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Common steps and sub-activities

Singing Carnatic music

Like all art forms in Indian culture, Carnatic music is believed to have a divine origin. It originated from the Devas and Devis (Hindu Gods and Goddesses), and is venerated as symbolic of nāda brāhman.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCOacZDH7Ms&feature=fvst - this is a devotional song in the carnatic style and also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSRlPiHGWT8

Ancient treatises describe the connection of the origin of the swaras, or notes, to the spiritual sounds of the systems of animals and birds. Carnatic music is based on musical concepts that were described in several ancient works, particularly Bharata's Natya Shastra.

Owing to Persian and Islamic influences in Northern India from the 12th century onwards, Hindustani music and Carnatic music styles diverged. As such Carnatic music most closely resembles the original spiritually inspired music of the Hindu religion and is confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.  Like many of the musical styles mentionned in this section there are ancient tunes and newer melodies.  There is however, a system for teaching carnatic music developed by Purandara Dasa.  Carnatic music is taught and learned through compositions, which encode many intricate musical details.

The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki). 

Carnatic music rests on two main elements: rāga, the modes or melodic formulæ, and tāla, the rhythmic cycles.  Carnatic music, consist of seven notes, "sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni".  These names are abbreviations of the longer names shadja, rishabha, gandhara, madhyama, panchama, dhaivata and nishada.[seven for the planets]

The words are relatively unimportant in the older songs and act like a chant or mantra helping to still the mind.  The way the voice is used is more like a nasal hum and here again we have the key, the spiritual experience is achieved for the singer by the resonance induced by a tone very close to humming.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHkYwAT0WQs

Also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTY80FEl8lE - which is a very good example of the style.  Althought the audience are looking on in an intrigued manner, the singing is intended for the singer and the fact he holds some notes for far longer than others shows the way resonance is tested and achieved. 

A raga in Carnatic music prescribes a set of rules for building a melody - very similar to the Western concept of Mode.  It specifies rules for movements up (aarohanam) and down (avarohanam), the scale of which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes may be sung with gamaka, which phrases should be used or avoided, and so on. In effect, it is a series of obligatory musical events which must be observed, either absolutely or with a particular frequency.  Improvisation in raga is an essential aspect of Indian classical music.  In performing ‘alapana’, for example, performers consider each raga as “an object that has beginnings and endings and consists somehow of sequences of thought”. 

To show the length of a note, several devices are used. If the duration of a note is to be doubled, the letter is either capitalized (if using Roman script) or lengthened by a diacritic (in Indian languages). For a duration of three, the letter is capitalized (or diacriticized) and followed by a comma. For a length of four, the letter is capitalized (or diacriticized) and then followed by a semicolon. In this way any duration can be indicated using a series of semicolons and commas.

However, a simpler notation has evolved which does not use semicolons and capitalization, but rather indicates all extensions of notes using a corresponding number of commas. Thus, quadrupled in length would be denoted as "S,,,".

All this sounds highly complex, but given that any form of spiritual experience is obtained by the application of the right resonance for the right length of time in your brain, this level of complexity is needed.

Learning this form of music can take years of practise.  You have to be taught the techniques and be trained in how to use them.  And here we have a problem, because this is a lifetime’s work.

A Hindu is born a Hindu, you can’t become one, so this technique is really only for Hindus. 

According to Wikipedia, Hinduism is followed by around 80% of the population in India, so given the population of India, we have a substantial number of people able to use this technique.   With 1,210,193,422 citizens reported in the 2011 provisional Census, India is the world's second most populous country.

Other significant populations are found in Nepal (23 million), Bangladesh (14 million) and the Indonesian island of Bali (3.3 million).  Demographically, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.  So overall this technique could be of use to a very very large number of people.


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