Indian music evolved on
melodic lines and has reached points of tremendous sophistication, which are
unsurpassed in the world even today. Melodic aspects are the main anchor
points of Indian music but it is balanced with the rhythmic aspects in an
admirable manner. Carnatic music believes in the maxim "Srutir mata,
layah pita" (Melody is Mother, Rhythm is Father). The implication is
that music is created only out of the union of the two. All the aspects of
raga, melody and aesthetics have been dealt with here.
Carnatic music is a melody-based
system. The stress is on successive combination of notes unlike some
systems, where one comes across the concept of harmony. Harmony involves
rendering more than one note at a time. The melodic aspects of Carnatic
music are very easy to understand as they are very systematic in their
development from the simple to sophisticated. Melody in the context of
Carnatic music may be explained as, "The production of any musical
tone or succession of such tones or semitones, with definite frequencies,
within certain parameters, whether rendered independently or in conjunction
with rhythm and / or lyrics".
In Carnatic music the term
Nada has found a special place. It refers to sounds that are
pleasing to the ears, as opposed to noise. Nada, according to ancient
Vedic texts, Upanishad and Purana, is the easiest path to
elevate oneself and attain salvation. This in turn, is the core of Hindu
philosophy. Tyagaraja and such other great composers echo the same
sentiments in many of their compositions like Nadasudharasam,
Nadatanumanisam etc., besides prescribing the scientific production of
musical sound (e.g., Sobhillu Saptaswara).
There is another school of
thought that believes that music itself is divine and that the perfect
synchronisation of the performer with the musical sound, Nada (the
practice of which is called Nadopasana), is the real divine bliss.
For sound to fall in the
category of the musical, the vibrations have to be regular. Thus, evenly
spaced vibrations whose frequency determines the 'highness' or 'lowness' of
the sounds create musical tones. This factor is called
come across people talking about 'high-pitched screams' or 'low-moaning
sounds'. Similarly they can distinguish between high and low frequency notes
when they hear music.
In Carnatic music, Pitch is of central
concern. Every individual has a natural pitch, a level or range at which he
can produce notes of best quality with ease. Generally, male voices are
lower in pitch than female voices. The marked difference in voice quality
among men, women and children is due to the size of the vocal chords, the
kind of breathing and the physical make-up of the resonant cavities. Talking
of tonal comfort, at the natural pitch level of an individual the vocal
chords are in a relaxed and almost flaccid condition. In the case of
instruments, the fundamental pitch is fixed based on the length,
construction and timbre of the instrument.
The fundamental key to pitch selection is the
basic tonic note, Sa, called the Adhara Shadja. Every other note is
in relation to this note, unlike the Western classical system. This becomes
the fixed pitch and is called the Sruti. Maintaining this fundamental
pitch throughout is of utmost importance. This has been beautifully
encapsulated in the Sanskrit maxim, "Srutir mata" which accords pitch
the status of Mother.
When the frequency of any
note is exactly doubled, a
similar sound is heard, except
that this seems to be 'higher' than the original one; the interval between
the two is called
In Carnatic music, a range
of three octaves is generally used. They are called the Mandra, Madhya and Tara Sthayi, referring to the lower, middle and higher octaves
Many music systems have divided an octave into
parts or notes. The melodic interval between two successive notes is called
and that between alternate notes is referred to as
One can imagine a semitone to be half a step and tone to be one whole step.