Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Architectural conventions in modern Hindustani music

Architectural conventions govern the sequencing of the improvisatory movements and their integration with the composition to shape the totality of the Raga presentation. The sequencing logic is based on widely accepted assumptions about human comprehension. Anyone who has been a teacher will easily recognize these principles as being equally applicable to education. 

Sequentially, the rendition begins with the slowest movements, and moves steadily towards the faster movements.  It starts from the melodically and rhythmically simpler movements, and moves towards to the more complex movements. It commences with the relatively unstructured movements in which the details are transparent, and progresses towards the more structured movements, where the detail can often get blurred.  The sequencing of movements is exponential in terms of density and complexity.

Complexity is a self-evident term. But, what do we mean by density? In melody, it is measured by the number of explicit intonations per second. In rhythm, it will mean number of beats per second. The density of the overall musical experience can be visualized in terms of sound-bytes delivered per second.

Within each movement, the melody undergoes a cyclical treatment. Why should there be any prescribed pattern?  To begin with, art music has to be disciplined. In the process of providing ample scope for individual creativity, it cannot permit any facet of it to be random or whimsical. The melodic framework of a Raga is the primary emotional trigger, and has to be given complete scope for performing this function. The minimum condition for this is that the exploration of the Raga must go through ascending, descending and valedictory motions through two octaves in the major – if not all – movements in order to release its emotional charge inherent in the melodic framework.

Schematic representation of architectural conventions

This combination of exponential sequencing of movements and cyclical melodic formations within each movement will be easier to appreciate with a schematic representation.

It will be observed in the graph that there 
 is an exponential trend-line representing the density and complexity. Running through it is a cyclical wave pattern representing the melodic path. 

This model is verifiable by a systematic plotting of melodic and rhythmic trends in a modern Hindustani music performance. Raga-based music in the medieval Dhrupad-Dhamar genre would need to be represented by a different architectural model.