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Stephen.bansuri

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Reply with quote  #1 

Some of the things that puzzle me about ICM do so quite genuinely but I have an ever growing library and I have great hopes. However one thing that puzzles me is the concept of tal. ....

Not that I cant understand it but that the way it is presented as being so very difficult leads me to think that if I cannot see a problem I have missed the point.


To start with Teental has 16 Matras per cycle divided into 4 equal vibhags, And Is repeated throughout a piece. How is that different to a piece in 4/4 time that is divided into semiquavers or 16ths and keeps going through a piece.

I understand that teental although common is not the only Tal. But then a great deal of western music is in other beats and has repeated beat patterns. In Bulgarian music groupongs of 13 that go 3 3 3 2 2 are fairly common and a seven beat equivalent of rupak is very common.

So first question what is that is so difficult that I am not able to see?

Second big question, as long as I am aware of where the vibhags fall in the cycle what difference does it make to me as a Bansuri player whether I know all of the tabla bols.Obviously all knowledge is helpful to some extent but how is such knowledge critical

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Tomek Regulski

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Reply with quote  #2 
Some of my observations:

  • Keeping track of taal and where sum falls as you improvise is certainly a challenge - some find it more so than others. 
  • The fact that there is this counterweight of kali in each tall gives them more shape than just thining of teental as 4/4 x 4, etc. There is a small drama/journey that happens even in just the basic theka. This is not unique to ICM, but it is certainly a notable characteristic. 
  • Furthermore, you have some cases like chautaal, where each section of four actually increases in density, so you have this linear build-up which releases upon the return of sum. 
  • However, you are correct in saying that many of the patterns and relationships show up in other types of music. People who have learned other traditions certainly have a useful frame of reference for learning concepts of taal, compared to people coming into ICM totally fresh. 
  • That being said, as someone who has studied the "western" classical music up through very recent developments, I can say that while one certainly sees high levels of complexity occur in other kinds of music, the vast repertoire of taal does not seem to have any parallels out there.
  • So, while it may not seem "hard" to someone who has already studied other forms of rhythm, there is a huge repertoire to internalize if one is truly going to go out there and be an artist on the stage. 
  • What does an instrumentalist gain by learning any of it? Playing with a percussionist is a sharing of musical experience. You bring the raga, and hopefully, they've learned something about that so they can appreciate what you're bringing to the table. The reverse is true as well, and the musical experience heightens when both players are able to track, in realtime, the big picture of what they are creating. 
Again, these are just my observations, but I hope at least a few are helpful. In my experience, it is not that any of the particular concepts are so difficult (now talking about both raag and taal), but that having them ready to go in the moment when one performs takes so much thought and preparation. 

With that, it's time for morning riyaaz 😉
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Stephen.bansuri

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Thanks so much for reply. One of the difficult things for someone still fairly new to this is knowing what prior experience is valuable, what is not what is downright misleading. Also when explaining to anyone else that they are western musician that the musical Training to be able to play sing and notate the likes of stravinsky, bartok schoenberg and even Dave Brubeck are very different to those that a western musician versed in the lighter side of things will have. Not that I demean these in the least. But I know I had relatively little problem learning to sing the thaats and recognise ragas that are in them as a result of a rigorous western training. 

When you speak of the vast repertoire of Tal from what I have read so far, which is not inconsiderable, there is a suggestion that relatively few of the repertoire are actually in common use. Certainly when we hear of Tals with beat cycles of very largenumbers people who play in them seem to be fairly rare.

From what you say about aboit communication between performers that perhaps this is the case in all styles of course the up and down of someone who only ever plays with a sruti box is that this live communication is missing! The chances of me finding a tanpura player and a tabla player where I live I am afraid are zilch. Still,playing Bhairav as an alap as the sun comes up On an empty beach has its charms!


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Tomek Regulski

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Glad I could be of some help!

Indeed - having prior musical training was helpful for me to distinguish the general swaras and keep rhythm, and provided further reference to contextualize various concepts. It's all sound, so the more references you have, the better. Structure, style, etc is a different story, and I found that those were best approached with a fresh mind. I might be overgeneralizing, but hopefully the point is clear. 

When I reference the "vast repertoire" of taal, I was actually referring to the countless rhytmic compositions that are found in each taal. Just like each raga has thousands of compositions that have been written using its melodic characteristic in various styles of raag-based music, the same is true for the taals. There are volumes of compositions written in each cycle, spanning several different categories. Many times, when tabla players seem to be improvising, they are actually pulling out one of the many compositions that they have memorized. 

For a performing raga artist (i.e. sitar, bansuri, vocal), knowing at least some of this repertoire will no doubt create a stronger bond between them and the drummer on stage. A top-level artist will likely have studied taal to a level where they are familiar with a good amount of the standard repertoire.

Now - if your question was about the worth of just learning the basic syllables to all the various taals out there (apologies if I misunderstood), then I would say at least learn the common ones so that you have a foundation for listening. However, if you are just learning what you can on your own, then of course focus your energy on whatever is giving you the most back. 

With that said, playing Bhairav alap for a beach sunrise is MY idea of living the dream[biggrin]. This music has so much to offer, and you don't have to master all topics to feel the benefits. Enjoy!
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Stephen.bansuri

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Reply with quote  #5 

Thanks again Tomek.

What you say about it being more difficult to learn structure and style really fits in with what I am experiencing.

I have taken the approach that the bansuri is basically a very simple instrument suited to playing very sophisticated music. And that the basic techniques, good breath control, finger coordination,strong and flexible embouchure and clean attack are identical for any transverse Flute.Of course there are special demands with ICM to do with meed and gamak but then must work out and practice techniques which allow the overuling principle of economy of effort to apply. Listen to players you like and find a way of doing the same thing.

.....Likewise as regards theory there is much I have learned and in learning been able to,set myself realistic goals. Being able to sing and recognise all of the thaats and then play them straight with meend and in gamak through the whole range of the instrument, learn to read Bhatkande notation properly and in Devanagari although I still think it is a very inelegant way of notating things! But I suppose it is a compromise with what was an aural tradition.

I have taken one raga in each thaat learned all Swaras and vadi and Samvadi and a few pakads. I would not claim to know the ragas but maknig progress is not an unreasonable claim.

As a composer I am intrigued with the way that pakads are formed,my impression is that they are shaped to bring out the unique structure of the rag they are written in and so learning them is one route but really understanding the way that the structure of intervals may be a more efficient approach.

But soon I will grind to a halt, when I you to teach students how to improvise jazz Imwas very aware that you could teach them how not to play any inappropriate notes but the step from avoiding inappropriate notes to playing music was a quantum leap.

And so as I reach the stage where I can say that I can play the Bansuri reasonably well I know only to well,that this does not mean I can play ICM reasonably well. Even listening is only helpful,if one knows what one is listening for. Beginner

I am certainly playing something that gives me pleasure and those who know nothing about ICM who hear a snatch think it is ICM.Whether anyone who knows anything about it wouod,recognise the rag that I am trying to explore is a different matter and maybe nit all that important but I don’t want to deny myself any relevant cultural education either.

And of course finding a really good teacher who will understand the position I am at Without wanting to teach me which fingers to out down and how to llay komal notes is problematic. Frankly the number of teachers who advertise on line  for beginner students who cannot play in tune themselves and certainly cannot sing in tune is depressing! 

At the moment I am reading Martin Claydons book on time in Indian music and often I come across concepts that I understand perfectly well but the names given to them and their individual components make it for me much more difficult to understand. Not that their is any criticism in that but layakari is one of these things I am sure that I understand exactly what is being said but I am not absolutely sure because of the explanation being couched in terms that I still have to think about.

Apologies to Admin for verbosity!

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