Aesthetics of Music

The beauty of music is not associated with only a specific constituent element. It is a combination of the aesthetic aspects of all the constituents that give the whole its beauty. It is, therefore not possible to separate out and examine these aesthetic factors individually.

Before going on to the main topic, let us see what Indian Music is all about. Like Painting is the ‘Art of Colors’, Music is the ‘Art of the Sounds’. Without sound, there can be no complete music. It blooms through the medium of sound. We say that the cuckoo sings melodiously, but this is not music. It contains the ‘Naad’, yet it is not music. The bare sounds in nature cannot create music on their own. They have to be arranged /organized in a particular order. Nobody but man can do this organisation. Thus, music can be said to be the ‘Art of Humanly Organized Sounds’. When he presents this organised composition of sounds, only then music is created. This principle of 'organised composition of sounds' is valid for vocal as well as instrumental music. Simply ‘swar’ / notes are not music. Even the organized swar, should have meaning in them. It is the job of the artiste to lend meaning to Music.

While music is universal, yet the meaning of music is not universal. The ‘Meaning’ of Music differs from person-to-person. It largely depends on the way a person perceives it. One considers their own music to be good simply because they understand it. If one is unable to understand the organization of different kinds of Music, they do not like it, even though it may be good.

We listen to music for two reasons – to get happiness out of it and to understand it. One essential pre-requisite of music is that it should give bliss. Every time an artiste performs, he is trying to experiment with the knowledge he has. However, people can derive pleasure from this It is 'Music' only if the artiste’s experiment is successful. Simply having the matter is not enough; one should be able to present it in a particular manner. This understanding comes out of training. Taste has to develop over time. The ‘swar’[notes] are told to us, and they gradually have an impact on our mind. This happens after several years of cultural training. In order for the swar to gain an identity in our minds, it is necessary that we are told- this is ‘sa,’ this is ‘re’ etc. Culture plays a very important role in this process. It is an inseparable part of music.

In the ancient period, the social system was built in such a way that only a certain group of people had the right to recite the Vedas. The common man felt deprived of that and hence thought of getting happiness out of music. Thus all the other common people went to Brahma Dev to ask him for a remedy for this problem. In the Vedic period, ‘Sama- Gayaan’ had a particular musical pattern to it – S r S, n S r S, r s n, n S r s. This music was composed in only three swar. As per anecdotes, this swar-pattern was extended to seven notes by Lord Shankar. Lord Shankar was thus responsible for the creation of the first five Ragas. The first one was

“S r G m P d N S’,
S’ N d P m G r S

This is popularly known as Bhairav. Hence Bhairav is considered as the first Raga. Raag Gauri is believed to have been created next by Parvati.

P m P G m r G, S r N, N r G, S r S. G m P d P m P G m r G S r N, r G, S r S.

One belief was that in the Ancient times, Music consisted of 3 Swar only, and God (Lord Shankar) introduced the other swar and made music into the form we know.

The other belief was that Music emerged from of nature. Shadjo Mora haa (out of peacock, . . .) Out of this Pravrutti (tendency) to imitate the animal sounds in nature, (characteristic) the swar came into being. Today’s developed music came into being. The octave (saptak) concept came into being. A Pentatonic scale is believed to exist before the seven-note octave. Later the Pentatonic octave developed into the seven notes that we know of today. These Notes were named Shadja, Rishabh, Gandhar, Madhyam, Pancham, Dhaivat, Nishad. Why were these notes named so? ‘Shadja’ is considered to be the one, out of which six notes emerge. ‘Rishabh’ is the one which connects us to ou heart (Hriday). The definition or nomenclature is given to various swar in the Brihadeshi language, in the circa sixth century A.D.

These Swar are related to our feelings and emotions. And where there is a connection with the emotions, there is 'rasa-nishpatti'. And hence there comes their connection with 'saundarya' or aesthetics.

Jaati Gayan, PrabandhaGayan, The Concept of a Raga
In ancient times, Jaati–gaayan was practiced. There were 18 marvelous ‘Swarvati’ (Surawati / tunes) Jaati all over India, which formed its basis. Then Prabandha-Gaayan came into being. In the middle period, the Raga came into being. The Raga is not only an important facet of our music, it is the very basis on which the edifice of Indian Classical Music stands. Raga was non-existent in the times of Bharata, although there is a mention of the word, “Raga” in the context of ‘Ranjaktaa’.
Raga defined
We define the Raga as “Ranjayati Iti Raga:” i.e. “that, which entertains is Raga”. Does this mean that film-music is Raga? No, hence this ‘Ranjakataa’ is qualified further: ‘Ranjakataa’ created via the medium of particular swar; that composition which is created and decorated with the help of particular ‘swar-varnas’ is Raga. Raga is the supreme state (avastha) in Indian music.

Why do we listen to this kind of music?

1. Aananda/enjoyment: To derive pleasure out of it
2. To understand it better

What does this ‘Aananda’ mean? Does it mean Rasa-Nishpatti? If we relate it simply to Rasa-Bhava theory, it is a mistake. Regarding Rasa-Bhava theory, not all the eight Rasas are born out of music, or may be even though they are created, they are not observed. Does Rasa-Nishpatti take place when you sing in tune? The answer is 'Yes'.

Swar and Rasa
There is a close relation with the Sthayi-bhava. There exists a Swar-and-Rasa interrelationship. From Shadja and Rishabh, the 'Veer Rasa', 'Raudra Rasa' and 'Adhbhut Rasa' emerge; Gandhaar and Nishaad evoke the 'Karuna rasa'; Madhyam and Pancham give rise to 'Haasya' and 'Shringar' Rasa; and from Dhaivat, the 'Bibhatsa' and 'Bhayanak' rasa are created.

Relativity of swar
A swar has no independent identity. It is identified always in relation to something. Standing alone, we do not know whether it is Dhaivat or Pancham. It is only with respect to a particular Shadja that you can identify a Dhaivat or Pancham or any other swar in the saptak.

Sa Dha is the cause of a different Rasa-Nishpatti. Thus, for example, we say that Darbari is veer-rasa-pradhan. This means that there is a ‘potential’ in the swar-sangati of Raga Darbari to evoke the veer rasa in the mind listener.

Swar-sangati has a different effect. The Karya-kaaran Bhaav (cause-effect relationship) cannot be applied every time, because a swar-combination might not bring about a particular effect (Bhaava). Bhava are created also out of other phenomena, accompanying the creation of the swar. Thus when we think of the aesthetics of music, it is only the combined effect of swar, laya, taal, words, raga and bandish, that creates the beautiful effect.

In the past, a Saptak was considered to consist of 8 notes; however, the exact time period of this is unknown. Out of the aaroha Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa’, the last Sa is of the higher octave. In times of “Saamgayan”, the concept of 'Aaroha' did not exist. The saptak was only ‘avrohi’ -
m G R S ‘N ‘D ‘P
whereas the Murchhanas were aarohi and avrohi. Taan registered then were only avrohi.

The Shadja in the higher octave was probably added in the end to render it a circular form. In the time-cycle (taal) too we used the same principle. After dha dhin dhin dha . . . we come back to dha. Ideally everything is linear but we give it a circular form by completing an Avartan (better sentence formation). In an Avartan, coming to first beat gives it a cyclic form or a feel of comletion and then again cycle repeats and so on. So a musical avartan is essentially a circular form and not a linear one. Thus in a musical space, linearity is not observed.

The Raga helps us in rendering various designs out of this raw material.
The true nature of Raga is ‘nirguna’ (formless). It is the artist that makes the raga ‘sagun’ out of ‘nirgun’, i.e. the artist gives it a meaningful form by stringing the Swar together in particular sequence/schemas.

Principles of Aesthetic Creation
There are certain principles for a creation to be aesthetic.
1] Swar-Lagaav: It is the 'abhivyakti' attached to the Swar. A recital even though it is 'correct' in terms of the tunefulness or the 'Swar', if it has no 'swar-lagaav' or 'abhivyakti' attached to it, sounds 'dry' or 'unmelodious'.
Illustration: Madhuwanti: Man Mandir mein aayo Shyaam.
Interpretation: S g M P g, g R S (conjugation / nuances on gandhar) mp mp mg m g- (‘thehraav’ / pauses) bhaav-touch / expression; some people say it dryly; some say it with affection. There is musicality in abhivyakti (expression), in the use of shrutis.
Illustration - Miyan ki todi: d n S r - - (pause on rishabha) S d (lower octave); from r to S to d; with the application of shrutis or kan-swar (the swar that are touched) the expression or abhivyakti occurs.
This leads us the second aesthetic principle, in music, namely the AuchityaTatva.
2] Auchitya Tatva – To illustrate, ‘Pancham’ in Miyan ki Todi is gradually applied. From ‘Dha’ we come down to ‘Pa using ‘Meend’. Badhavaa ban Laadli (sam) Ghar Aavo Maairi aaj
The portion allotted for abhivyakti, ‘how to express’ is alaap. Alaap means abhivyakti (exression): the thoughts that come to the artist's mind have to be given a vent, of which Alaap is a means.
3] Swar-Saundarya: d n r- g r- m g r- S r g m d- m – g r- S r g m d- d- d- d- d
Taans n n d m g r S- ; rs nd; sr gr gm gr;
The artist can express through the swar. Once you're in the mood, it's the lagaav that helps to make the recital beautiful and melodious. Illustration of Swar-Lagaav in Gunakali: S r m p d mm(s dp) mr s
S r m p d s d p m r s- (plain version)
There has to be an intense feeling of love
Sr m- m-; the original nature of the swar; drs dp, pm rs; harshness will destroy emotion in the swar. The delicateness of the notes should be maintained; the ‘samvedna’/ feeling behind the notes should be known to the artist.
4] Andolan:
Darbari: m p d- d- d- (andolan on dhaivata)
Ns r- pd n-; pn mp g- gmp gmr , dn ps; Miyan Taansen created this Raga Darbari Kanada.
Jin ke jiyaa mein ShriRaam base, un Sadhan aur kiyo naa Kiyo
Jin Sant Charan raj ko Parasa, un Tirath neer piyo na Piyo
5] Vivadi-swar Saundarya (Aesthetics created out of a Vivaadi note):
In Raga Chhayanat, vivadi swar (komal nishada) is taken. This forms an aesthetic aspect (spot).
S r g, m nd p Pr- gmp gm rs rsr s-; (Ye Ri Maalaniyaa Gunde Laavori) this is not a prominent swar. It is not used very frequently, but so used, that it evokes applause from the audience. Sudh naa lini Jabse Gaye Nainwaa Lagaaye, Jabse Gaye, Nainwaa Lagaaye ke (sam)
6] Shabda-Saundarya: In a thumri and a Dadra, the Shabda–Saundarya is important. Prominent pronunciation of words should accompany the swar. In this case the swar is not the single most important aspect of the performance. Almost equal importance is give to the ‘words’ of the composition.
7] Druggochara-Saundarya To illustrate, in Raga Bhairav: G m r S. r G m P G m r r S. r. G m d- P- m P G m r, r S. Imagine that it is early in the morning; the sun is about to come up - thus tranquility must be brought into the performance. It should be done in such a manner that a picture of dawn is created in the audience’s mind. In Raga Ramkali S gmp gm r- ; g- m- d- d-d- Gradually one the performer moves to the next note; S g m d- M P- P-; P g m d-
d- M p-;
s g- m d- M P-
M p s g d- g m-p m r-
This is the Pratima (image) Saundarya. The Pratima (image) of the sunrise is created. Some people call it impressionism.
8] Akruti-Saundarya / Taal-Saundarya, This is the beauty in the Taal. By the overall attractiveness of the recital produces an aesthetic effect.
9] Gaps (Avkaash-Saundarya): This was brought into prominence by the late Pt. Kumar Gandharva. This is the beauty of ‘Avkash’ (or meaningful pauses). He introduced beautiful gaps into his Music. He put in the gaps in such a way that even the small period of silence gained a meaning. This is known as the ‘latent effect’. The mind fills in the gaps automatically, but artistically.
Excerpts from the Question-Answer session:

Bol-banaav: The use of Nom-Tom in the Alaap and use of words from the Bandish in the taan while performing the bandish. It is an illustration introduced by artists of the Agra Gharana. Taranas do not have any (meaningful) words, still we find them attractive. How could one explain this? The beauty of Taranas lies in what is called as 'Akshara-Naad saundarya'. Taranas were actually meaningful constructions in the beginning. Amir Khan Saab originally composed them; as an offering to God. Later, however meaningless words were used for ludic purposes.

Taan-Saundarya: There is a misconception amongst the audience that Taan is singing; Taan is not singing. Taan is a Vaichitriya: special attribute; something extraordinary / different is appreciated by the audience. Actually Alaap is the place where you express yourself. The taan is applauded, because there is a skill in the performance of a taan. But you cannot actually ‘explain’ a raga with the help of taan only. For that Alaap is an absolute necessity.

Raga Ubhar: In some gharanas, it is a principle to keep the audience guessing as to which raga the artiste is performing. This is not the case in Gwalior gayaki. Artistes from this gharana are expected to start their performance in such a way that in the first two Alaap the listeners are able to guess the raga. This is known as ‘Raga Ubhar’. Is it possible to state some ‘Universal’ principles of Aesthetic creation which can be applied to any kind of Music. Some principles such as tunefulness, rhythm, structure, ability to appeal to the audience can be applied to any kind of music, but each of these is applied in a different way. This makes one kind of Music different from another. There are different kinds of styles unique to different artistes. But to the listener, every style sound melodious. Do the different artistes apply different principles of aesthetics?

All artistes have a unique personality. This personality is reflected in their style of Music. This makes their music unique. Bhairavi’s aesthetics: Bhairavi contains all the colours:
Baaju band khuli khuli jaaye, sawariyaan ne jaadu daala;
Jaadu ki pudiya bhar bhar dari, anchal ur ur jaaye.
Usually it is believed that Bhairavi induces calm and tranquility. But we find that sometimes it has been used in film songs that depict excitement. How do we explain this?

Actually, no Raag has any fixed 'personality' as such. For example, a usually calm person can get angry at times. Similarly even a Raga like Bhairavi can be used to depict moods other than tranquility. There are no hard-and-fast rules about this. Also, the ‘swar’ of Bhairavi are different from the ‘raga’ itself. In the Hindi film songs, only the ‘Swar’ of Bhairavi are used. In that case, the music composer uses the swar of Bhairavi, to create the mood he requires.

Courtesy: Dr. Vikas Kashalkar (vocalist)