A recently developed open source tool helps Carnatic music teachers, musicologists represent musical notations online

In a niche group of people, two unique skill sets that characterise the city converge: a deep passion for Carnatic music and a penchant for software coding. And this leads to some interesting results.

One among this group is city-based researcher Srikumar Karaikudi Subramanian, who has come out with an open source tool that not only simplifies, but also addresses some important requirements for publishing online Carnatic music notation.

For some decades now, musicologists and teachers of Carnatic music have struggled with the difficulty of type-setting musical notations because of the lack of DTP (desktop publishing) software capable of taking into account the various nuances of the form of music.

Mr. Srikumar’s ‘work in progress’ website, www.patantara.com, provides users with a tool for creating and editing high quality Carnatic music notations.

Hailing from a family that boasts of a lineage of veena players in the tradition of Karaikudi Veenai Sambasiva Iyer, Mr. Srikumar says generating high-quality Carnatic music notation is just a part of his ultimate goal of creating tools that look at the educational aspects of Carnatic music.

The 38-year-old computer science researcher with a Ph.D. in ‘Computational Modelling of Carnatic Music’ from the National University of Singapore has several interesting demos on the web page (http://sriku.org/demos/) including an interactive representation of the Sanskrit shloka ‘Gurur Brahma’.

A more seasoned campaigner for use of technology is musicologist N. Ramanathan, who is also a retired professor from Madras University’s department of music. On his website, www.southindianmusic.in, Mr. Ramanathan has put out a large number of Carnatic music notations for free.

He has been using computers and DTP software to develop Carnatic music notations since the early 1990s. He, however, feels a lot more could be done.

Mr. Srikumar points out a more important reason to develop tools for Carnatic music. “There is a huge audience waiting for better tools to understand and learn Carnatic music. It is our responsibility to publish Carnatic music in a format that is easily understood. Western Classical music has reached us better because of such tools. Now it is time for some two-way traffic.”

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