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MUSIC

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IGNCA Books on Music

 

 

Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has published several fundamental texts on music.  They pertain to several streams of Indian music.  Following are synopsis of each of these books.

Matralaksanam:  This is perhaps the first text to discuss the concept of time unit measure (matra), i.e. the mathematical syllabic time value of voewls in their aspects of elongation, tempo, pitch and interval.  This book is based on the two complete manuscripts of the text.  It has an English translation and copious notes.  The work is of fundamental importance and is a must for musicians, musicologists, Samaveda chanters, and for those interested in the researches on Vedic musical notes and their influence on classical and folk music of India.

Dattilam:  It is a compendium of Gandharva, the counterpart of Vedic music in the corpus of secular music.  It is a unique and important text that epitomizes and in some ways supplements the treatment of this subject in Bharata's Natyasastra.

Brhaddesi Volume I:  Brhaddesi is the first extant text to describe raga, to introduce the sa ri ga ma notation, to usher in a fresh approach towards shruti, svara, grama, murchana etc. and to establish the concept of desi and its counterpart marga.  Although the text is still incomplete for want of the discovery of the full manuscript, this edition will serve the purpose of study and research.  The area covered is not small by any means.

Brahaddesi Volume II:  This volume completes the available text of Brhaddesi up to the chapter on prabandhas.  It begins with treatment of jati, goes on to grama-ragas and their bhasa according to Yastika and Sardula. It has a very fragmentary portion on desi-ragas and concludes with chapter on prabandhas. The bulk of the text is almost double of that included in the first volume.  The salient features of the treatment of these topics in the text have been pointed out in the vimarsa, but these are only point-wise explanations.  The critique to form part of the third volume will present a review of the contents of the total text.  This will involve looking backward and forward through anterior and posterior texts.

Srihastamuktavali:  Between the 12th and the 16th century, regional styles had emerged in music, dance and drama and texts were written.  Medieval texts have been discovered in all parts of the country.  One amongst these is the Srihastamuktavali belonging to the eastern tradition.  While there is ambiguity in regard to its origins, the text has been found in Maithili and in Assamese transcripts.  The author confines himself to a detailed treatment of the hastas (handgestures).  Dr. Maheshwar Neog has edited and translated the text with great care, pointing out the similarities as also differences with the Natyasastra and the Sangitaratnakara tradition.  The text throws significant light on the language of the hand gestures, which may have been followed in the eastern regions. (See back cover)

Nartananirnaya (three volumes): This is one of the important treatises on Indian music and dance, appearing after the Sangitaratnakara.  This is also an authoritative source for the theory and practice of these arts of its time (16th century A.D.).  Although written in a simple, limpid literary style, it provides vivid imaginativeness through its reificatory descriptions.

With a unique methodical plan, the Nartananirnaya progresses through stepwise contribution of the Cymbal player, the Mrdanga player and the singer to dancing in the first three chapters before culminating into its longest and fourth chapter on the dancer.  This chapter contains novel features not only in the alphabet, vocabulary, grammar and idiom of the art, but in the performance conventions and repertoire including some dance forms of both South India and North India (some are actually choreographed).  Its delineation of bandh nrtya and anibandha nrtya deserves the serious attention of both traditionalist and innovative dancers.  The entire text is supportered by a comprehensive and versatile commentary.

Tarjuma-i-Manakuthuhala and Risala-i-Ragadarpana: This is a combined treatise by Nawab Saif Khan, better known as Faqirullah.  The first is translation (tarjuma) and the other an original treatise, on the subject of music, as practiced at that time (mid 17th century).

As the seal on the manuscript folio declares, Faqirullah was both the owner and the author of this handwritten script.  It is evident that Faqirullah finally completed both his translation and composition in the same continuation in the year 1076 A.H. (1666 A.D.)

His treatise is in ten chapters.  They deal with: (I) Reason of its compilation; (II) Identifying ragas, (III) Assignment of season and appropriate hour of day and night to every raga; (IV) The perception of svaras; (V) Identification of various instruments; (VI) Explaining the de-merits of go `indah (a poet composer cum performing musician); (VII) The delineation of throat qualities, their categorization and consideration of the larynx; (VIII) The qualities of the Ustad-i-Kamal (master of art); (IX) Understanding of the orchestra and about the advantages of performing in orchestration; and (X) The contemporary composer-musicians.  The conclusion has the author's brief note on the Kashmiri music of the time.

Sangitopanisat-saroddharah: This is an important medieval text written in 1350 A.D.  It is attributed to a Jaina scholar Vacanacarya Sri Sudhakalasa and represents a distinctive Western Indian and Jaina stream of musicology.  Composed about one hundred years subsequent to the great compendium, the Sangitaratnakara there is significant difference in its approach and treatment of the subject.

This Sangitopanisat-saroddharah stands in an intermediary position between the Sangitaratnakara and the later medieval works such as the Nartananirnaya.  While epitomizing the Indian phenomenon of an adherence to certain key fundamentals it unfolds and reveals many processes of interaction and focuses attention on particular aspects of form and technique.  It is also an important text for the change it reflects in understanding the ragas and raginis assigning gender and visualizing an iconography.

 

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