All about Music..

Important : Do not miss the end part of this post 🙂

General Definition of Music: The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

Western Definition: Art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm, melody, and, in most western music, harmony. Music most often implies sounds with distinct pitches that are arranged into melodies and organized into patterns of rhythm and metre. The melody will usually be in a certain key or mode, and in western music it will often suggest harmony that may be made explicit as accompanying chords or counterpoint. Music is an art that, in one guise or another, permeates every human society. It is used for such varied social purposes as ritual, worship, coordination of movement, communication, and entertainment.

Philosophical questions surrounding music include that of understanding the source of the pleasure music gives, and understanding its expressive, dramatic, and emotional power. Our aesthetic response to music is more than the passive reception of pleasure, since it involves elements of understanding and anticipation: does this imply that it is appropriate to talk of the meaning of a piece of music, or of a musical language?

The origins of Indian classical music can be found in the oldest of scriptures, part of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. It has also been significantly influenced by Indian folk music, and Hindustani music has been influenced by Persian music. The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music at length. The Samaveda was created out of Rigveda so that its hymns could be sung as Samagana; this style evolved into jatis and eventually into ragas. Indian classical music has its origins as a meditation tool for attaining self realization. Bharat’s Natyashastra was the first treatise laying down fundamental principles of dance, music and drama.Indian classical music has one of the most complex and complete musical systems ever developed. Like Western classical music, it divides the octave into 12 semitones of which the 7 basic notes are Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa, in order, replacing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do. However, it uses the just intonation tuning, unlike most modern western classical music, which uses the equal-temperament tuning system.

Indian classical music is monophonic in nature and based around a single melody line, which is played over a fixed drone. The performance is based melodically on particular ragas and rhythmically on talas. Because of the focus on exploring the raga, performances have traditionally been solo endeavors, but duets are becoming more common nowadays.

Melakarta is a collection of fundamental ragas (musical scales) in Carnatic music (South Indian classical music). Melakarta ragas are parent ragas (hence known as janaka ragas) from which other ragas may be generated.

In Hindustani music the thaat is equivalent of Melakarta. There are 10 thaats in Hindustani music, though the commonly accepted melakarta scheme has 72 ragas. A melakarta raga is sometimes referred as mela, karta or sampoorna as well.

Rules for Melakarta: Ragas must contain the following characteristics to be considered Melakarta.

  • They are sampurna ragas – they contain all seven swaras (notes) of the octave in both ascending and descending scale.
  • They are krama sampurna ragas – that is the sequence is strictly ascending and descending in the scales, without any jumps or zig-zag notes.
  • The upper shadjam is included in the raga scale. (ragas like Punnagavarali and Chenchurutti are not melakarta as they end with nishadham)
  • The ascending and descending scales must have the same notes.

The Rasas

Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory. Each rasa, according to Nātyasāstra, has a presiding deity and a specific color. There are 4 pairs of rasas. For instance, Hasya arises out of Sringara. The Aura of a frightened person is black, and the aura of an angry person is red. Bharata Muni established the following.

  • Srungaram: Romance, Attractiveness.
  • Haasyam: Laughter, Mirth, Comedy.
  • Raudram: Fury.
  • Kaarunyam: Compassion, Mercy.
  • Bheebhatsam: Disgust, Aversion.
  • Bhayaanakam: Horror, Terror.
  • Veeram: Heroic mood.
  • Adbhutam: Wonder, Amazement.


Abhinavagupta suggested a ninth rasa when only eight were accepted and it had to undergo a good deal of struggle between the sixth and the tenth centuries, before it could be accepted by the majority of the Alankarikas, and the expression Navarasa (the nine rasas), could come into vogue. The 9th rasa was ….

  • Shaantam Peace or tranquility.

In addition to the nine Rasas, two more appeared later (esp. in literature): Additional rasas are …

  • Vaatsalyam: Parental Love
  • Bhakthi: Spiritual Devotion

All the above information is not my original but can be obtained from any literature search on music or from the books on musicology. Any student of music will have the above information from either the books on music or from the teachers of music – hence very academic.

Look at my point of view …

Music = Sound1 + Sound2 + Sound3 + Sound4 ands so on –viz – sound of the … words + tune + rhythm + aesthetics + emotions etc.

Let us now go back to the very first definition I had started this article with.  It is the art of “harmonious organization of sounds” in a continuous flow. This causes pleasure. If there is no harmony – then it will just be noise.  Noise will cause pain. Pleasure is pro-survival. Pain is contra-survival.

Sound is primarily a language or a tool of communication and in that – when it is made into music – it communicates modulated emotions in addition to the content of the text.

Harmonized sound production called music is thus pro-survival. When the emotions are rationalized, combined aesthetically with pro-survival purpose and rendered – they automatically drop the 7-rasas from the human system and acquire the rest of 4-qualities of the 11 stated total rasas –viz- Kaarunyam, Shaantam, Bhakthi & Vaatsalyam.

These 4-emotions open up connections to “Self” the real “I” in a living being. Connecting with the real “I” is called “Spirituality”.  This is how music and spirituality are connected – which south Indian saint Thyagaraja demonstrated in his life time calling the classical music Naada Brahmam (Sound as God).

MSR Ayyangar


About MSR

I am a Healthcare products manufacturer & exporter and also a healthcare counselor. The areas of my interest include Spirituality, Philosophy, Science, Engineering, Humanities, History and Sports.

Posted on June 6, 2010, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When the emotions are rationalized, combined aesthetically with pro-survival purpose and rendered – they automatically drop the 7-rasas from the human system and acquire the rest of 4-qualities of the 11 stated total rasas –viz- Kaarunyam, Shaantam, Bhakthi & Vaatsalyam.
    The key sentence was this. Is this an observation over time
    by learned folks or a statement, a declaration? Modern western and Bollywood music can’t achieve this.
    Brahmoo Mandir in Bombay has been based on this and still can be experienced every Sunday morning at 9am in Khar at Kamla High School. There are no pictures, no flowers,no prasad. The Almighty is contacts thru music.

    • Jnana come through 5 -Perception or Senses -viz- Shabdha, Sparsa, Rasa, Roopa & Gandha (Sound, Touch, Taste, Sight & Odour). Any one of these channels or different permutations & combinations can be used to acquire Jnana and the same analyzed thoroughly with the help of the 6th sense called Buddhi (Intellect). The Rishis had highly evolved sense of observation and equally heightened Buddhi to make very accurate analysis & synthesis. The result of such action is The Veda. Observation and Theorization – are the routes to development of any subject. It gets further developed by senior observations & theorizations as a process of continuous evolution.

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