Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music - Lec Dem

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#1 Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music - Lec Dem

Post by viddev »

Waterfalls Institute of Technology Transfer conducted an event last weekend (17 Nov 19) on the captioned topic, “Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music”, curated by Dr. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam. The event had lecture demonstrations by eminent instrumentalists Vidwan Aravind Bhargav, Vidwan Ragavan Manian and Vidwan Sriram Parasuram sharing their expertise and experience in their respective fields of mandolin, saxophone and violin respectively.

Aravind Bhargav began with the history and evolution of Mandolin, its journey into Carnatic Music and shared anecdotes from his close association with his guru, Mandolin maestro U Srinivas.

Aravind said that the original mandolin is a staccato instrument used in western ensembles and it had four pairs of strings. He then played samples of the mandolin from its Italian origin, its presence in Middle Eastern Music, its advent in Indian Film music and Hindustani music and finally how it entered Carnatic music. He said that it was no mean feat to play gamakas using pair strings and how Srinivas modified the instrument to contain four strings, which he again modified on his father’s (also a mandolin player) suggestion to five strings, GGDAE. It was also he who brought about the use of electric mandolin with a solid body.

Aravind also demonstrated indigenous Carnatic techniques (the gamaka rich Todi, vivadi Chandrajothi) on the mandolin. He concluded by suggesting that a good way to take Carnatic music to global audiences is by more collaborations with other cultures.

Ragavan Manian (Raga as he is known) began his demonstration by assembling his saxophone and explaining along how the reed, neck and body of the sax works. He then gave a brief on the history of the saxophone and how it has been Indianised.

Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor, invented and patented the saxophone in the 1840s, but among his other inventions, only the saxophone is still used today. Raga said that the sax had been more a band instrument and it was used as a part of marching bands to improve the morale of the soldiers fighting in the war. He then explained the travel of the saxophone to various countries and finally India in 1850s, where it has a Chennai band connection.

Unlike its straight-necked Indian counterparts such as the nadaswaram or shehnai, the saxophone has a curved neck. Raga demonstrated playing ragas like Bhairavi and Begada, and how to circumvent the instrument’s limitations to play gamakas by controlling the air blown into the mouth piece.

Sriram Parasuram began his demonstration by playing the violin and then spoke about the origin of the violin, its quick adaptation and becoming the beloved staple of Carnatic Music. It was interesting to note that the violin has its origins in India against the popular perception of it being a western instrument. It is known in very early texts as ‘Ravanahatha’ and ‘Dhanur Veena’.

Sriram said that the violin entered the Carnatic music family and became so widely used so quickly that it usurped the role of other instruments too. The reason could be because of the violin’s ability to closely shadow the human voice. It did not find the same level of favour in Hindustani music because of the existence of the sarangi which could do the same. He demonstrated playing the violin as a shadow to the keerthanai “narayanathe namo namo” rendered by a volunteer in the audience.

He said that the violin was by nature a plucking instrument, and still it can produce the continuous lagatto sound because of numerous horse hairs in the bow micro plucking the fret board simultaneously. He then demonstrated bowing techniques of staccato, spicato and others and also how the complexity of the instrument leads to its versatility.

He then spoke about the larger than life persona of the violin, created by the styles of Carnatic violinist legends such as Lalgudi Jayaraman, MS Gopalakrishnan, TN Krishnan, M Chandrasekar and the style went beyond the violin playing and rubbed off on the styles of other instrumentalists and vocalists in the fraternity.

Each session was followed by a questions and answers session. Overall, a very informative, interesting and intellectually stimulating evening.

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#2 Re: Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music - Lec Dem

Post by rajeshnat »

This is your first post and it is a great post . I did not know that Saxophone was invented by an Belgian Inventor. Please continue to share great reviews like this.

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#3 Re: Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music - Lec Dem

Post by thanjavooran »

Viddev Avl,
Excellent detailed write up. Dr V S's comments on this subject any?
22 11 2019

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#4 Re: Western Instruments in the context of Indian Music - Lec Dem

Post by viddev »

Thank you so much. I will share more from now on. The lecdem is now available on YouTube in case anyone wishes to check it out.

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