Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Karnataka Sangeeta Sastra

After studying the music of South India this week, I found it very interesting how a vaggeyakara (lyricist and songwriter) is so well-rounded. In The Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music, Ludwig Pesch states that "a person who is recognized as being a genuine vaggeyakara would have undergone training in several allied disciplines, such as music theory, performance, poetry, and often dance or drama. Given the difficulty of mastering more than one among these ancient and highly developed art forms, it is understandable that a musician who has such variegated interests and experiences is regarded as belonging to the highest class of composers" (153).
It is fascinating how classical concerts of South India and Western culture contrast. Dr. Johnson's story about the classical South Indian concert at Indiana University really puts this difference into perspective. Dr. Johnson was thoroughly enjoying and keeping tala to the South Indian music at the concert, and the man next to him asked him if he would stop. The duration of concerts in South India is also intriguing. Concerts lasting two to three hours are a relatively recent phenomenon. Until a few decades ago, it was customary for a musician to treat his audience to five or more hours.
According to Pesch, "Karnatic music is literally 'learnt by heart' because first it needs to be listened to attentively, memorized faithfully, and ultimately rendered with feeling."