Ramasubramanian M.K wrote:
As an aside about vocalists'pitches; I HAVE HEARD A STORY ABOUT T.CHOWDIAH'S EXPERIMENT WITH 7 STRINGS(VS NORMAL 4)--he found the vocalists' pitches(of his times!!!) too low that it was not possible to display of his talents --hence he invented the 7 strings that gave the volume that would "drown" out the low pitch!!! Imagine he accompanied Chembai,Naina Pillai and others of his times whose pitch was far higher than the ones that followed them. if even these pitches were considered low by accompaniments,PMI's views on pitch seem to be justified!!!
To my ears the contemporary Carnatic violin is actually tuned an octave higher relative to the pitch of the singer. Thus the violin for a high-pitched female singer (such as MSS) could sound very shrill in the upper register and violinists such as VVS compensated by switching to the lower octave (e.g. MSS at "chukkalarAyanEE" in "pakkalanilabadi"). But I have never heard any discussion about this except one mention in one of Rangaramanuja Iyengar's books where he has also expressed his displeasure at the lowering sruthi. We in CM are quite proud of our sensitivity to small differences in shruti (and rightly so in my opinion) but are absolutely non-discerning about octave differences.
Perhaps Chowdiah's violin was tuned to the same sruthi (on the "main" strings) as the singer and hence he encountered the problem that other violinists did not complain about, even when playing for MDR. I cannot tell for sure from the Chowdaiah recordings because the sound of his 7 string violin is so broad/resonant that it is hard to tell which octave he is playing in. Anyone else notice this phenomenon?
In any case, this facility of octave switching is easy for the violin (just change strings) but not so easy for the mridangam. I wonder if there will be any structural changes to the mridangam in the future to handle this problem -- my anecdotal tally says there are more male singers who sing at C or below these days than ever before.