Monday, September 18, 2006

Lesson -49 : WCM Vs Carnatic - Melody Vs Harmony

We have seen the comparisons of WCM vs Carnatic w.r.t. the Pattern formation abilities, Modulation aspects and the flexibilities and rigidities etc.

Today we will see one more significant parameter which distinguishes WCM and CCM ( is that term Ok for Carnatic Classical Music ?)

To start the subject in over-simple way (!) , Imagine the following situations :

Case-1 :

One single person (or single instrument) is singing a line of a song….!


A group of persons (or set of instruments) all are singing the same line of the song in synchronization (Carnatic Experts singing Pancha Rathna Keerthanai in Thiruvaiyaar during Thiagaraja Aaradhanai….!)


A group of persons (or set of different instruments) all singing, but each one is singing different lines at a time….no control whatsoever…! (Like we sometimes sing Jana Gana Mana…..! )


A group of persons (or set of different instruments) all are singing different lines, but there is a controlled way of singing such that at any given moment of time, each one’s note is connected with other’s note with a specified relationships and all maintain strictly such relationships by singing their individual part with utter discipline.

In WCM terminology, the first category is called Monophony and the rest three categories are called Polyphony.

Individually, you can call the first Category as Melody singing, the 2nd one as Chorus singing in unisons , the 3rd is called the Cacophony and THE FOURTH TYPE IS HARMONY !

CCM practices and advocate the theory of First Category ie Melody and WCM the Fourth category…Harmony, which includes the Melody line also !

(you can witness the 2nd category in Carnatic to limited extent only in Thiruvaiyaar … … What they play or sing is the same song… in unisons…!)

Whereas you can categorize most of the other MDs of film music in the first three category, IR has uniquely positioned himself in the Fourth Category….!

That’s his USP…!

Whether you understood or not about the intrinsic nuances and rules of this 4th category, viz Harmony, over the years, you have been so developed and fine tuned by IR, in your listening habits, that you distinctly identify his style of this Harmony even unconsciously and enjoy this…!

Now my aim is to make you enjoy this consciously…that’s all !

While listing the 4th category (Harmony) above, I was stressing about the discipline …!

You can easily understand why that’s required ! Because, any elongation or cutting short will severely affect the relationship of musical notes or the silences each one is playing or singing…!

Now, you yourself can vouch for that strict discipline IR is demanding from every singer and player…while they perform their part !

Because…..hundreds of notes (and even silence….!) form a single line of song….and mulitiple singing involves such multiplied notes composing…!

When you put such huge efforts for specific purpose of setting the Relationships of Notes and Silences, how much painful it will be to loose that relationships…!! And spoil the song…!

CCM allows the freedom of improvisation of a song while singing, but within the pre-defined parameters like : no modulation, no change of raagams, no abaswarams etc, no "dhush-prayog” of prayogams , maintaining the bhaavam of songs, following concert etiquettes etc.

That’s quite possible in CCM, being the follower of a single line melody concept, you are not going to spoil others…since, ‘effectively’ there is no presence of “others” !

All the other instruments and percussions are basically serving the supportive” role only and not to do the parallel “domination” or improvisation….!

(Even if Lalgudi has to play for MS Subbulaksmi, he knows how to downplay or play the “exact role” )

Of course each will get their own chance to show their skills in a specified time allocated as “Thani Aavardhanam…”

Similarly, in CCM in the name of improvisation, we can witness a lot of “frills” are getting added to show one’s skills as well as to show the nuances of Raagam & song one is singing…!

Traditionally, in film music, from the period of Baagavathar, to TMS to SPB to Hariharan ……., that’s expected from them as a natural output …. to show their skills…even many MDs giving instructions to the singers to improvise on their own ….!

Not in case of IR……! For obvious reasons….!

Now you can understand why IR is not wrong…!

Why the people who never understood that concept (in his early career of IR), has made drastic comments and left him…!

Its all the stuff called Harmony of “Category Four” which made that !

As you know, WCM has only Major and Minor scales.

All the relationship rules of Harmony are based on the intervals of the notes of these scales only as perceived by WCM exponents and developed over the period of time !

There are ocean of such Harmony rules and findings…..

which is ideal,
which is good,
which is tolerable,
which is not tolerable,
which is to be avoided

etc etc…..

Such harmony concept enriches WCM in spite of the limitations of number of patterns it can offer…!

Also you can easily recognize that WCM by its nature of Harmony concept with multiple lines is so helpful in Orchestral Music composition !

Orchestration is the life line of Film Music!

In short… If you want to term the CCM concept as Horizontal expansion oriented, …..WCM concept is the Vertical expansion oriented……!

But IR’s ingenuity and strength is on the creation of his magic of applying these Harmony concept and rules to Carnatic Raagas…!

Which nobody would have imagined/dared to do that !

Thus giving a new Music entity to the World, which is enriched in both Horizontal and Vertical directions…..!

Enriched Many times exponentially !

We on this part of the world and living in this period of this legend, are so lucky and fortunate to witness and listen such music…!

And specially, we the IR followers are so blessed to have realized (consciously or un-consciously) that divine gift given to us by him and we have developed such taste to appreciate and retain that !

Only when we understand that consciously and make efforts to sustain, we can carry that for our next generation !

So far, the comparisons made between these WCM & CCM are basically to understand, the basic and fundamental frameworks adopted by the individual musical philosophies only.

It is not to compare the superiority of one over another !

Each has its own advantages, flexibilities, rigidities etc.

But the final aim is to make you appreciate how IR adopted both to the advantage of music field and enriched our life !

From next lesson onwards, we will get back into the WCM concepts on Harmony and chords and related topics..!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lesson -48 : WCM Vs Carnatic - Modulation Aspects - Part-2 - IR THE WISER !

Please Listen from IR Album "How To Name It?" two numbers of pieces titled,

“I Met Bach….” &

“…. And We Had Talk…”.

Here IR has given a new look to the Bach’s Prelude in A-Major as well as Bourre in E-Minor.

(This prelude of Bach is available in the Ilaiyaragam file section also ! Please Click here and download the midi file part3emj.mid and the tab file Bourree In Em-00.tef In case you want tab software, download the exe file tabled32.exe ) .

In the prelude, what Bach has done 300 years ago is writing a composition for Violin piece in A-Major scale and is continuously modulating into various major and minor scales in a sequence….!

During such transition from one scale to another, if you look at Carnatic angle…., you can perceive a different rainbow of Carnatic Raagams !

So the brilliant IR has identified those transition zones and in order to highlight them he added one more Carnatic line to the existing Bach’s composition and Plays the both Western Bach (300 years ago) with Carnatic IR in synchronized fashion…!

IR's imagination is "Had Bach met Thiagaraja and both understand each others music and joined hand to create a New World of Music ...?!!"

That's the theme of HTNI !

If you hear the Bach’s composition and then IR’s HTNI’s piece you will be so mesmerized….who is playing for whom…?

Is Bach is doing the background music for IR or IR is doing the background for Bach…?

Its with so much Perfect Balance between WCM and Carnatic…!

And this is what to be called as fusion…!

Which made this possible for IR…?

Imagine if he remained himself constrained to any one field, the net result is he would have remained a good disciplined fellow for that particualr field but we all would have been starved of certain GEMs !

His imagination and enthusiasm of bringing the best out of two by adding the advantages & flexibilities of both the field only made this possible!

He has been doing that right from Annakili…..!

With "Potruvar Potralum...Thootruvar Thootralum...Pogattum Kannanukke...!" type of resolutary mind !

Imagine, one person is offering you the plate consist of gold ornaments….! Another person is offering the plate consists of full of diamonds…!

Imagine both says you take only theirs and not others !

And I feel the wiser approach is to get both the gold and diamond and make a Diamond studded Gold ornament!

The value and look and elegance….. everything is multiplied, rather than when they are seen as an individual !

But imagine if both the persons who offered the individual gold or diamond, now started criticizing that he spoilt the gold with diamond and vice versa….!

So to conclude the WCM Vs Carnatic perceptions, let me summarise like this….!·

-Carnatic gives the flexibility of Patterns but pose the constraints of their usage and shifting from one to another….!

- WCM has the constraint of Patterns but has flexibilities of usage or shifting from one to another…!

And the wiser sense tell that ……AVAIL ALL THE FLEXIBILITIES OF BOTH……rather than worrying about their constraints !


To recognize those things, one will need a century ! And to learn and follow that ……centuries and centuries are needed…!

Like the genius mathematician Ramanujam, he has written thousands of such Musical Theorems in short steps in each of his musical compositions…!

To solve and realize and prove and adopt them is for the next generation job….!

To perceive that we have to educate ourselves…. So that even if it is not possible for us to do, we can guide our next generation towards that !

And can see them attaining that with enjoyment and self-satisfaction !

Our discussion on WCM Vs Carnatic will continue for one last time which will lead us to the new zone of WCM learning…

That is introduction to Chords & Harmony…..!

Lesson -47 : WCM Vs Carnatic - Modulation Aspects - Part-1

In the last few discussions, we have seen the apparent benevolence of Carnatic scheme in bestowing upon us in terms of numerous pattern formations and thereby the possibilities of using numerous ragas by us while composing a song.

But at the same time, Carnatic scheme is disciplining us "Hello, all raagams are available to you OK…But use only one at a time….! And dont spoil its appearance & structure !"

On the other hand, WCM is constrained with the number of patterns it has its just three or so

But there is no restrictions whatsoever from jumping one from pattern to another…!


Its not only just shifting of scale, even the shifting of tonic…!

Which is un-thinkable in Carnatic scheme ! Major to major ……Major to Minor……..Minor to Major ….etc etc…!

This is what called Modulation….as explained earlier….!

The only fundamental guidance WCM prescribes is “While Modulating from One scale to Another, it is preferably effected by change of any one note …either by raising of note or flattening of note ! and reach another Major or Minor…!”

For example if you are in C-Major, You can modulate to the following :

Once you have modulated to the other nearby major or minor, then you are having again the options of further modulating upwards to additional sharps or flats OR modulating back to original…. Previous one….!

As you can appreciate now, while one makes the gradual transition from one scale to another, in the transition zone, you may be getting the notes of both old scale and the new modulated scale…!

Which may create an illusionary effect to Carnatic experts that some shifting of Raagam is taking place !

For the WCM expert , he did nothing new except that he was following the modulation rules…!

Again the change of raagam perceptions also one shall look at two basis :

One way is without noting the shifting of Tonic, you name the swarams and see it as a ragam of EXISTING TONIC only and measure the shift of raagam and name it….!

Second perception is clearly identifying & feeling the CHANGED TONIC and measure the deviations from the new Tonic..and perceive the shift of raagam and name it….!

Whatever, the case may be, one thing is sure, that in the “changing zone” of one color to another, you can certainly get some “Rainbow” of colors !

Thats what the precise case IR was "highlighting" in his How To Name It……!

Where he compares the Modulation Effects of Bach's compostion with our Outlook of Raagam !

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Lesson-46 : Scale Vs Raagam - A Bird's Eye view!

We saw the 72 basic patterns of Carnatic Scheme in our last discussions. These are called Melakartha Raagam.

Which itself is reflecting the relatively wider canvas Carnatic is handling than WCM.

But Carnatic again open its avenue for further pattern formation with various options!

All such other Raagas are seen as the derivatives of one of these 72 parent raagam.

Basically we must understand one basic difference between Scale and Ragam.

As emphazised at the time of explaining Scale earlier, the combination of notes in a particular pattern gives a feeling. In Raagam also that created feeling is most important.

But in Carnatic, such a feeling is not only created by mere availability of swarams / keys / notes in the pattern, but also by :

-the way the combination of these notes take place to form some identifiable phrases,
- the way the stress on certain notes or leser stress on certain notes, or some frills on certain notes etc are made

and so on.....!

To illustrate the point, you may check that with the Same Major scale notes, if you omit certain notes altogether and try to play a song, it will be giving a totally different feeling.

For example, omit the Sub-Dominant and Leading note in a Major scale ( ie omit F and B in a C-Major scale) , the resulting pattern with 5 notes is significantly different. In Carnatic scheme this is called “Mohanam”.

Similarly, by omitting the Sub-Dominant and Sub-Mediant in a Major scale (for example, omit F and A in C-major), we can get different pattern, which is called “Hamsadhwani” in Carnatic.

Even with the same 7 swarams, if you empahasize a particular combination of notes as phrases, then that is separately recognized as different Raagam.

For example instead of Sa Ri Ga Ma….. you use the phrase as Sa Ga Ri Ma..... and emphasise this in the pattern, this is considered as a different raagam. (here you break the sequence of notes either in ascending or descending or both )

So what I try to explain, unlike Scale, which decided the 7 notes that should be available in a pattern and named it Major or Minor and left the matter there itself, Carnatic Raagam scheme, gives importance to the combination and type of usage of notes also and register that as a separate Entity.

In WCM, while playing the song even if one omits certain notes repeatedly and later on added back etc , till the time one is using the notes defined for Major scale, it is within the Major scale.

But, In Carnatic, the song will be identified as Mohanam or Hamsadhwani, etc etc.

Again in Carnatic concert, when one sing a song on Mohanam pattern, he must use that raagam through out that song… (even though certain songs are composed as raaga maalika with different raagams, but these are exceptions..)

Similarly, what you see in the Melakartha Table (provided to you) as No 8 Thodi, has the same 7 notes as Sindhu Bairavi (not considered as Melakartha).

But the usage and stressing and frills (Gamakams) of certains notes differentiate Thodi (Gangai Karai mannanadi…) from Sindu Bairavi… (Naanoru Sindhu , Poongatru pudhiraanadhu..etc…) !

So Raagam is having deeper meaning and connotations when compared to the Scale of WCM.

Though the swarams of Keeravani or Nata Bairavi may be matching with the Minor scales, a song in WCM Melodic Minor and Carnatic Natabaiaravi may be giving a different feeling for the new listener !

Same is the case with Sanakarabaranam and the Major Scale, even though they are having same 7 notes.

If you look at the same point of above para in another angle,

WCM allows you to roam with the “Flexibility” while Carnatic binds you with “Rigidity” of one-song-one-raga concept.

In Carnatic, Any additional swarams or change of swarams will be viewed as Abaswaram and indicate your lack of knowledge or seen as your inability to follow the swarams and raagam disciplines.

[ This was the precise case, in the earlier periods, when IR was used to be criticized by Carnatic exponents…. For mixing up of swarams, whereas He was knowingly using the WCM perspectives on Carnatic with due love and respect for both! ]

In Pattern formation, Carnatic gives the enormous Flexibility, (but for a single song, it poses a discipline of sticking to same raagam/ pattern).

Some patterns formed from Major Scale equivalent are given below as examples : (Raagam – Ascending – Descending )

As you can see and feel, the options of pattern formations are many in Carnatic .

- Same ascending and descending –
- Different ascending and descending –
- Even 6 notes pattern – 5 notes pattern – 4 notes pattern etc
- Pattern with violation of sequence of Sa-Ri-Ga-Ma etc etc….


See closely the minute change of Aarabhi and Bilahari (Maaman Voodu machu voodoo);

Difference in Aarabhi ( Aasai Kiliye…) and Suddha Saaveri (Kovil Mani Osai thannai);

Similarity of Aarabhi and Devagaandhaari (remember the famous fighting between Ragavendhar (Judge) and Krishnan (driver) in film Sindhu Bairavi…? )

Note the slightly complicated pattern of Kedhaaram (Pon Maalai Pozhudhu) and Neelambari etc.

My aim is to give you some idea about the pattern formation ability of Carnatic scheme in comparison with the WCM.

In order to avoid too much deviations from present WCM discussions we are aiming at, I restrict myself here now.

In our next session, let us see some of the points on Modulation aspects of WCM vis-à-vis Carnatic scheme.

Lesson-45 : A Glimpse of Melakartha Table

As discussed earlier the basic raagam pattern exercises will yield 72 raagams called Melakartha Ragams.

The Melakartha table is illustrated below for your easy ready reference.

(Click here and Download the Excel File format from the file section of Ilaiyaragam Group)

Examine that carefully…! And particularly visualize their grouping !

They are basically divided into 2 Major divisions

36 ragams based on M1 and remaining 36 ragams based on M2.

Within that also, they are arranged in groups of Six, each called “Chakra”.

Also the name of ragam is so selected that, from the first two letters you can tell their number (there is a method for that !), and from their number you can easily make out that what kind of variants of R, G, D and N are used in that particular raagam.

Amazing…isn’t it…!

Just like Periodic Table we used in the Chemistry …..! Very number will indicate you the property of the element…!

Also, you can see from the Melakartha table and examine the Sanakarabaranam pattern (no 29 ) and check whether it matches with our Major Scale pattern.

Similarly, Keeravani (21) matches our Harmonic minor scale, Gowri Manohari (23) matches our Melodic Minor ascending, and Natabairavi (20) matches our Melodic Minor descending pattern !

So WCM is having only 4 recognised patterns against the 72 patterns of Carnatic.

This makes the Carnatic the richer…! Isn’t it ?

Now, on Pattern formation w.r.t. Carnatic as well as WCM, we have some comparative ideas.

So, once again, we are wiser than yesterday …. .!

In the next session, we will further expand our knowledge on other Pattern formations in Carnatic scheme.

That will give you a picture of the Scale Vs Raagam concepts !

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