Archive for July, 2017

Melody and Prosody

July 30, 2017

Melody and Prosody are two terms in English language associated with Music and Lyrics respectively. Melody is actually a kind of music created by successive sequencing of musical notes (as compared to Harmony, which is musical effect created by a combination of simultaneously sounded notes like in an orchestra). Melody depends on predefined scale of 7 (or less) notes. I presume Melody is a term that might have evolved from the Sanskrit word MELA. Mela represents a scale of 7 notes but still Mela is much more than just a scale. It also means Sruthi (or basic notes), also ‘vibrations’ both physical and metaphorical and also a general musical atmosphere.

On the other hand Prosody is about the meter, rhythm and intonations of a verse or a poem. Rhythm and meter, although closely related, should be distinguished. Meter is the definitive pattern established for a verse, while rhythm is the actual sound that results from a line of poetry. I presume the term Prosody could have evolved from the Sanskrit word ‘prasa’ which roughly means alliteration in a verse or poetry. Sanskrit and Tamil grammars of so-called prosody describe many types of poetical features such as: prasa, chanda, tala (rhythm) and various other poetical ornamentations. When talking about music, we talk of Melakattu and Talakattu. In Hindi they talk Tal-Mel for a pleasant relationship between any two entities. When we welcome special guests we do it with Mela-talam (மேளதாளம்).

Prasa generally in use are of three types – Dwitiya Akshara Prasa, Prathama Akshara Prasa and Anthima Akshara Prasa.  Verses and poetry in Sanskrit, Tamil and in fact in most of the Indian languages use these prasas. In this post I wish to show how these prasas enhance the musical value, of any poetry, or a musical composition by itself. Let us take the following four lines of beautiful poetry by Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi:

சுட்டும் விழிச் சுடர்தான் கண்ணம்மா

சூரிய  சந்திர ரோ

வட்டக்   கரிய விழி  கண்ணம்மா

வானக் கருமை கொல்லோ

பட்டுக்  கரு நீல  புடவை

பதித்த நல் வயிரம்

நட்ட நடு நிசியில் தெரியும்

நட்சத் திரங்க ளடி

 

Suttum, Vatta, Pattu and Natta appearing as the first words of each line alliterate using Dwitiya Akshara Prasa; (i.e.) their second syllable ‘tt’ repeat in each line. This is also known as Edhukai (எதுகை) in Tamil.  In addition, the second part of each line rhymes as below:

(Suttum, Soorya) – (Vatta, Vaana) – (Pattu, Padhittha) – (Natta, Natsha) : the first letters of the pair of words alliterate. This is known as Prathama Akshara Prasa or Monai  (மோனை) in Tamil.

Now coming to ‘Chanda’ (சந்தம் in Tamil), it is how the intonations are arranged in a rhythmic sense. In the above poetry, the chanda that is followed is somewhat as below:

Ta-ka Ta-ka di-mi-ta-m ta-ka-di-mi

Ta-ki-ta ta-ki-ta ta-a-m (ta-Ki-Ta)

 

It is interesting to note that the last tala-syllable, Ta-Ki-Ta  is in brackets to indicate it is silent. Why is it needed? Now we come to the third aspect of our prosody, Tala. The poem is set to Adi talam (tisra nadai), of 8 Ta-ki-ta’s; last ta-ki-ta being silent enabling easy return to the beginning of rhythm cycle. The poet maintains same prasa, chanda and tala in the later stanzas also.

 

Now we need to add Melody to this beautiful Prosody. You may listen to Vidwan (late) Maharajapuram Santhanam’s immortal rendering of this poem set to melodious music, as below:

 

If you want to listen to other stanzas click on the following link

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtAsaLdyZXw

 

  • L V Nagarajan / 08 Jul 17

 

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Nadopasana

July 25, 2017

(Nada Upasana)

There is no better way to invoke the blessings of Almighty than to do Nadopasana (i.e.) invocation to divine Nadabrahma.

It is difficult to describe Nada in one word. It is Sound, but really more than just the sound. It is Vibrations, but more than just vibrations, physical or metaphorical.

It is the first form of energy, released by the union of Shiva and Shakti, to start the entire Creation. It all started with a Big-Bang.

From Hindu scriptures we learn, the seed of this energy (Nada Bindu) is dormant in Shiva, and is enhanced by the active Energy of Shakti. ‘Kala’ are the ways by which this Nada is expressed. This is why we pray to lord Subramanya, as ‘Nada Bindu Kalaadhi Namo Namo’. In its divine from, it is invoked as Nada Brahmam, and practiced by sages as Nada Yoga.

In Indian Carnatic Music, there are many kritis (compsitions) by Saint Thyagaraja, grouped as Nadopasana Kritis, which describes Nada Upasana (i.e., invoking Nada as Nada Brahma). Saint Thyagaraja practices it himself and extols those who have practiced it. Here are a few typical ones from which we get a very good idea of Nada Brahmam.

“O Mind! By becoming a lover of Nada, attain the eternal Bliss. By total involvement in that music through countless ragas which result by the manipulation of the seven notes of music and which fulfills all the righteous desires, attain such a Bliss. Know that it is by this expression and experience of Nada that the trinity -Indra, Ganesha and Subrahmanya and other personages had done upasana. Myself, Thyagaraja is also aware of this”. (Nadaloludai – Raga Kalyana Vasantham)

“O Mind! Praise the divinely beautiful forms of the seven musical notes, which originate, glow and then pass through in the navel, heart, vocal chords, tongue and nose of the human body. (These seven notes) shine in the four Vedas and in the sublime Gayathri Mantra as its essence. (These seven notes) sparkle in the hearts of, the celestial beings, the worthy Bhusuras and in myself, Thyagaraja”. (Sobhillu Saptha Swara – Raga Jaganmohini)

“Hari, i.e., God Vishnu, is immensely pleased with the garland made of a hundred melodious ragas. Let us adore and adorn (him with this garland) and be bestowed with abundant fortune. The garland of ragas is embellished with the essence of vedas, the six sastras, the epics and the Agamas (science of architecture). It is said that the sages and seers are blessed with eternal Bliss by such adoration of God. These are the songs that the most fervent devotees sing and immerse in. The garland of ragas would bestow salvation to me, Thyagaraja also. (Ragaratnamalikache – Raga Ritigaula)

 There many more such krithis such as: Sangita-jnanamu; Nada tanum anisam; Gitarthamu; Nadopasanace; Mokshamugalada and Svara-raga-sudha etc.

Let us also, with our limited capability and in all humbleness practice this Nadopasana.

– Nagarajan L V : 19/5/2017