Grammar of Carnatic Music

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The Grammar of Carnatic MusicPhonology and Phonetics8EditorAditi LahiriMouton de GruyterBerlin New YorkThe Grammar ofCarnatic MusicbyK. G. VijayakrishnanMouton de GruyterBerlin New YorkMouton de Gruyter (formerly Mouton, The Hague)is a Division of Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin. Printed on acid-free paper which falls within the guidelinesof the ANSI to ensure permanence and durability.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataVijayakrishnan, K. G.The grammar of Carnatic music / by K. G. Vijayakrishnan.p. cm. (Phonology and phonetics ; 8)Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.ISBN 978-3-11-018313-9 (hardcover : alk. paper)1. Carnatic music Theory. 2. Music theory India. 3. Musicand language. I. Title.MT6.V54G73 2007780.95418dc222007038257Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche NationalbibliothekThe Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at 978-3-11-018313-9ISSN 1861-4191 Copyright 2007 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin.All rights reserved, including those of translation into foreign languages. No part of thisbook may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, includingphotocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permissionin writing from the publisher.Cover design: Christopher Schneider, Berlin.Printed in Germany.To my GurusKappumma and Akkaeum euttum eupiiyaay nirkkumthought and word will stand by attentivelyTable of ContentsAcknowledgements ixForeword by Paul Kiparsky xiForeword by Aruna Sairam xvChapter 1: Introduction 1Chapter 2: Language and (Carnatic) music 14Chapter 3: Issues in modeling the grammar:Language and Carnatic music 37Chapter 4: Conversion of pitch values to notes 73Chapter 5: Classifying pitch variations and assigning structureto a line of Carnatic music 104Chapter 6: Construing meaning in Carnatic music: Determining grammaticality 139Chapter 7: Construing meaning in Carnatic music: Style/Stylistic issues 180Chapter 8: The lexicon of Carnatic music 229Chapter 9: Accounting for variation in Carnatic music 267Appendix 1: A note on the roman notation 296Appendix 2: Another take on the mathematics of the twelve notes 299Appendix 3: An annotated selection of Carnatic music webpages 301Appendix 4: Carnatic music glossary 307Notes 311Bibliography 331Author and composer index 335Subject index 337Raagam index 341AcknowledgementsA book can never be written without the help of a host of people contribut-ing their mite to the success of the project. Being of a logical bent of mind, I shall start at the very beginning. My rst thanks goes to my Dad whose love of Carnatic music kept the music gene alive in me; my Mom and my brother, Ananth, whose implicit faith in me and my worth kept me in the Carnatic music world on which I would have turned my back long ago but for their staunch belief in my destiny; the project got realized solely because of my wife, Raji, who is my manager, conscience keeper and severe critic; my late night trysts with the laptop, struggling with the recalcitrant chapters owe a special thanks to Rajis understanding and adjustability. When I began working on the project I had no idea what I would do once I had the nished manuscript on hand! A giant of a thank you to my friend Aditi for offering to publish the book as part of her series Phonetics and Phonology (which is very appropriate in hindsight) with Mouton de Gruyter, Germany and her generous funding which allowed me to approach Sanjay Subrahmanyan and the Charsur Digital Workstation, Chennai for the making of the accompanying CD in MP3 format. Of course, I am immensely grateful to Sanjay for immediately agreeing to do the demo for me and Suresh Gopal-an, Charsur Work Station, Chennai, for being very patient and understanding with me during the recording sessions (where a thorough professional had to deal with a scatter-brained professor). I owe a great deal to Srinivasan Pichumani and Arvindh Krishnaswamy for extended email discussions on issues pertaining to the 22 srutis in Car-natic music which claried my own stand on the matter. Of course, errors of understanding are my own.Finally, writing of this sort, which is aimed at a mixed audience of mu-sic lovers and linguists, requires to be constantly vetted so that neither the music nor the linguistics get taken for granted leaving the poor reader in the lurch. I owe a special thanks to Francois Dell, Annie Rialland, Nick Cle-ments, Aditi Lahiri and her colleagues and my Carnatic music discussion group at CIEFL for patiently giving me a hearing and quizzing me when-ever I had taken too much for granted either in Carnatic music or linguistics; my thanks to Geetha Durairajan, Rajiv Krishnan, Deepti Ramadoss, Saumya, Bharani and Malathy for constantly insisting on more explanation. I am very x Acknowledgementsgrateful for the interaction with the CIEFL group when I presented my chap-ters 6 and 7. I am specially grateful to Jayaseelan and Amritavalli for some very insightful comments which set me on the right course. My gratitude to Vineet and Deepti for helping me with the staff notation and the diagrams respectively. My special thanks to N. S. Srinivasan, a musicologist of standing, who prodded me into thinking about matters musicological with his insightful, provocative comments. I am extremely grateful to Aruna Sairam, a very pop-ular performer and Prof. Paul Kiparsky, Stanford University, a great linguist and a Sanskritist for agreeing to write forewords for my book. I am doubly indebted to Prof. Paul Kiparsky for he not only wrote the foreword but also went through the rst draft of the manuscript with great care and provided me with detailed, critical comments which helped me reformulate the main ideas in the book. A very big thank you to all of you! I am grateful to Deepti Ramadoss, Hemalatha Nagarajan and Bharani for helping me in proong the manuscript. The book would have suffered without their timely help as my proong abilities are almost nil. And nally a big thank you to my editor Peter Gebert for being so very patient with me through the entire, painful process of long distance editorial consultations.Of course, long before I planned my book, unknown to me, every detail about the execution of my book had been thought out by my guru, Pujyasri Mathioli Saraswathy, who knew where the funding would come from for my book long before I did! My heart felt thanks to her. The best I can do is to dedicate this book to her. Foreword by Paul KiparskyVijayakrishnan approaches his subject from two perspectives which are rare in themselves and almost never joined in one individual. He is a veena player who is keenly aware of the principles and practice of his art, and can explain them clearly to others. He is also a linguist specializing in the study of speech sounds and their linguistic function and organization. Collaboration between the musician and the phonologist in a one-man interdisciplinary project has resulted in the ambitious account of Carnatic music presented here, certainly the rst which aspires to the status of a testable scientic theory.The book can be enjoyed at many levels. The casual reader and music lover will appreciate the wealth of information about how Carnatic music is performed and received. We learn especially about the authors own cham-ber music style of veena playing, whose characteristics he exemplies throughout in the accompanying MP3 collection. But he also paints a vivid picture of various other styles and schools of vocal and instrumental mu-sic, including the more amboyant concert hall style, again with illustra-tive analyses of performances by various well-known (but mostly unnamed) artists. Vijayakrishnans discussion is generous and even-handed, and he never lapses into proclaiming guidelines for musicians and their audience to follow; indeed his only strong words are directed against the hegemony of normative orthodoxy in Carnatic music circles. Thus the book provides a fascinating inside view of the current state of one of the worlds great clas-sical musical traditions. But this information serves a larger purpose in the book. It situates, and forms part of, the rich empirical evidence for the for-mal characterization of the Carnatic traditions musical grammar. In other words, Vijayakrishnans treatment of Carnatic music is neither prescriptive nor merely descriptive: it is analytic and explanatory. The reader who makes the effort to accompany him all the way on this intellectual journey will be well rewarded.Musical competence is seen as a cognitive system that distinguishes po-tential grammatical performances from ungrammatical ones and assigns them a musical structure. It constitutes the internalized musical knowledge that participants in the tradition acquire through experience and training, on the basis of their innate capacity for processing combinatoric systems. Musi-xii Foreword by Paul Kiparskycians must have such knowledge in order to perform, even when they may not be able to articulate it, and even if parts of it may be beyond intuitive introspection, accessible only through theoretical reection. The goal is to model this implicit grammar of music and to understand its properties.Vijayakrishnan argues in detail, on grounds that often parallel recent linguistic conclusions, that the most suitable framework for characterizing the grammar of music is Optimality Theory (OT). OT is a non-derivational theory: it relies on constraints that apply in parallel, not on rules that ap-ply in sequence. Its simple key tenets are that constraints are ranked and violable, and that violations are minimized. One of the attractions of OT is that it provides a precise reconstruction of concepts such as preference rules and relative complexity that have long gured in musical analysis, as well as an explicit account of how competition between preferences is negotiated within a constraint system.Vijayakrishnan also adopts some (but not all) of the specic assumptions about the nature of grammar that come from Optimality-Theoretic work on language. He posits two main types of constraints: Markedness constraints and faithfulness constraints. Markedness constraints, assumed to be psycho-acoustically grounded, function to assess the intrinsic complexity of vari-ous congurations. For example, the basic twelve tones of the scale are less complex (less marked) than their various modications. Faithfulness con-straints assess the distance between a musical form and a set of input struc-tures constituting the musical lexicon that denes a raga. Vijayakrishnan shows how the complex formal patterns seen in musical practice emerge from the competition between appropriately ranked simple constraints of these two types. A particularly interesting observation here is that context-sensitive distributional restrictions on marked tones can be explained as due to their avoidance in salient positions.The proposed constraint system is a parallel interpretive system which maps pitch values into musical representations. It shares many substantive features with those assumed in recent linguistics, as the author duly points out. Familar themes whose musical aspects are dealt with in the book include the emergence of the unmarked, the tension between modular organization and parallel evaluation, and between bottom-up parsing and top-town ef-fects, a predictive factorial typology, and the principled ranking of special constraints over general constraints (e.g. context-sensitive constraints trump context-free ones, and raga-specic constraints trump general ones). In these respects the analysis offers support for the OT model in a domain for which it was originally not designed.Foreword by Paul Kiparsky xiiiYet this theory is no slavish adaptation of ready-made linguistics. It re-veals fundamental formal differences between music and language. The most striking of these is that Carnatic music has no analog to syntax. It requires only a few levels of representation, all of which have counterparts in phonol-ogy. Vijayakrishnan cautiously restricts his claim to Carnatic music, noting that Western music might have additional levels of organization, including even syntactic ones. Such radical differences between two musical tradi-tions would be quite surprising, so the issue Vijayakrishnan has raised here is a crucial one. The case is by no means clear-cut; while it is true that phenom-ena such as phrasing and grouping into hierarchical melodic constituents have led researchers to posit a quasi-syntactic organization for music, they can arguably also be modeled with the enriched representations that have come out of prosodic phonology; let us also note that the traditional notion of syntax as the sole site of creativity is challenged by constraint-based models of language of the sort that this book adopts.Creativity is perhaps the central problem of art. This study distinguishes between several levels of creativity. There is Chomskyan creativity, the ev-eryday miracle of the productive use of the linguistic system (or in this case the musical system) to generate novel discourses or performances, which has long been the focus of linguistic research. Above it, and of special interest for esthetics, is Humboldtian creativity, the kind which renews the very system in which it is manifested. Here Vijayakrishnan introduces an illumi-nating distinction between scalar and idiomatic ragas and uses it to dene two levels of Humboldtian creativity. Scalar ragas are dened by a unique scale which is decomposable into smaller units that resemble other scales. Musicians may form new scalar ragas by analogically combining elements of existing scalar ragas, as easily as they may introduce stylistic novelties into the tradition. Idiomatic ragas, on the other hand, are not just scales, but sets of raga-specic tonal and melodic constraints, which are handed down from teacher to student through traditional compositions. The invention of new idiomatic ragas, given to a only a few individuals of genius (Tyagaraja and Veena Dhanam are cited) instantiates the very highest form of creativity, an awesome mystery that eludes scientic study at least at present.On the basis of his distinction between scalar and idiomatic ragas, Vi-jayakrishnan proposes a well-reasoned reform of music instruction, mod-eled on the proven techniques of second la...