The objective of my research is to explore ways to integrate the key elements of Indian Classical Music (ICM, including both the North Indian and Carnatic forms) with those of Western Classical Music (WCM). ICM has a rich theory of melody and rhythm embodied in the form of Ragas and Talas. WCM is rich in the theory of harmony. The question of interest to me is: How best can these disparate elements of the two music systems be combined to produce music that is new and appeals to people from both cultures ?
I approach the above question by first creating requirements for compositions and then meet these requirements through a composition that combines some elements of ICM and WCM. The requirements are usually a result of events around me. A charity event, farewell to a friend, a wedding, and a birthday, are examples of events that have inspired me to write new music.
While creating music I am exposed to the difficulties of harmonizing melodies that are firmly grounded in Indian Ragas. As an example of one such difficulty, consider a melody in Raga Shudha Sarang. This is a heptatonic Raga that does not use the third scale degree (known as "Ga" in the Indian system and "Me" in the Western system). Would a traditional tonic chord (scale degrees: 1-3-5) sound appropriate in this setting? In my composition titled Orchestral Fantasy I, I found that indeed the tonic chord sounds normal and fits well with the melody set to Raga Shudha Sarang. However, I had to take special care in using the third scale degree. I could never use it in the melodic line as that would interrupt the musical sense and mood of the Raga. Hence I used it mostly in the inner voice, rarely in the bass, and never in the melody.
Exposition to difficulties such as the one described above challenges me to invent solutions that are embedded in my compositions. How do I evaluate these solutions? I believe that the ultimate test of the "goodness" of music is in its liking by the people who listen to it. So far my music has been exposed to a very few people. These are mostly my friends, relatives, and social acquantences from both cultures. Their response has been excellent. However, in the near future I plan to produce CDs of my music and distribute them more widely. This, I hope, will help me evaluate my music through a more independent audience. A more scientific approach to evaluation, through controlled experimentation, is also planned.
Am I contributing to the theory of music in any way? Not yet, as I have not published or lectured on my work. At some point in time I hope to write a book on "The Theory of Melody" in which I will outline how to create the most beautiful music. I believe that beautiful music with fine melodies and superb harmony has already been created by Bach, Hyden, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and others. However, the Music Theory taught in various schools of music concentrates on rules and practice of harmonization by these and other composers from various times. It leaves the construction of melody at the mercy of the composer who has very little, if at all any, guidance on how one should go about creating melody and harmonize it. It is this void that my proposed book will attempt to fill. Certainly, the creation and harmonization of melodies in major and minor scales is well known to students of composition in the west, but not so for melodies in a large number of other scalar patterns found in the ICM.
Existing music and its acceptance by people from the two cultures indicates that people from the West love good harmonies and those from the east love good melodies. For example, music by Mozart combines simple melodies with rich harmonies and is perhaps the most popular form of classical music in the West. In India, film music of the 50's, 60's, and the 70's combines the finest of Indian melodic traditions with simple harmonies borrowed from the West. Composers such as Pankaj Malik and Hemant Kumar excelled in producing music of this kind and their music is still loved by millions of people in India. Thus, I believe that both melody and harmony are liked by listeners. I hope to combine the finest elements of the two systems and produce music rich in both melody and harmony and provide to other composers a basis for new compositions in the future.
Finally, I must point out that I am not the first, or the last, to attempt the integration of the elements of ICM and WCM. A large number of people have produced excellent examples of such combinations. Pandit Ravishankar, Beetles, Pankaj Mallik, Hemant Kumar, Illyaraja, and many others, both from the West and the East, have produced excellent music that combines the basic elements of ICM with those of WCM. My work is an extension, formalization, and codification of what has already been done by the stalwarts in the field of music.
Click here if you are interested in our work on the sonification (or auralization) of computer programs.
Last update: November 4, 2004