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a_arnold

 

Posts: 558
Joined: Jul. 30 2006
 

compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas 

I think flamenco aficionados are uniquely better equipped to understand the Indian raga than most people with western musical backgrounds. I'm wondering if anyone else on this forum shares my love of Indian classical music?

I once went off on a musical tangent and spent 8 years studying sitar, which is amazingly similar to flamenco guitar in many respects, but true improvisation is emphasized more (even though Indians call it "classical" and accord it the same status we do western classical). In fact, I think the Indian raga is very jazz-like in its freedom from constraint, although Indian musicians generally don't like the comparison (they think jazz is less respectable in the West than the raga is in India). But my perspective is western. Playing flamenco, classical, and a little jazz has taught me that a tux doesn't automatically make a musician respectable. I had to give up sitar because I found it impossible to put in the time necessary to maintain 2 instruments at the same time. The hands can only stand so much practice time per day. It was a painful decision, because I was hooked on both.

The most common raga "compas" ("tal" in Hindi) is 16 beats; students are taught to count compas by touching the thumb to the 16 joints/tips of the right hand fingers, 4 per finger. Like flamenco, the "compas" is highly structured that way, and more complex than most western music. Like flamenco, it doesn't translate easily to western notation where the beat falls on the first note of a measure, and the measures are generally all the same. As a consequence, like flamenco, it is rarely if ever written.
And, like flamenco, it has retained some of the medieval modal scales beyond the major and minor scales that so constrain western harmonic taste (hence the odd-looking spacing of the movable frets on a sitar -- the frets are shifted to suit the scale of the raga. They use basically the same 12-note octave that we do in the West, but they (a) bend the strings so much that they depart from that baseline much more than we do and (b) because they depart from the western major/minor convention (where chordal harmony works best) they emphasize melodic line more than harmonic relationship. To this end, there are drone (chicari) and sympathetic strings, all of which are tuned harmonically to the raga, but none of which are ever fretted, and there are 4 fretted playing strings that are seldom (if ever) played together in chords -- always just melody, with a lot of technique evolved around the idea of a single melodic line.

There was a thread some time ago on learning compas with a metronome and counting the 12 beat cycle. Someone (Ricardo?) commented that you have to learn to play on the beat before you can depart from an on-the-beat melodic line by playing in syncopation on the "off" beat. The shift is something like taking the training wheels off and not thinking about the bike.

If you haven't already done so and can get your head around the non-western scales, (some can, but some think sitars sound distractingly"boingy" and the raga is inaccessible to them) you will find some musicians who are technically stunning and literally glorious in the way they weave around both compas and scale (you might as well start with the best: Ravi Shankar with Zakir Hussein on tablas). The beat is maintained by the tablas, the same way a cajon or clapping might, but the compas only becomes critical later in the raga.
The convention is a 3-part structure: (1) the alap, played with just the sitar and minimal rhythm -- the melody and scale become established, and the raga becomes recognizable to an educated audience, much like you might recognize a bulerias; then comes (2) the Jod or Jor section. Enter the tablas, and the compas manifests itself. By the end of this section, the sitar and tabla are trading falsetas and interweaving around the compas. The base tabla, or bayan, can be stretched with the heel of the hand like a tympani, so it can also carry a minimal melody. (3) At the end, is the "jhalla" section, in which the speed really picks up. Always ends in a crescendo, and you never slow down. Always crank it up.
Of course, departures from this basic structure are almost the rule rather than the exception.
I don't think I would have ever appreciated this really wonderful musical tradition if I hadn't had my mind expanded first by flamenco.

I'd be interested if anyone else has a love of, or experience playing Indian music, and sees the parallels with flamenco?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2007 15:58:29
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13288
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

quote:

I think flamenco aficionados are uniquely better equipped to understand the Indian raga than most people with western musical backgrounds. I'm wondering if anyone else on this forum shares my love of Indian classical music?


I like it, but mainly my record collection is of the SHAKTI group, which obviously has some western elements. Thanks for your detailed description, but I have some questions. First, the "ragas". I always thought of that as a scale with which they improvise on, or a melodic theme or note sequence that they base the improvisation off of. But you seem to be saying the raga is the whole form also including the rhythm cycle? Is that true? So using the same scale or mode with a different rhythm pattern would be considered a different raga? Also, Indians often use the mode that sounds like western "lydian", related to major it would be 123#4567. What is that called in Indian music? Also Shakti has a tune that uses a 6 note scale, 1b2345b7. What is that one called?

Also you say they have the same 12 note scale but bend notes. My understanding was that they actually have 22 notes to the octave, and the various modes or scales are typically based on 7 to 9 of those. Like they have a scale like western C major. But also one with 7 notes that has what would be the "A" note a bit flat, but sharper than G#, and no normal "A note". Things like that was my understanding. Greeks had a similar tuning system using 24 notes to the octave. Indian tunings were/are the same, but the slightly off Octaves and 5th are never used. I have played Greek and Turkish instruments that were "modal" because the scale, the actual frets, had room for an extra note, a beautiful colorful sound. Of course any harmonies would clash with that "in between" note. I always assumed Indian classical instruments had similar possiblities, ie actual notes to hit not bend into.

Of course this Shakti group has guys using western instruments, so their modes are based on 6-7 note scales of the 12 note western chromatic. Mclaughlin bends strings and things, but I dont' hear him hitting those specific out notes like on Turkish instruments, or using those notes in the raga consistantly. So I assume that is part of the "fusion" element of the band.

About the rhythm, what my ear tells me is the Indians have very nice odd cycles and things for improvising, in general I sense a transition point or "spring off" that leads to the "one" or down beat. Especially with the odd meter. Everything I hear feels like it leads to the "one". To me this a big difference with Flamenco compas where you have the "remate" or the phrases lead up and end a few beats early. They start again on or AFTER the "one". Very different feeling. Like in Solea or Bulerias, phrases can start on 1 or 12, but you really sense when things will end on "10", and I have not noticed that kind of thing in Indian rhythms. There are times that flamenco phrasing with go from the "transition point" to the one like Indian music. But for Indians it would be like they need to END their phrases, sometimes, on the transition point. Understand what I mean?

Anyway, I taught the compas of bulerias to some Indian drummers and when jamming, they kept playing "through" the remates to the 12. I could not get them to pick up on that in our brief sessions, but of course they could easily and quickly learn the cycle of accents.

To hear a nice "modal" approach to flamenco, check out El Pele's siguiryas on the album "Canto". They have a drone and V. Amigo accompanies with ONE chord, the tonic, and that is it. I think that works especially nice for some cantes like Siguiriyas. Fandangos, no way, the whole beauty is the why the harmony is both "western" and modal at the same time.

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2007 18:28:36
 
jrabbani

 

Posts: 192
Joined: Jun. 28 2006
From: Los Angeles

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

quote:

I'm wondering if anyone else on this forum shares my love of Indian classical music?

Hey a_arnold, I'm studying the sitar too! With Shujaat Husain Khan. This is some great info you posted. Thanks!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2007 19:04:20
 
Mark2

Posts: 1692
Joined: Jul. 12 2004
From: San Francisco

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

I also love Indian music, especially the female vocal timbre-I love that as much as cante. Also the instruments. The sitar, the percussion and the bowed instruments. Once after making love to a woman, we were listening to Ravi S. She became annoyed that I seemed to derive more pleasure from the music than her. I had to make up some B.S. quick. I also dated an Indian woman for about four years, and that's when I developed a love for the vocals in Indian music. Although there is a great school for Indian music near my home, I've never studied it. Life's just too short.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2007 19:53:06
 
duende

Posts: 3051
Joined: Dec. 15 2003
From: Sweden

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to jrabbani

quote:

I'm wondering if anyone else on this forum shares my love of Indian classical music?


hell ya! got lots of Ravi shankar cd´s and other stuff.
Flamenco sort of got in the way of my love for indian music.

_____________________________

This is hard stuff!
Don't give up...
And don't make it a race.
Enjoy the ray of sunshine that comes with every new step in knowledge.

RON
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 12 2007 20:20:17
 
avimuno

 

Posts: 598
Joined: Feb. 9 2007
 

[Deleted] 

Post has been moved to the Recycle Bin at Apr. 13 2007 1:54:42
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 1:54:19
 
avimuno

 

Posts: 598
Joined: Feb. 9 2007
From: Paris, France

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Hi,

I am a huge fan of indian classical music. I have been listening to loads of stuff ever since i was a kid. My favorite musicians are Hariprasad Chaurasia, Alla Racka (Zakeir Hussein's dad - monumental tabla player), Zakeir Hussein, Bhimsen Joshi (one of the best vocalist I have ever heard, period), Amjad Ali Khan, Sabri Khan, Shivkumar Sharma and the list goes on and on...
I am also particularly fond of fusion stuff (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, and especially Shawn Lane's work with Hellborg and the Vinayakram brothers).

Concerning your comment on how Indian classical musicians view their art as being more 'respectable' than jazz in the west. Having lived in Indian for some time, I must say that the way they view and understand music is different. Classical music and dance in India is connected with religion and spirituality. For example, some ragas and dance form are considered to be 'divine', only to be played or danced at certain times of the day or even certain days of the year. It's all part of their understanding of the world. To Indians, ragas and thals are not exactly a form of expression (like a jazz musician might understand it), it's closer to spiritual awakening, very much alike yoga. It is an incredibly complex artform to learn too. Learning indian classical music with a master is not like taking lessons in the west, it's much more rigourous and painful... it is said that the goal of every musician is to please the gods, not mere mortals.

It really is a fascinating artform. It's fantastic to see that some people are interrested in it on this forum.
Like you a_arnold, I do feel a strong connection between thal and compas, as well as ragas and scales used in flamenco. I have however never really enquired into it as I do consider both artforms to be quite separated nowadays, although coming from a common source. It is hard to believe that there are no connection between the two when you realise that buleria for example has the same rythmic cycle as kathak (a highly complex dance form).
It would be really interesting to have an acknowledged person's opinion on the whole matter.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 2:24:45
 
duende

Posts: 3051
Joined: Dec. 15 2003
From: Sweden

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

hey this is a great thing. Tell me some names huh?

Indian music is not just sitar so what about some good flute players.

i´d like Flute and also violin if they use that kind of instrument.

_____________________________

This is hard stuff!
Don't give up...
And don't make it a race.
Enjoy the ray of sunshine that comes with every new step in knowledge.

RON
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 4:09:37
 
avimuno

 

Posts: 598
Joined: Feb. 9 2007
From: Paris, France

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Hariprasad Chaurasia is probably the most famous flute (bansari) player India has today. He appears on a Shakti record, can't remember which one. Check out his album called 'Possession' with Zakir Hussein on tabla... amazing stuff. I know that he also recorded something with flamenco guitarist a while ago. I heard it once, was really interesting.
As for violin, you cannot go wrong with Dr. L. Subramaniam. He has a gorgeous duet album with Bismillah Khan (the shehnai maestro). I don't know if you'll be able to find it outside India though... but worth a try.

p.s.: it's funny how people in Europe and America have all heard about Ravi Shankar, but no one else really. Ravi Shankar is a great musician, but there are some seriously talented people out there who deserve to break through in the western world.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 4:25:27
 
duende

Posts: 3051
Joined: Dec. 15 2003
From: Sweden

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

sitar music is everywhere in music shops but Ravi shankar s name is catchy thats why it sticks.


any advice on arabic violin would be great as well.

_____________________________

This is hard stuff!
Don't give up...
And don't make it a race.
Enjoy the ray of sunshine that comes with every new step in knowledge.

RON
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 5:17:23
 
mrMagenta

Posts: 942
Joined: Oct. 25 2006
From: Sweden

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Thanks for the listening tips, i'll have to look these up. I've come to listen to indian music through fusion as well. Mahavishnu and Shakti, and more recently in fusion with flamenco, the Qawwali flamenco album and Miguel Czachowskis Indialucia which i like a lot.

There is just so much to get into. And so much virtuosity.. I love the glissandos in indian music, in vocals and the bowed instruments. If i were a siger i'd be totally hooked on learning some of those techniques. As a guitarist, it makes me want to break free of the frets. I recently heard a radiobroadcast of Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya playing ragas on slideguitar, which was mindbending. If i were a dancer i'd be hooked on kathak.. If i were a mystic i'd be teaming up with the Bauls. India is just so rich on stuff.

I love the sound of the sitar, i really want one. I hear they are really hard on your fingers though.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 12:46:15

stephen hill

 

Posts: 300
Joined: Feb. 16 2004
From: La Herradura, Granada, Spain

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Very interesting post and raises lots of points in relation to flamenco.
I have had some time studying sitar after being given one some years back. I was also in indian and bought 3 flutes and Tabla and set about learning Tabla inbetween playing flamenco. The 2 diciplines felt very close. The link between the movement of the gypsys from northern india struck me, bringing their 'compas' that we can still see in flamenco today, and the dance movements bought by the temple dancers from those northern indian tribes, the sutra hand positions are a direct link although now not recognised for what they are..

aside from this I had the great opportunity to spend time with the sitar player Pandit Nishat Khan some years back. I used to watch him practise and had an evening with him where he cooked myself and the family I was living with a fantastic curry, then changed into his right clothes and played us 3 evening Ragas. He suggested I make sitars!

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya I met last year at the Lewes International guitar festival I help to organise in the uk. An amazing concert and.. a little story, it was my job to organise food afterwards so I ran to the local indian restaurant to book a table, sorry they said.. we are closing. so off I went to the only place open then, a local kebab house called the charcoal grill. Full of after pub drinkers. We walked in with Debashish and his brother the tabla player, them still in full concert wear and sat down to chips and kebabs. There were some great looks of wonder from the punters there. The Turkish men behind the counter looked like they has seen it all before. ! He was and so was Nishat, the most wonderfull people. Full of grace and charm, and so totally professional and at the highest place in their art. and had a great sense of humour too! such an honour for me.

_____________________________

stephen hill - granada spain
http://www.spanishguitars.co.uk
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 20:03:55
 
a_arnold

 

Posts: 558
Joined: Jul. 30 2006
 

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Ricardo: Thanks for the response. I didn't know there were so many Indian music fans!

You wrote:
"I like it, but mainly my record collection is of the SHAKTI group, which obviously has some western elements. Thanks for your detailed description, but I have some questions. First, the "ragas". I always thought of that as a scale with which they improvise on, or a melodic theme or note sequence that they base the improvisation off of. "

I guess the way I learned is that the various ragas (they have names like Sree, Bhairav, Gujari Tori, Yemen), would be analogous to names like buleria, farruca, solea . . . you learn the characteristic scale and compas of each, and there are specific notes in the scale that are supposed to receive primary and secondary emphasis when a phrase resolves. These factors, and a few commonly-used phrases are what make a raga recognizable to the audience, the same way you would know within a few phrases that you are listening to a buleria, although each artist imposes his own interpretation and falsetas. (By the way, Yemen is the first raga taught to a novice, just like Soleares is usually the first in flamenco. It seems to be regarded as the ancestor of other ragas, but it is also the one reputed to be the hardest for students to get right, even though it is the first they learn.)

Then you wrote:
"But you seem to be saying the raga is the whole form also including the rhythm cycle? Is that true? So using the same scale or mode with a different rhythm pattern would be considered a different raga?"

The way I learned, its a package: scale and rhythm cycle. Changing either can make it a different raga, or it could be simply regarded as wrong. Like in flamenco, not all combinations of scale and compas are used. There are some that share scales but not rhythmic patterns, and vice versa.

(Assuming by rhythm cycle you mean the 16 beat – or “teen tal” and others -- analogous to compas). The alap/jod/jhalla sequence is a separate issue)

Some share the scale AND the rhythm, but differ in the primary and secondary notes that receive emphasis (roughly, the kind of resolutions that are allowed).

And of course each player has his own falsetas – although these are more like departure points for true jazz-like flights of improvisation – more so than in flamenco and certainly unlike anything in 20th century western classical music, although improvisation had a much larger role in previous centuries.

I guess if one is looking for a western parallel for the alap/jod/jhalla configuration, it would be in the 18th century Suite form (or maybe Corelli's trio-sonatas da camera), having separate pieces strung together in the same key, like allemande-courante-sarabande-gigue, sometimes with a prelude -- although that's about as far as the parallel goes.

Then you wrote:
"Also, Indians often use the mode that sounds like western "lydian", related to major it would be 123#4567. What is that called in Indian music? "

It would probably be referred to as the scale of a particular raga that uses it.

Then you wrote:
"Also Shakti has a tune that uses a 6 note scale, 1b2345b7. What is that one called? "

Dunno. Not familiar with Shakti. The scales that I learned all had more than 6.

Then you wrote:
"Also you say they have the same 12 note scale but bend notes. "

To clarify: They have the same logarithmically decreasing fret and frequency intervals we do, taking into account skipped notes peculiar to specific ragas. (The apparently irregular fret spacing has an underlying pattern just like a guitar, but with some frets missing. Close examination will reveal that the “missing” frets are always next to spaces between the sympathetic string pegs that allow the frets to be moved from one position to the “missing” adjacent space to shift the “gap” by a half step. If a fret were added in both positions, the fret spacing would look exactly like a guitar -- maybe with minor adjustments analogous to tempering. This feature makes it easier to hit fast scales because the notes you want to miss are left out anyway. None of the ragas use the full chromatic scale as their “characteristic” scale, just as you wouldn't play 12 consecutive chromatic notes if someone asked you to play a scale in bulerias. But all the scales are based on the same 12 notes, yes. With some left out.


Then you wrote:
"My understanding was that they actually have 22 notes to the octave, and the various modes or scales are typically based on 7 to 9 of those. Like they have a scale like western C major. But also one with 7 notes that has what would be the "A" note a bit flat, but sharper than G#, and no normal "A note". Things like that was my understanding."

Depends on who you talk to, and how they try to translate Indian music into terms familiar to westerners. Most Indian teachers say (correctly) that you can't translate all the bent notes they use into western notation, so their way of talking to “us” necessitates some reference to fine gradations of frequency. I've talked to sitarists who claim to play 64 gradations of frequency between every fretted note. I think that's really just a way of trying to communicate with westerners in western terms. In practice, they just do a lot more bending of strings than we do in, say, jazz. And a WHOLE lot more than we do in classical or flamenco guitar. I could be wrong, but I don't think there are any forms where a note is required to actually resolve to a quarter-tone (or other intermediate) frequency. And in practice, they certainly don't try to name all those 64 notes. In the real world, you have to learn it by hearing it, and they have names (just like do re me . . .) for the ones that are represented by frets.

Then you wrote:
"Greeks had a similar tuning system using 24 notes to the octave. Indian tunings were/are the same, but the slightly off Octaves and 5th are never used. I have played Greek and Turkish instruments that were "modal" because the scale, the actual frets, had room for an extra note, a beautiful colorful sound. Of course any harmonies would clash with that "in between" note. I always assumed Indian classical instruments had similar possiblities, ie actual notes to hit not bend into.

"Again, I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

"Of course this Shakti group has guys using western instruments, so their modes are based on 6-7 note scales of the 12 note western chromatic. Mclaughlin bends strings and things, but I dont' hear him hitting those specific out notes like on Turkish instruments, or using those notes in the raga consistently. So I assume that is part of the "fusion" element of the band.

"About the rhythm, what my ear tells me is the Indians have very nice odd cycles and things for improvising, in general I sense a transition point or "spring off" that leads to the "one" or down beat. Especially with the odd meter. Everything I hear feels like it leads to the "one". To me this a big difference with Flamenco compas where you have the "remate" or the phrases lead up and end a few beats early. They start again on or AFTER the "one". Very different feeling. Like in Solea or Bulerias, phrases can start on 1 or 12, but you really sense when things will end on "10", and I have not noticed that kind of thing in Indian rhythms. There are times that flamenco phrasing with go from the "transition point" to the one like Indian music. But for Indians it would be like they need to END their phrases, sometimes, on the transition point. Understand what I mean?"



Not entirely. Indian melodic lines do tend to end on a specific beat, but until then the listener can be left with the impression that the sitar and tablas have departed from each other rhythmically by following different syncopations around the compas, so both are off beat in different ways and you start to wonder how the hell they are going to get home from here, which makes it all that much more satisfying when they do come back together at the end of the passage. If it's well done it can send a gasp and spontaneous applause through the audience.

There are also certain key phrases called “mukras” that repeat a short (4-5 note) melodic line 3 times to come out on the final beat, which guides both listener and tabla to expect the resolution. In much the same way that you just “know” that 10th beat is going to bring a resolution in bulerias compas, and even if you lose track of the compas, you can pick it up again when you hear that familiar landmark.

Then you wrote:
"Anyway, I taught the compas of bulerias to some Indian drummers and when jamming, they kept playing "through" the remates to the 12. I could not get them to pick up on that in our brief sessions, but of course they could easily and quickly learn the cycle of accents."


I think one of the best things about flamenco is when a falseta starts on an odd beat that adds a new wrinkle to the melodic line and yet it resolves correctly. The same thing that appeals to me in Indian music, but usually the passages are less lengthy. There are bulerias falsetas that begin (rather startlingly) on 2, or 3, or 6, or 12, and yet “make it home” on 10 after a few cycles. That seems to work best when it stands out in the context of an otherwise unambiguous (should I say strictly and clearly established?) adherence to compas.

Then you wrote:
"To hear a nice "modal" approach to flamenco, check out El Pele's siguiryas on the album "Canto". They have a drone and V. Amigo accompanies with ONE chord, the tonic, and that is it. I think that works especially nice for some cantes like Siguiriyas. Fandangos, no way, the whole beauty is the why the harmony is both "western" and modal at the same time."

Thanks – I'll do that.

You remind me of a long section in a 20 minute bulerias that one (or 2?) of the Gastors recorded – some juerga, I forget the name of the CD – in which the same A chord drones on forever (or at least for most of the last half), sticking to compas, and you'd think it would get boring, but it works, almost becoming hypnotic after a while.

Duende wrote:
"hey this is a great thing. Tell me some names huh?
Indian music is not just sitar so what about some good flute players.
i´d like Flute and also violin if they use that kind of instrument. "

You might consider listening to some surbahar (Imrat Hussein Kahn) or sarod in addition to sitar. I guess I'd have to say that as instruments, the surbahar is to the sitar what the cello is to the violin – slow, deep, and majestic -- and the sarod is (very crudely) to the sitar what the banjo is to the guitar, but with the classical status that the banjo lacks. I think Ali Akbar Kahn on sarod is every bit the equal of the 3 “greats” on sitar (Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Kahn, and Nikhil Banerji).

Like Avimuno says, I'd love for some real authorities to weigh in on this thread, because I'm not one, and I'm sure there are some great younger players out there, but if you want recommendations, I remain happy listening mostly to Vilayat Kahn. Bannerji is astoundingly fast and precise, and Shankar has a lot of instant popular appeal without sacrificing one bit of musicianship (so I always recommend him to first-time listeners); but they all astound me, and you can't go wrong with any of them. But as someone who has played the instrument for (only, and I do mean only) 8 years (just long enough to learn that I would have to sacrifice the guitar if I ever wanted to be good enough to satisfy myself) Vilayat Kahn seems (to me) to be the sitarists sitarist, if that makes sense. And Zakir Hussein is probably still the king of the tablas, although he started out seeming to be a bit of a brash “cowboy” -- almost challenging the instrument he was accompanying.

I like vocals (Bhimsen Joshi is still magic, although I can't believe he is still alive; he was such a heavy drinker they literally had to prop him up on stage); I prefer female vocals – Lakshmi Shankhar, Ravi's sister, comes to mind as a good starting point). And I like the shanai (bismallah kahn is the go-to guy there) but because I'm a guitarist, I think I have a deeper appreciation of the stringed instruments than wind.

avimuno wrote:
"Learning indian classical music with a master is not like taking lessons in the west, it's much more rigourous and painful... it is said that the goal of every musician is to please the gods, not mere mortals."

That's certainly the case. My teacher definitely felt entitled to rap my knuckles, and he almost refused to continue teaching me when I showed up for my second lesson and my fingertips weren't bleeding. After a month I had a deep groove in index and middle finger, with calluses that were as hard as horn. Slipping out of that groove during a glissando could result in a deep cut. It's like playing a wire cheese cutter. Fortunately, I had a "leg up" on technique because of 20 years of flamenco experience, and I progressed much more rapidly than the average novice -- rapidly enough to please him, anyway.

MrMagenta wrote:
"I love the sound of the sitar, i really want one. I hear they are really hard on your fingers though."

I've sold mine. It was a wonderful instrument (I paid $600 in 1982) and it was a sin to leave it sitting around unplayed. You can get a very good one for well under $1k, but it is a very demanding instrument, and the learning curve is long and steep. I'm not a world class guitarist, but I've played a few solo concerts; after 8 years, even of relatively rapid progress, with my sitar teacher, I wouldn't attempt to play in front of friends, not to mention in public. Maybe after 20 years. Indian teachers (and Indians in general) are very welcoming to western musicians who undertake the instrument, though. Never a hint that "you can never do it because you're not Indian." I never got that from anyone.

And yes, they are hard as hell on your fingers. My middle finger still has a numb spot on the tip after 20 years, although it doesn't interfere with my guitar, thank God. The callouses were grotesque -- people asked what I had done to my fingers. And if you think that's bad, try looking at a sarod player's fingers. Eeeeeyow.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 13 2007 20:23:45
 
Ricardo

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Thank for that detailed response Arnold!

For listening reference, the lydian scale I was wondering for example in a tune called "The Wish" by J. Mclaughlin. I mean perhaps you know the name of the raga. It is that lydian scale with 9/4 type rhythm cycle. Mclaughlin performs it with Nishat Kahn. Perhaps it is not a real raga and just a fusion of sorts?

The other piece that uses the 6 note scale is called "Joy" by Shakti.

Here is a live video:


Also, perhaps a parallel between the structure of a raga where they have "alap" or free style creating the mood before jumping into rhythm, would be like when a flamenco guitarist does a bit of toque libre, then going into a form with compas that has the same tonality. Like M. Sanlucar's Rondeña Buleria here:

Of course the free form part is very short here, but you would see him live play a complete Rondeña first before going into this bulerias.

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 14 2007 15:52:54
 
Estevan

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

I like it, but mainly my record collection is of the SHAKTI group, which obviously has some western elements.


What a great group that was. I just about wore out the grooves on the "Natural Elements" LP back in the day. You're right, though, taken as a whole the work of Shakti is brilliant (extraordinary!) fusion rather than actual Indian music, although there are passages of Indian music and sometimes even entire compositions lifted from the classical repertoire.
Which brings us to an important point: so far the discussion has been proceeding as if there were only one kind of Indian classical music, when in fact there are two distinct major traditions, the northern or Hindustani, which is what Tony has so generously described from his experience, and the southern or Carnatic. These two have a common ancestry but diverged centuries ago as a result of the Afghan and Mughal invasions of northern India. Consequently the Carnatic style preserves more of older indigenous tradition, while the Hindustani is shaped very much by the influence of the imported cultures.

The Hindustani style is generally more familiar to non-Indians (and non-specialists) because it was brought over first by Ravi Shankar's older brother Uday in the 1930s, and then in the 1960s it was Ravi with Alla Rakha (Monterey Pop, Woodstock) and Ali Akbar Khan (establishing his college in Berkeley) who made a big splash and gave so many of us our first delicious taste of Indian music.

The great masters of the Carnatic tradition somehow missed the major rock festivals but a few of them quietly slipped into North America some years later to teach at some of the more progressive universities.
And a couple of the younger musicians - the violin-playing brothers L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam - made a mark playing in jazz-fusion settings, but not so much playing real classical music the way that Ravi & co. continued to do.

The Hindustani style is perhaps more accessible at first than the Carnatic, which is in general more highly structured and makes more demands on the listener for its full appreciation. One of the big differences is that the most common item in a Hindustani concert is the alap-jor-gat, described by Tony above, in which the only formally composed element is the gat, a short theme (made up by the performer) that serves as a point of departure and return for rather free improvisations. The Carnatic tradition, on the other hand, is based on a large repertoire of compositions by famous composers, which can be quite long and complicated in themselves. These then form the basis for improvisations which relate to certain melodic and rhythmic elements in the compositions.

The musical form that roughly corresponds to the alap-jor-gat of the northern tradition is called ragam-tanam-pallavi. Ragam is slow melodic improvisation without drum accompaniment, which introduces and explores the colours of the raga. Tanam is a faster section, still improvised, which features rhythmic pulsation (but still without drums) in irregular metrical groupings. Pallavi is a composition, usually quite short, and usually designed to have some built-in rhythmic complexity that will challenge the performers. This tune is then performed in three different rhythmic proportions, stretched out and speeded up, before heading off into extended improvisation.

Another important difference between the two traditions is in the matter of rhythm. The northern style is all about gradually speeding up throughout the piece. In the southern style, this would be considered completely "fuera de compas"! It's essential that the beat that's established at the beginning is maintained steadily throughout. You can certainly get the impression, in the course of a long improvisation, that the tempo has speeded up - or even slowed down - but in fact this is done through rhythmic proportions which are often extremely complex, while the underlying beat remains the same.

(I'd better not go on too long so I won't even mention the different instruments!)

Anyway...one of the interesting things about Shakti is that it brought together musicians from north (Zakir) (and of course, John's from oop north) and south (Shankar, Vikku), which used to be something that didn't happen, but is not quite so unusual these days. And there are a few pieces that they used to play that were 'borrowed' straight from the classical repertoire, given new names and...new composers (there's that 'genius' we were talking about elsewhere). There are a couple of these on the "Natural Elements" album, and the fact that they can be played pretty well literally (apart from the rather manic performances, of course) in such a context tells you something about how funky and bailable the 18th-19th century South Indian classical repertoire can be!

There are loads of interesting topics and questions raised in this discussion, and I'd like to contribute a bit about some of them, but I'll get around to it later. Mustn't neglect the guitar, you know.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 16 2007 2:26:56
 
Estevan

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

Indians often use the mode that sounds like western "lydian", related to major it would be 123#4567.


In the north it's called Yaman, in the south it's called Kalyani. Those are the names of the 'parent' mode, and there are various ragas derived from it.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 16 2007 2:29:43
 
a_arnold

 

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Estevan!
Wonderful. I'm really glad someone with a little more breadth than I have is able to contribute to this thread. I really was/am narrowly focused on the Hindi tradition -- I guess because all the musicians I have known and studied with were from the north. Seems like my horizons could use some broadening. Can you suggest some recordings/artists that might introduce us to the southern tradition? When I stopped my sitar lessons, it was as though time froze for me, and I have been listening to the same Indian artists for decades -- and I never got introduced to the southern tradition at all.
My old Indian professor and mentor and I once got into the completely fatuous hypothetical discussion that begins ... "If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one box of recordings with you, would it be Indian or Western classical music?" Fortunately we never have to make that kind of choice -- but I might as well have if I don't at least give the Carnatic tradition a chance!

Tony
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 16 2007 2:54:20
 
Ricardo

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Estevan

Wow great explainations Estevan!
quote:

And there are a few pieces that they used to play that were 'borrowed' straight from the classical repertoire, given new names and...new composers (there's that 'genius' we were talking about elsewhere). There are a couple of these on the "Natural Elements" album,


Hey, I know those pieces. Can you point out any specifics off hand? And "Kriti" from Handful of Beauty is obviously a "classical" worked out composition, sort of a rhythmic exercise of counting down it seems.

Thanks for the Lydian mode names. How about any "raga" you know coupled with the scale "Yaman" or "Kalyani", that uses that 9/4 beat???? Sorry I just think it is really cool. And the tune "Joy"? Any Idea if that is based on a real raga or is it just a "fusion" of things?

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 16 2007 16:45:56
 
Estevan

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

quote:

Can you suggest some recordings/artists that might introduce us to the southern tradition?


It seems they're really hard to get. There used to be some great stuff on the old Nonesuch Explorer series, but unfortunately they have not been reissued on CD with the exception of one by the singer Ramnad Krishnan.

For starters I would recommend the disc "Lotus Signatures" by N. Ramani (flute) and Trichy Sankaran (mrdangam - drum) - two of the best - , along with an accompanying violinist and a couple of other percussionists. Great performances and a great introduction to the style. It's on the US label "Music of the World", which is not that easy to find either, but here's a link where you should be able to get it:
Lotus Signatures -flute, violin and percusssion

Beyond that, drop me a line directly and I might be able to help with some other stuff.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 17 2007 23:17:04
 
Estevan

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

About the rhythm, what my ear tells me is the Indians have very nice odd cycles and things for improvising, in general I sense a transition point or "spring off" that leads to the "one" or down beat. Especially with the odd meter. Everything I hear feels like it leads to the "one". To me this a big difference with Flamenco compas where you have the "remate" or the phrases lead up and end a few beats early. They start again on or AFTER the "one".


The "one" certainly is very important, and on some of the earlier recordings you can hear Ravi Shankar (or Yehudi Menuhin) explaining how everything leads up to this downbeat, called "sam" (pronounced sum). But it depends whereabouts in the music you are.

If we talk about northern style (say, sitar and tabla) it often feels that the 'sam' is repeatedly emphasised in the earlier sections of the piece which are slow-to-moderate tempo. When it gets going faster you find that there is less frequent accent on 'sam' as the momentum carries longer phrases and passages over it, so that many tala cycles may go whizzing by before the players land very noticeably on that downbeat again. But major cadences must always land on the 'one'. You've probably noticed the 'tihai', which is a syncopated melodic passage that only ends up back on the beat when it's played three times. It's used to mark important cadences.

In the southern style the 'sam' is important too, but not as dominant because they can take off and land rhythmic cadences on pretty well any beat, and in this respect it's more like your falsetas starting on various points of the compas.

Interesting your experience with the drummers 'playing through' to 12, which would appear to be 'one' in that context. It made me wonder about how Indian musician might perceive some compases, considering that they generally think in broader spans of music (in terms of time and rhythm) than we do in flamenco or western classical music.

As Tony mentioned, the most common tala in the Hindustani tradition is the 16-beat 'tintal', and in the Carnatic tradition the commonest one is 8-beat 'adi-tala'.
(despite the availability of exotic irregular measures, there seems to be an almost universal instinct for 'four-on-the-floor'!)

I'm pretty sure that a south Indian percussionist would perceive bulerias as 'adi-tala' divided into triplets (tisra-nadai), with accents falling wherever they are required by the particular piece. That's to say, each count of the 8-count tala would be equivalent to one bar of 3/4 or 6/8 in the usual transcriptions, and one cycle of the tala would be equal to two cycles of compas. It's a different perspective, but it's one that you also fall into naturally when you're playing and you get into the swing of it - you're not constantly thinking the small units un-dos-TRES etc. but going with the broader flow.

(Does this make sense?)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 18 2007 0:03:50
 
a_arnold

 

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Estevan

Estevan wrote:

"I would recommend the disc "Lotus Signatures" . . . Beyond that, drop me a line directly and I might be able to help with some other stuff."



Thanks, Estevan. I'll try to get Lotus Signatures first, and go from there.

Tony A.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 18 2007 2:18:58
 
a_arnold

 

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

This thread has started me wondering if there is any scholarly work comparing Indian musical traditions (especially the way they deal with rhythm, but also the use of modal scales) with western conventions.

I'm thinking particularly of the way we tend (in the West) to think mostly in (rather boring) uniform measures and fixed musical time signatures (3/4, 2/4, 6/8 etc) with the emphasis on the first beat, while Indian music and some (most?) flamenco is organized into larger rhythmic units if 12, 16 etc, with the emphasis on various intermediate beats. We THINK differently about rhythm.

Writing flamenco using western time signatures requires some rather convoluted contortions: measures of variable time signatures, musical phrases that don't start on the emphasized "first" beat in the measure -- Indian music even more so -- so neither lend themselves to formal western notation, and so are usually handed down from student to teacher or sketched in tablature, which is why they are sometimes misunderstood as folk or ethnic music by westerners.

Another consequence of the difficulty in writing Indian and flamenco music is that (being unwritten) there is more room (and necessity) for improvisation, so it receives more emphasis.

And a consequence of the more extensive Indian use of modal scales is that harmony receives far less emphasis (than in the west). Think of forms like the fugue and the pasacaglia, which depend entirely on harmonic relationships in two or more melodic lines -- forms that don't (almost couldn't) exist in Indian music. I don't think the word "chord" ever came up at any of my sitar lessons. Yes, I had to retune sympathetic strings, chicari (drone), and sometimes playing strings for particular ragas, so harmony does play a role, but a very minor one, centering mostly on drone notes. Ignoring western harmonic convention also means many more "bent" notes fit readily into Indian music, whereas they would violate the harmonic sensibilities of a major or minor key convention if used to the same extent in western music.

On the other hand, in India, elaboration of melodic line and rhythmic complexity receive much more emphasis than in the west because Indian music is unconstrained by the major/minor convention and western time signature conventions.

And flamenco is, in some ways, in the middle. It abandons the idea of western time signatures -- but maybe not as freely as Indian music, and it makes more overt use of modes, but maybe not as extensively as Indian music. And harmonic relationships are emphasized much more than in India -- not just because the guitar has frets, although many Indian instruments don't (sarod, violin, etc). Even Indian instruments that do have frets are structurally designed to achieve intermediate tones by bending. Not sure, but I think the harmonium is the only commonly-used instrument that can't be bent in some way. . . is that true, Estevan?

But somehow I doubt that flamenco's intermediate status is the result of cultural contact/fusion between east and west. I suspect (without knowing) that it evolved separately from western and arab (medieval?) musical traditions that predate the abandonment of modal scales. I don't think flamenco's Arab influence is related to any Indian musical tradition, even indirectly, but I could be wrong. Maybe someone reading this thread knows.

If that kind of comparison has been done in a formal or scholarly setting, I'm unaware of it. Maybe somebody's unpublished graduate thesis/dissertation at a school that teaches both Indian music and flamenco? I think Boston College and Florida State teach sitar (or did at one time), but I don't think either teaches flamenco. And isn't Paco Pena a professor of flamenco somewhere?

Oh well. I'm sure I'm wrong on most of these speculations.

Don't get me started on Neapolitan gypsy vocal music (I lived and worked in Naples for 3 years). Very afilla, and very flamenco sounding, although not as rhythmically complex. No idea if there's a connection there.

Tony A.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 18 2007 3:24:56
 
Ricardo

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From: Washington DC

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Estevan

quote:

I'm pretty sure that a south Indian percussionist would perceive bulerias as 'adi-tala' divided into triplets (tisra-nadai), with accents falling wherever they are required by the particular piece. That's to say, each count of the 8-count tala would be equivalent to one bar of 3/4 or 6/8 in the usual transcriptions, and one cycle of the tala would be equal to two cycles of compas. It's a different perspective, but it's one that you also fall into naturally when you're playing and you get into the swing of it - you're not constantly thinking the small units un-dos-TRES etc. but going with the broader flow.

(Does this make sense?)


That makes sense, and not just for Indian percussionists. But I dont' think that is right to feel that, and I can sense that when I play with someone and try to correct it right away with foot taps or something. Also the so called "medio compas" would totally mess things up for them, and hopefully reveal the fundamental flaw in their perception of the cycle. But in flamenco, it can be fun to use that seeming triplet SOUND to morph into a true triplet feeling and let bulerias become Tangos. With some dancers we have experimented with that, going back and forth between the two feelings. A lot hinges on the Palmero, you don't want what they do to sound or feel like a weird synchopation.

Anyway, in regards to Western meter. Well, in my experience, western musicians are not so intune to rhythm in general, but it is not true really that western notation can't handle foreign rhythms. It is all about feel vs sound. The feel should be the thing expressed proper, not the sound. That is mistake I see with many transcriptions. The drummer friends I had in college work with reading meter a lot, and I realized from them that the feeling CAN be expressed metrically, but you have to understand the right feeling. That triplet vs synchopated 16ths say, is a good example. In that case I feel there is a right way, and a wrong way to express the feeling. The thing about western musicians, is just how deep they have gone into the world of complex synchopations. Compared to some things I have seen done by marching drummers of high calibur, flamenco guitar sychnopations are kids stuff.

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 18 2007 4:22:03
 
Estevan

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From: Torontolucía

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

That makes sense, and not just for Indian percussionists. But I dont' think that is right to feel that, and I can sense that when I play with someone and try to correct it right away with foot taps or something. Also the so called "medio compas" would totally mess things up for them, and hopefully reveal the fundamental flaw in their perception of the cycle.

I really don't think it would (I'm thinking of people at the level of Zakir Hussain, for example). I shouldn't have used the word 'triplet', which was misleading in this context because it usually implies some degree of accent on the first note of each group of three. But in the context of the tala idea it just means a division of the main counts into smaller units (could be 2,3,4,5, etc., in this case it's 3) which can then be grouped (not necessarily in threes) and accented as appropriate to the music. So if one cycle of tala (8x3) equals two cycles of compas (12x2), then you have 24 pulses - usually transcribed as quarter-notes - and you can agree where to put the accents etc. (This might be oversimplified, but I seem to have been talking too much already!) Then as you say, the important thing is the feeling, and that would work itself out in performance.

On the other hand, I'm glad I make the mistake of saying 'triplet' because it was good to read about your experience of dealing with the accidental and intentional ones. The bulerias-tango morph is very cool, I've heard it somewhere - Tomatito or Paco. It's related to the idea I mentioned earlier about seeming to change speed by changing the proportional relationships to the beat. Some people would call it 'metric modulation'.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 14:47:10
 
Ricardo

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From: Washington DC

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Estevan

quote:

So if one cycle of tala (8x3) equals two cycles of compas (12x2), then you have 24 pulses - usually transcribed as quarter-notes - and you can agree where to put the accents etc. (This might be oversimplified, but I seem to have been talking too much already!) Then as you say, the important thing is the feeling, and that would work itself out in performance.


Well, I guess what I mean is, unless the Indian percussionist can or is allowed to "break" the tala occasionally, then what you would have is the flamenco compas forcing itself to be "cuadrao", in other words being squared off for the sake of matching the Indian "tala". To me that means the Indian percussionist is not learning the flamenco compas phrasing at its most fundamental. Similar to the 12/8 Chick Corea style jazz fusion bulerias, which really is not bulerias, just mathematically similar.

Surely there must be some shorter talas that would match better? Something with only 3 beats or 6 counts? In any case, the indian drummers that I had a chance to jam with seemed to have no problem with the bulerias cycle in 12, I did not sense they were feeling 24 beats, or a longer phrase. The problem fro me was just that they did not feel the remates. Oh, and in general I felt they wanted to go faster and faster, but that is often expected.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 17:10:47
 
Estevan

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to Ricardo

It's not a matter of having to 'break' the tala or squaring off the compas at all; they would feel it and adapt to the compas without any problem. I'm just saying that - because of their background - they would most likely be thinking of it differently from a normal flamenco player, but still feel and get the right result.
There are loads of talas and even more ways of subdividing them so there are many possiblilties, I just speculated about one, based on my small but valuable exposure to the Carnatic tradition in particular.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 17:27:39
 
Estevan

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From: Torontolucía

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

a_arnold:
quote:

Writing flamenco using western time signatures requires some rather convoluted contortions: measures of variable time signatures, musical phrases that don't start on the emphasized "first" beat in the measure -- Indian music even more so -- so neither lend themselves to formal western notation

Because they are oral traditions, and notation (in our usual sense) doesn't normally enter into it.

Ricardo:
quote:

The feel should be the thing expressed proper, not the sound. That is mistake I see with many transcriptions.

Yes; transcriptions are useful, as long as you don't take them literally, and don't assume that they are complete.
They give you the rough idea, a reminder (in flamenco) of what you have heard.
They're like a sketch map that points you in a certain direction, but you need to know a lot of things that can't practically be written down in order to really make sense of them. You can't learn the feel from a page.

Even in classical music where 'the text' is so important, the score doesn't tell you the whole story; it depends on knowledge of style and nuances of performance that you can only learn from other people, be they teachers or performers (...a lot of listening).
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 17:59:08
 
Doitsujin

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

quote:

I think flamenco aficionados are uniquely better equipped to understand the Indian raga than most people with western musical backgrounds. I'm wondering if anyone else on this forum shares my love of Indian classical music?


sorry, I have something against sitting on nail-carpets.... and whenever I hear indian music my snake gets long and hard to say hello. So.. Its a little inconvenient to hear it for me...

Well... Maybe I ate a clown this morning. sorry...
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 20:51:28
 
a_arnold

 

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RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold)1 votes

Estevan suggested that flamenco and Indian music aren't written ...

quote:

Because they are oral traditions, and notation (in our usual sense) doesn't normally enter into it.


They aren't written BECAUSE they are oral? Um...

That reminds me of the weather man who explains that it's hot outside because of the elevated temperatures.

I'm not sure how being oral traditions (as western music was at one time) prevents flamenco from being written down.

Consider that the western conventions of musical notation grew out of efforts to standardize the liturgical vocal traditions of western monasteries, where (basically) groups of musically untrained monks had to be kept organized, in tune, and on beat by a choir master. As a result, the notation and the music had to be kept simple, which resulted in relatively simple rhythmic patterns that could be pounded on the floor by the choirmaster with a big stick (which eventually became the conductor's baton -- but not before a French conductor named Lully actually killed himself with his own baton in a frenzy of conducting enthusiasm. But that's another story).

Imagine having to teach the bulerias compas to a chorus of untrained monks in time for next Sunday's performance. . . wouldn't happen.

At some point western notation became entrenched and began resisting change.

Maybe the simple beginnings of western music have tended to constrain the way westerners think about music, because the notation was initially designed to capture extremely simple musical concepts (measures uniform, emphasis on the first beat, etc).

Maybe the highly evolved and complex rhythms of flamenco and Indian music have now encountered our entrenched (simple) western notational conventions and found that written music simply isn't readily amenable to handling rhythmic complexity -- and as a result, these musical traditions simply had to remain oral traditions for lack of a written language.

Maybe notation is inherently hostile to the improvisational nature of flamenco and the raga, and so hasn't been adopted. Or, maybe, because it has never been written, flamenco (and the raga) has been able to remain free and improvisational, whereas western classical music has become hidebound by misplaced reverence for the written note. Remember, in Bach's day the ability to improvise on a keyboard was a highly developed musical skill (there is an astounding story about JSB improvising a 6 part fugue on the spot, using theme given him by Frederick the Great).

I'm just suggesting that the reason flamenco hasn't been written isn't BECAUSE it was an oral tradition first. Rather that maybe it's oral, and improvisational, and all the other wonderful things it is because it isn't written.

After all, what other choices are there? If you can imagine a musical tradition that is neither oral nor written, I'll be surprised. I think it likely that any such musical "traditions" would have died out -- for obvious reasons. Okay, I take that back. Today, it could be recorded.

Just a thought.

Tony A.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 22:35:54
 
Ricardo

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From: Washington DC

RE: compas in flamenco vs Indian ragas (in reply to a_arnold

Nah. The reason flamenco is not written, well it is actually and has been for a long time, but rather written "wrong" in terms of rhythm feel, is because the transcriptions where done by musicians, namely classical type guitarists, that had no rhythm, or a basic understanding of time, meter and synchopations. I truely believe that a high calibur marching percussionist would have no problems writting flamenco music correctly, or odd meter Indian music, so long as they had time to do the work. It might take some effort to notate all the details of accent, but the idea that western notation is some how not capable to handle flamenco or indian rhythms, is wrong. It is not the "system" of notation, but rather but the people who use it.

Pitches and tuning issues are another matter.

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2007 22:49:35
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