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….

AS FAR AS WCM IS CONSIDERED, ALL THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN NOTATED AND WRITTEN UNDER THE SAME MAJOR SCALE.

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.

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