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..!

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