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Stephen.bansuri

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Reply with quote  #1 

If this is verging on being off topic I apologise!


As a latecomer to ICM although with a very heavy training in WEstern Classical music I have an intriguing question which I don’t expect there will be an answer to but whose discussion may be interesting.

I started from the point of always having liked the sound of ICM but having had too much respect for it to get seriously involved to a position where I absolutely fell in love with the sound of the Bansuri and being a pro recorder player and composer among other things decided that I had to learn more about it From a much deeper position of knowledge. This is going very well but I still wonder about similar what educated ICM musician hears from both an emotional and a technical point of view is the same that I as an educated western musician hear when I hear ICM.

A concrete example of this is to do with what western musicians would call bitonality. I can only explain this fully in western terms but if anyone understands Where I am coming from I would love to hear what people more experienced than me think.

If we start with a drone of Sa and Pa This in both systems gives us a tonic grounding. However when we start to play a raga and use a Vado svara and samvadi svara the fact they are very often the same distance apart actually establishes in my ear the equivalent of a horizontally established alternative which is played simultaneously with the drone. Now clearly the ear unsullied by western practice may not experience the same thing and certainly would probably not explain it in the same way. But this phenomenon can be heard as a foundation for bitonality. Taking it further very often groups of svaras within a raga can also to a western ear suggest even further tonal areas.. Now I know the answer is probably think Indian, forget it , but forgetting 50 years of conditioning is impossible and to be honest the aural training I had in this system has really helped me in my work in singing thaats and mastering sargam notation but I cannot help wondering if ICM practicioners would recognise what I am taking about or whether I am appreciating the beauty of something through my own little lens.


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AllenDS

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Reply with quote  #2 
There is a theme to this and your other thoughtful posts. Because I can't help being me, I'm reminded of my training to see the similarities between quantum physics and advaita vedanta philosophy. One might hope that those who would describe the world at the subtlest level would understand each other, but alas they don't (generally). It's not easy being me!

More to your point (and, of course, we all know this), a raga is that which colors the mind (among other things, lol!). So as long as your heart and mind travel to the intended destination, you're golden. Yes, some would say it's a journey, but language, symbols and metaphors are only tools.

Tools... I love tools! But after I craft a hand-made gift, the recipient only perceives magic.

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Stephen.bansuri

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks Allen. One of the things that leads me to the confusion is one forum where there is a mantra of ‘trying to leanr anything without a guru is doomed to faioure and a sign of arrogance’ Now I would agree that trying to do everything that way it may be the case. But you can’t unlearn what you already know and seeing things that you already know from a different perspective only broadens understanding. I don’t know what it is like with the gurus in other instruments but somany of the Bansuri gurus seem to disagree with each other and To be frankly honest I am not in agreement with the idea that there is only one way to learn anything. Depends on circumstances location and prior knowledge. So even if in carving a line out of the laid down constituents of a raga if I miss the point, and I don’t do this intentionally if it makes me happy so what, as long as I don’t pretend that I am being authentic. I still want to try though. Frankly I have heard one or two very silly things from the gurus that some folks have and although I am the first one to take good advice and instruction I am old enough and have been involved in music for long enough to recognise the down right silly particulalry when they domt all agreè.
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Tomek Regulski

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Reply with quote  #4 
So - do you mean that you find the fifth/fourth relationship of the vadi/samvadi to sometimes suggest a second tonic? I think that is an interesting idea, and not necessarily antithetical to the raga. I think one could even make the arguement that, as one unfolds the raga, there are several instances that could be perceived as temporarily tonicizing most, if not all, of the notes. It would then be possible that the vadi/samvadi might stand out as a strong secondary harmonic structure. 

However, I would caution against committing to the above too soon. First of all, the vadi/samvadi concept is debated to various degrees. It is, to my understanding at least, a simplification of the idea that a raga can defined by the perceived balance of each note against Sa, and then against the rest of the notes. 

Feeling for this balance is a key element in learning the ragas beyond fixed lines and compositions. While the experience you describe above has not been something that I personally have come up against, I certainly struggled with feeling the notes the same way, regardless of the tanpura tuning (ie. Pa, Ma, or Ni in that first string). Ni was not so bad, but Ma would totally mess with me, as that flips the fourth/fifth relationship, my harmonic training kicks in, and I hear Ma as Sa, Sa as Pa, Ga as Ni, etc etc. 

The way I approached this was to practice for an extended period of time with just Sa in the tanpura. I play sitar and surbahar, so I also took the Ma/Pa string out of my chikari (drone) strings, thus simplifying the drone to just Sa. This helped solidify the feeling of each note against Sa, and I was able to sink into this concept of balance. Over time, I started feeling "Ma tanpura" ragas as simply the absence or significantly minor role of Pa in that raga, and the heavier presence of Ma against Sa. 

Ultimately there is nothing wrong with your harmonic training coming into the equation - it will come to shape your personal style. However, I do think it is necessary in the beginning to take some steps to dampen it a bit, so it can rewire and filter through the concepts of raga. However, once you get through that (you will, long tone exercises against a Sa-only tanpura are a great doorway into this), your skills will kick in in a new way. They will help build your understanding of all the connections in that raga and to build longer lines/episodes on your own.

I hope that all makes sense. It is unfortunate that there are teachers out there who feel the need to put each other down. I would steer clear of that. I would recommend looking for someone who is a good fit for what you are looking to accomplish, though. Ultimately that kind of relationship will help cut through some of the cloudiness, and help focus all the above while giving helpful feedback on the development of your expression. 

To use your words - it will indeed be beauty through your own lens, which is the ultimate goal in all this (rather than imitating someone else), and it will be amplified by the feeling of bringing that all into the raga. 
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Stephen.bansuri

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Reply with quote  #5 

That is indeed the basic Idea Tomek but it goes both further , aNd not so far at the same time.


I certainly wasn’t intending to base all of my forays into ICM on this idea but let me explain a little further.

As you picked up from my OP the idea that vadi and samvadi are often a fourth or fifth apart does mean that these two notes alone of stressed enough can set up an alternative simultaneous tonic.

To explain this fully I need to take a diversion into atonality rather than bitonality.

I don’t know if you are aware of this concept but in dodecaphonic music in creating the row, which in some respects has something in common with a raga exception each nite in an octave must come once and only once and in its essential form cannot be repeated until every other note has been played. The aim of this is to destroy the concept of tonic or Sa in such a way that notes are related only to,each other and no concept of tonic should exist.

This means in effect that the twelve tone row, the initial rag, must avoid certain consecutive notes because consecutive nites can have implications for tonality as much as simultaneous ones, For instance the notes c d e in succession give a feeling for three nites of c major. F A Eb give  the feeling of the dominant seventh of Bb and such a chord and such an interpretation destroys the feeling of atonality which is why the composition of the original row is so challenging.Writing a series of notes with melodic potential in original and manipulated form which avoid any tonal implication is not easy.

If you are still with me I can return to ICM but I am afraid I will need to,dot back and forward between both systems to explain my idea. Although the vadi and samvadi can create an alternate tonic to the drone so can consecutive notes sometimes going through three or four keys and how the rag is developed can focus on any of these area. So owe take rag Marwa for instance with an aroha of NrGmDNS which in western can be represented as B C# E F# A B C and by looking at and playing with these notes in the right way we can reference B minor A major E minor and even A 7 with a flattened third the archtypal jazz chord and this on top of a drone of Sa pa which in european in this context is C G.

the whole point is that there is an enormous range of clashes of tonality which the music can flash though in an instant which is perhaps why the whole,things is just so rich to a western ear. Even a western ear that cannot appreciate the my convoluted chain of thiught


However there is absolutely no way that I would try to approach the performance of a raga with all this in mind. Sponatneity would go oit of the window and it so obviously was never intended that anyone should approach a raga like this. And apart from anything else by the time intricacies of Tal had been included into the equation no human mind could cope with it. But I still can’t help trying to see what it is that creates the magic and why and how. And as I am a composer that is had
y surprising. I have written to Prof Matrtin Clayton at Durham University about this idea and he could,see where I was coming from but thought that I would have problems finding anyone who understand enough about both areas to get any informed comment.

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geezerjazz

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Reply with quote  #6 
I don't know how authentic such thoughts are, but there is no shame in having them. Why not use your own unique perspective to bring something new to the table?

Like you, I often recognize subsets within raga scales. For me most often they are major pentatonic scales, such as the ones contained in subsets of ragas such as Marwa, Yaman, Todi, Bhimpalasi, etc. It may or may not be traditional to emphasize such relationships, but maybe you can create something new by doing so.
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Tomek Regulski

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Reply with quote  #7 
Stephen, thank you for sharing a view into your experience! I am well aware of the concepts of dodecophony - in school I studied the idea from Schoenberg, up through Dallapicolla and Nono, though at this point it's been close to a decade since I've thought about the technique too much, haha...

Sorry if I took your intentions with the music the wrong way - I think it's very interesting what you are saying, though it sounds like a very personal experience, and I can't quite hook into it myself. 

One thing I can understand is this idea that even a simple melodic fragment can suggest underlying harmony. Reading your response helped me remember that I did struggle with this to a certain degree at the beginning, where I would second-guess playing something as simple as SRG because my brain associated that with I-V-I. It was definitely a stage that I went through in my approach to this music. 

That was a long time ago, though, and I think the more I listened to great raga performances and devoted a lot of thought to the elements that define this music, I was able to properly compartmentalize the whole thing in a separate mind box. 

Anyways, I don't want to belabor the topic. Again, I think it's all very interesting, and just goes to show how our individual musical experiences build up and contribute to how we perceive new ideas. 
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