Discussion on Secular Themes in CM

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music

#301  Postby arasi » 03 May 2008 20:50

SR,
A valid point about the decline of religious compositions in western music. Even for the dwindling number of church goers, there is plenty of old music to go around for many years to come.
In India today, while modern art has become acceptable, we are still not ready for secular songs in CM, it seems. BhArati's verses, SuddhAnanda bhArati's and vEdanAyakam piLLAi's songs were and are often heard without the rasikAs being conscious that they are secular in nature. Of course, such compositions have to have quality. Otherwise, they may not survive.
Above all, we should not have an unreasonable fear that secular songs would oust the great compositions which are religious in nature.
An excellent composition might sound as good as a tyAgarAjA kriti (with say, the philosophical enquiry of a cakkani rAja forgetting the caraNAm where rAmA is addressed).
If that is how a song comes to a composer whether he or she is a bhaktA or not, so be it.
An added asset about such a song--even a person who worships a different god might want to sing it if the song is appealing to his sensibilities...
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#302  Postby vasanthakokilam » 03 May 2008 20:55

SR, understood, the 'model' vs 'illustration' distinction. Opera is classical but that compares more with dramas where music plays an integrated major role. That is a separate discussion.

Coming to think of it, the current state of lyrics in HM is a good example/illustration to study. I accept on full faith and at face value what you say "(HM Lyrics)....have a way of giving full expression to the music and are designed to do so". That is worth some reflection if that is indeed the function of lyrics in HM. I am not sure many would want CM lyrics to necessarily evolve to that function in a composition. (I am not implying that the above role of lyrics is insignificant or unimportant. ) Based on your compositions, I do not think you would want that to be the objective either. Correct me if I am mis-interpreting or over/under-interpreting all this.

As I have written before, I am all far expanding the scope and content of CM lyrics. This sub-discussion is mainly about using WC and HM as examples where evolution into a Bhakthi+Secular or predominantly secular format had contributed to the expansion of the intellectually oriented rasikas base. To the limited extent the comparisons provide useful value as illustrations, it will be useful to examine the cultural context in which that evolution had happened and the resulting transformation of the nature, importance and function of the lyrics themselves.
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#303  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 03 May 2008 21:40

arasi wrote:Of course, such compositions have to have quality. Otherwise, they may not survive.
Above all, we should not have an unreasonable fear that secular songs would oust the great compositions which are religious in nature....

Agreed, it is all about quality irrespective of religious or secular. As I mentioned in previous post, the vast majority of compositions which are currently considered "classical" do not fit the bill. The fact that they are set in a classical raga and tala does not automatically qualify them. I think they should be moved into "semi-classical" or "bhajan" genres.

The majority of MD/SS/T/ST compositions add genuine music, literary, and intellectual value to CM and should be considered "classical". Outside of these four composers, there are perhaps a few hundred other compositions (by a diverse range of composers) that can be considered to add value in some manner, e.g., either showing some new facets of a raga or some literary value in terms of integrating lyrics and music. The rest are rehashes of the same themes (many with "borrowed phrases") and with the same ragas and raga lakshanas recurring with no novelty.

For example, take raga Kalyani. The four composers above have explored the raga in vast detail. Yet there are a spate of later compositions rehashing the same concepts with no added value. The exceptions that add new value (like a "nijadAsavarada" by Subrahmanya Iyer) are few and far between.

SR
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#304  Postby Sangeet Rasik » 03 May 2008 21:46

vasanthakokilam wrote:I am not sure many would want CM lyrics to necessarily evolve to that function in a composition. (I am not implying that the above role of lyrics is insignificant or unimportant. ) Based on your compositions, I do not think you would want that to be the objective either. Correct me if I am mis-interpreting or over/under-interpreting all this.

Yes, you are correct. I believe a "higher-level" integration of lyrics and music is a foundation of CM principles. The role of sahitya in CM goes beyond just facilitating the music (the latter in itself is also important, as you say).

SR
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#305  Postby vijayagopal » 07 May 2008 15:45

Whether secular or devotional, unless one understands what is the meaning, the singing will remain half the effort.
In carnatic music this problem has been persistantly troubling people.
Balance between the raga bhava and the sahitya bhava makes the performance more enjoyable.
Many singers do not really worry about the nuances of the meaning.
I get disturbed when a female vocalist performs "Enta muddo"
My reaction may be foolish.
Unfortunately since I know the meaning more than the music, it happens to me.
If it is a secular song, the meaning becomes much more important.
But, where is this discussion leading us to?
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