carnatic music, there is a dimension at every level from silence to lyric. Some people will like one more than the other as per their tastes. It will be good if the underlying nature of the game is understood without it getting ugly, but this is impossible when the mind is totally identified with whichever form it likes as all that is. The debate is truly ended only by silence, where there are no forms to make noise and differences.

The only issue with silence however, is that it doesn't manifest anything. The world's biggest zero happens to be the world's biggest oneness!

Without twoness, oneness is a latent zero. Without oneness, twoness is horribly limited. Only one who knows the oneness can enjoy the twoness beyond limits and only one who knows the twoness can bring oneness to life. And that is the secret of creation.

So the summary, you can like the lyric, someone else might want music without it, but both of you can't coexist in the same place at the same time. You can though when everyone's asleep and silent, and there are no more debates. Or if both of you have truly become enlightened.
Last edited by SrinathK on 12 Sep 2018, 23:10, edited 10 times in total.
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Sachi_R
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#3 Re: Sāhityam - its spelndour and relevance

Post by Sachi_R » 12 Sep 2018, 19:44

Srinath,
Very well written. I even think I can convert the whole essay into a TED talk sung to musical accompaniment! Imagine the impact! The music I have in mind is this.
Great narrative (we can call it The Dialectics of Song), rendered tunefully, to a rapt audience.
Like any good TED talk, the power of the narrative and its musical aural impact will rule supreme. Visuals needn't even be there, except some anthopomorphic imagery.

Seriously, good stuff! 👏👏👏
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rajeshnat
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#4 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by rajeshnat » 12 Sep 2018, 23:05

Srinath
We can perhaps add few more after your lovely post #2.

Then there is a texture of voice The voice bringing different intonations

Then there is a reception of rasikas ears which has its own age and variations

There is a quantum of infinite feelings in the mind of rasikas and musicians

There is team dynamics of each of those musicians and their varying skills

There is a time dimension of concert duration and microphone dimension which distorts all of those

We can group all of this in three buckets the Creational , structural and behavioural patterns
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vgovindan
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#5 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by vgovindan » 13 Sep 2018, 05:25

"The real trouble is this: giving expression to thought by the observable medium of words is like the work of the silkworm. In being made into silk, the material achieves its value. But in the light of day it stiffens; it becomes something alien, no longer malleable. True, we can then more easily and freely recall the same thought, but perhaps we can never experience it again in its original freshness. Hence it is always our latest and deepest insights that are voce meliora."

Erwin Schrodinger - My view of the world

sAhitya is the gross from of thoughts and feelings. The cuckoo's calling is set to which rAga? When man (performer) makes vain attempts to capture it through sAhitya - not because he wants to 'experience' the thought or feeling, but because it pays, the grossness becomes grotesque - in the form distorted word structures that only display gross music. The listener is no wiser - கனியிருப்பக் காய் கவர்ந்தற்றே.
Last edited by vgovindan on 13 Sep 2018, 09:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Sachi_R
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#6 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by Sachi_R » 13 Sep 2018, 08:41

Sir,
I disagree.
I think man made music and made speech=language owing to the same impulses of intelligence. The two media are very different, but are both communication.
Similarly the "rasa" in both music and speech are entirely dependent on the mutuality of intelligence and communication. We cannot denigrate one for the other.

The genius of any music where one sings lyrics is doubly happy.

Please click and read this:
The findings of these more recent studies show that music and speech functions have many aspects in common and that several neural modules are similarly involved in speech and music ( Tallal and Gaab, 2006 ). There is also emerging evidence that speech functions can benefit from music functions and vice versa.

(PDF) The Relationship between Music and Language. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... d_Language [accessed Sep 13 2018].
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shankarank
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#7 Re: Sāhityam - its spelndour and relevance

Post by shankarank » 13 Sep 2018, 08:55

SrinathK wrote:
12 Sep 2018, 19:28
The two begin to diverge into 2 separate existences, as language focuses more on the syllabic sounds that the human being is capable of making, and eventually express his mind through words, while music decides to focus on the acoustic nature of the sound. Eventually, speech and music split at a fundamental level and sound becomes two.
There are certain conundrums here! Modern communications theory has pretty much thrown some spanner into that notion! One can only try and speak one's mind! But study after study has concluded that 80% of what is communicated is via the "tone" and 20% using the actual content of the speech. Now whether that "tone" is a language aspect, or something that would be analogous to "musical" effects , I don't know if that has been studied.

Propaganda was invented by the British and then perfected by Americans around world war I ( the latter Chomsky's lectures), in the established department of public information to gain consent of the public for war efforts.

So one no longer maintain that language is a very useful tool. Now don't throw it back at me or my posts ;) .

Of course this critique is made by out of touch Marxists, who dream of a time and place ( the utopia) when human beings will be perfect communicators and questioners and critiques at the supper table, alas they don't understand human nature!

Such a world will cease to understand something like beauty - I speculate.

I am trying my own tricks, justifiably against the false propaganda!
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Sachi_R
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#8 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by Sachi_R » 13 Sep 2018, 16:07

In the last couple of days, I had to restore a TRS Parvathi concert tracks. Here is a wonderful track:
https://archive.org/details/TRS-1973-Pa ... Abheri.mp3

Now this interesting Kannada verse sung as a viruttam in an astounding way by TRS is a tribute to his mastery. He got the lyrics from someone in Mysore only a few hours before. I don't think he knew Kannada too well. But not only did he get the bhava of the poem, he set it to music and sang it in an unforgettable way. Only someone who can enjoy the flavour of the words can sense how perfectly matched the musical dimension is.

The text of the blog can be read here:
http://chowdaiahandparvati.blogspot.com ... rough.html

Those who can read Kannada can enjoy the Sāhityam!
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shankarank
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#9 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by shankarank » 13 Sep 2018, 18:43

TRS would have been exposed many a bhagavatar singing this in Bhajanas , in addition to his own research as an academic. Remember there is quite a few tamizh flavour in kannada words, if it is not sanskrit origin that is!

Plus you underestimate his training on sound production in the generic sense with quite a few other Indian languages! The vibration plus the employment of longs and shorts effectively etc.

That is not a flavor of words of a language, rather syllables of Indian language sprachbund!
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Sachi_R
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#10 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by Sachi_R » 13 Sep 2018, 20:14

Shankarank, you may be knowing something I don't. But almost NO non-Kannada musician would have attempted such a viruttam, Kannada pronunciation and the nuances of meaning that vary with different stresses is a bugbear for almost 100% of artistes. To simplify that words in Kannada are either from Samskrita or Tamizh is the first mistake musicians make. They in turn pronounce the words wrongly.

KVN has told me how he used to work hard to get the Kannada words right under guidance from Sandhyavandanam.

Anyway we should celebrate excellence wherever and whenever we see it.

There are three concerts we have uploaded of TRS in Parvathi. Each is a gem.
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RSR
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#11 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by RSR » 14 Sep 2018, 10:32

Srinath k ,I hope will excuse me for the post of AN old MAN ( senility). Howebver, 1) music especially instrumental music, has as existence of its ow, It can definitely exist without lyrics. 2) Lyrics properly belong to the realm of literature and not music. It is possible and perhaps desirable too, to enjoy the music without bothering about the lyrics.( like enjoying nagaswaram raga alapanai).
3-When good lyrics of literary loveliness are combined with good music, it gains in value. but not the other way round. Defining good literature and good theme are always mired by controversy.
4-Mankind is ever trying not so much for progress but change. Ennui...even in heaven. Dialectical development ( word by Hegel) is unconscious law of nature. We can neither agree nor disagree with theories of music , atbest a futile exercise. but we can create music if we can or atleast enjoy and encourage good music. of our liking.
5- DrAPJKalam,the colossus that he was, neveretheless, had the humility to call himself a technologist in the hierarchy of philosophers, scientists, engineers, technologists and technical workers.
Intelligence and technology cannot create good music. At best it can create gadgets.
How little lyrics matter is seen if we compare the popular tunes cited by our harimau in a separate thread...Songs on Ntaraja in languages other than Tamil..' by MKT.. The same tune is used in aeytthup pizhikkum pizhaippe sarithana' in the tamil film madurai veeran.
incidentally, the ragam is navroj. Learned rasikas can give links to thyagaraja swami's krithis in that raga. There are a few I think.
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CRama
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#12 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by CRama » 14 Sep 2018, 11:14

RSR. Welcome back.
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shankarank
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#13 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by shankarank » 14 Sep 2018, 11:19

RSR wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 10:32
Srinath k ,I hope will excuse me for the post of AN old MAN ( senility). Howebver, 1) music especially instrumental music, has as existence of its ow, It can definitely exist without lyrics. ( like enjoying nagaswaram raga alapanai).
TNRR did 4 hours Alapanais in the float. If you can create such a patience and eco-system anywhere else I am game! The tavildars must have kept silent or at the most filled in here and there with their interludes. But even in those interlude they would awaken some subtle senses of music!
RSR wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 10:32
2) Lyrics properly belong to the realm of literature and not music. It is possible and perhaps desirable too, to enjoy the music without bothering about the lyrics.( like enjoying nagaswaram raga alapanai).
You and your marxist obssesion with writing! sigh! Language has existed without writing for eons. And even grammar was condensed and put out in veNbA form. First you have to agree that some metrical arrangement is music. For one who thinks Mridangam is just an accompaniment how would such an idea be even be receivable! In your favorite bhakti age gnanasambandar put out great tamizh in musical form only.

Well that is not literature because it does not discuss human issues and problems. As if the literature, ensuing laws and democracies and secularism have solved those problems. Law is an ass apparently!

Third rate brokers are solving those problems much more effectively.

You confuse the phenomenon of music with all the social / material conflicts and human rights subconsciously , when in your good sense you would not do that!
RSR wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 10:32

3-When good lyrics of literary loveliness are combined with good music, it gains in value. but not the other way round.
No lyrics of any literary loveliness is ever rendered in music. Subramania bharathy is a total blackout except some patriotic songs, and the sanskrit bhUlOka kumAri hE amRta nAri. Both nothing to do with any literature that humors any of your esteemed intellect!
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SrinathK
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#14 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by SrinathK » 14 Sep 2018, 12:14

You know, looking at the trend in the past few months, soon this place might have to be renamed as rants.org :lol:

The whole character and nature of the discussions going on here has changed a lot since I first stumbled upon it. Of late I am hard pressed to find any discussion topic that doesn't turn into a rant fest or a rage fest. Thread after thread - the cynical energy is just sick. The only things gathering mass are tabloid threads that have less to do about the music - and we have a set of characters who turn up only when such topics come up. Even when there may be some valid points, they're all fragmented and buried under incoherent noise, or merely alluded to in vague terms amidst flight of thoughts.

Not pleased. At all. :( :evil:
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shankarank
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#15 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by shankarank » 14 Sep 2018, 18:50

Incoherant?? ;) As Reagan ( not him his speech writers lets say) famously said , the liberals ( who are leftists in mainstream clothes) know a lot of things , but they know it all wrong! :lol:
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shankarank
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#16 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by shankarank » 14 Sep 2018, 19:18

http://guru-guha.blogspot.com/2008/10/d ... vatya.html
sarasa sangIta sAhitya stana dvayayA parAdvayayA
As they say upamA kALidasasya bhAravEh aRtha gauravam.

I raised a query here. viewtopic.php?f=2&t=30911&p=331832 . Does anyone remember or talk about bhAravi - the mahakavi?

And was kAlidAsa considered brahmin?? :(

Similes are employed when intellect by itself cannot make sense of something. They are very basic cognition of humans.

In that simile above, what humans encounter as a child or even as an adult are nothing unique to human beings. All mammals are included. No intellect of any kind is in play here. Already there is the transcendence of this intellect, something of the human body. That svaras are attributed to birds is a case in point as well.

RSR posted three links of 3 songs in the naTarAja thread, which have been sung by several musicians, but listed three popular ladies!

To listen to broader carnatic music, one only has to do one thing as a child, listen to nAdasvaram as a child. Or at a minimum go sit in a tyAgaraja utsavam and immerse oneself in the totality of sound, when pancaratnam is being sung, with a grandeur filled Mridangam accompaniment.

There, words are split and torn asunder so no one can attempt to make sense of the sAhitya. But if it is still worth it, it is for the innocent kid!

RSR still lives in his teens , a passing ephemeral phase. Even Nick H is out of it. That phase has neither the innocence of the kid, nor the wisdom of the experienced. It is a curse of nature!

Great piece of writing? lovely literature ? :lol: :lol:
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RSR
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#17 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by RSR » 14 Sep 2018, 21:52

CRama wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 11:14
RSR. Welcome back.
Sir,
Thank you.
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RSR
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#18 Re: Sāhityam - its splendour and relevance

Post by RSR » 17 Sep 2018, 21:34

I had the good fortune to listen to Smt MS radio concert LIVE sometime in 1959 as a college student. and particularly was enslaved by her 'dinamani vamsa'. As srinath observes, I too am suprised that shankarank liked that upload by raju asokan. Good thing.
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