CONFERENCE The morning sessions at the Music Academy deal with interesting subjects.

The morning session of December 19 was dedicated to the memory of Voleti Venkateswarlu (1928-89) one of the greatest vocalists of Andhra Pradesh. He was competent in both Carnatic and Hindustani styles. Sri Kannikeswaran from Connecticut presented a very interesting lecture demonstration on ‘Nottuswara Sahityam of Muthuswami Dikshitar’.

Nottuswaram is a Tamil version of the English word, note, and is used to represent western musical notes. There are about 38 compositions all in Sanskrit composed by Dikshitar to western tunes. In that limited sense he was just a composer of sahitya to the tunes. All of them are based on major scale which is equivalent to Sankarabharanam in Carnatic music.

These were all documented first during the life time of Dikshitar by C.P. Brown in 1833, later in 1893 Manali Chinnaswamy Mudaliar published them with European notation and Subbarama Dikshitar’s compilation was published in Telugu script under the title, ‘Prathamaabhyaasa pustakamu’ in 1905.

Kannikeswaran gave an elaborate list of the European sources of all the tunes and the corresponding compositions of Dikshitar. He demonstrated most of them and sometimes with their original tunes. For example he rendered ‘Dasarathe’ and said it was based on Feuny Poer- Phanxty , ‘Kamlaam’ based on a Hungarian Galloped, ‘Gurumoorthe’ on Psalm of Life and so on. He classified the 38 compositions of Dikshitar with the European counterparts based on their rhythmic structure as Jig, Waltz, Reel, March etc.,

Kannikeswaran made a comparative analysis of these compositions with their original tunes and showed how and where they are modified.

He demonstrated ‘Shyamale Meenakshi’ and said that it was based on a French tune resembling ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’! He gave further classifications of these compositions according to the deity on which they were composed and the temple town.

A thoroughly researched study it was communicated to the audience with the help of a power point presentation.

N. Ramanathan said ‘Gurumoorthe’ was published in the appendix of Sampradaya Pradarshini, probably because Tygaraja also wrote a composition on the same tune. S.A.K.Durga said the compositions were written when Dikshitar was in Manali and C.P.Brown commissioned Dikshitar to document the 38 compositions composed by him.

Vocal quality

On December 20, T. Unnikrishnan dealt with “Voice Culture in Hindustani and Carnatic music.” He traced the importance of voice culture from the days of Natya Sastra and later treatises. Musicians should not just read it as theory, but understand the necessity to retain quality voice. He enlisted some techniques of voice production. One should use the anatomy and physiology of voice. The three components of voice production are resonatory, phonotory and respiratory; which help in relaxing the muscles and ligaments of the larynx, give energy for singing and ability to manipulate effectively to get the required voice. He drew a distinction between amateur singing, professional singing and folk singing.

Though not trained, professional singers have their own ways of maintaining their voices and the folk singers have their natural ways of modulations. He talked mainly of three voice registers. He explained with demonstrations both in the Carnatic and Hindustani styles and offered tips to gain ability to sing in three octaves. By constant practice, careful tonal placement, pranayama and adherence to the basic principles of voice culture, a singer will easily be able to sing any kind of music, he said.

On Sangeeta Ratnakara

The morning session of December 21 was dedicated to the memory of T.K.Rangachari (1912-1979), a vocalist who made an indelible mark for himself and trained a host of disciples.

There were two lecture demonstrations in the session, the first one was on ‘Sangeeta Ratnakara and Karnatic Music’ by Prof. N. Ramaratnam. An erudite scholar and musicologist Ramaratnam made some very interesting observations of some of the basic definitions given by Sarngdeva in Sangeeta Ratnakara.

He set the aim of the paper as defining and understanding the term ‘Sangita’ as used in Sangeeta Ratnakara. It was defined in the treatise as that which comprises gitam, vadyam and nrittam. Gitam represents tonal music, Vadyam is a syllabic form created by the drum and Nrittam is pure dance. The term, he said, therefore did not certainly denote what we call music today. According to Sarngadeva, ‘Sangitam’ is classified as marga and desi, where marga represents natya and desi a different tradition other than that expounded in treatises like the Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya.

Sarngdeva defined music as a combination of notes which create a pleasing effect. His classification and definition of music is not just confined to tala; there is music like ragalapana which does not require being rhythmic.

Ramaratnam dwelt on several other definitions given in Sangeeta Ratnakara, like taurya trikam, characteristics of a vaggeyakara, mukhari, upadhyaya etc., He enlisted the forms of music as referred to in the treatise. Sarngadeva discussed rasa and set that as aim of Sangeeta which was disputed by Ramaratnam.

The second demonstration was by P. Jayaprakash, on his own compositions. He has written about 350 compositions in five languages, Sanskrit, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam., all depicting temples of Kerala. Six of his compositions were demonstrated by Vidwan T.K.Govinda Rao, Dr. Sundar and G.N.Desikan. They were accompanied by Sriramkuar on the violin and Subramanian on the mridangam.