Music

Universality of Trinity

Trinity  

The concept of trinity or the number three has held mystical significance in all religions and later in the traditions seeping out of these creeds. It essentially meant the creator, preserver and destroyer of this world — again all rolled into one or off-shoots of a single, supreme being.

A triumvirate representation in art was a natural fallout of this archaic tradition, be it in western classical music or Indian music. We can always detect a trinity at work whatever be the art form. The mystical figure has miraculously tagged on in the scheme of things with ample testimony that there is no wishing it away as figment of imagination. The north-south divide of the Indian stream of classical music, with the Hindustani coming later than the Carnatic, has among myriad composers and musicians, given birth to a trinity in both at different periods of time. We have the famous trio: Thyagaraja (1767-1847), Shyama Sastri (1762-1827) and Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775-1835) who were contemporaries in the 18th century and whose works like the mighty Ganges in full spate submerged all others in their potency and poesy. Not that the other musician-composers or musicologists were lesser deities. The fact that these three great forces lived and created music of the highest order in more or less the same time placed them at the altar of fame. Generations later, three beautiful singers of the female brigade — D.K. Pattammal. M.L. Vasantha Kumari and M.S. Subbulakshmi- who were again contemporaries of the 20th century were fondly termed the trinity.

The north Indian classical music or the shastriya sangeet was a tradition born out of a cultural synthesis from several musical streams: the Vedic chants dating back to approximately one thousand BCE, the equally ancient Persian tradition and also the existent folk lore prevalent in the region.

Amir Khusro (1253–1325), though not an Indian, is credited with enriching the classical Hindustani music as we term it today, by introducing the Persian and Arabic elements into it. He was the originator of the khyal and tarana styles of music. The invention of the tabla is also attributed to Khusro. And he was termed the ‘father' of Hindustani music as it exists today. Later came Mian Tansen (Tansen (1506-1589) and Baiju Bawra — again the magical figure three who won a prominent place in the history of music.

Hindustani music, in its process of evolvement, was more lucid and hence prone to innovations by various other great composers of royal courts. Swami Haridas (more akin to our Thyagaraja) was a spiritual poet and a classical musician credited with many devotional compositions, especially in the classical Drupad style. He was the founder of the Haridasi school of mysticism and his works influenced both the classical music and the Bhakti movement of northern India.

Swami Haridas, it is told, had spent some time at the royal court of Raja Mansingh Todar of Gwalior, whose patronage of Hindustani classical music particularly Drupad style, left an indelible mark during 1485-1510. Haridas's compositions were classed as ‘Vishnupadas'. He had 128 compositions to his credit. He mentions the raags of Kedar, Gauri, Malhar and Basant. The trinity existed here too, with Bhanu and Baiju Bawra who was again Tansen's ‘guru bhai'. Haridas was in his element at the court, and composed a large number of songs in ‘Brij basha' (a dialectical variation of Hindi).

In more recent times, women classicists, again a trinity: Hirabai Badodekar, Gangubai Hangal and Mogubai Kurdikar took it to a lofty level.

Coming to the Western classical field, there existed a trivumrate in music: Baroque period (1570-1730), Classical period (1730-1820) and Romantic period (1800-1890). These three periods were dominated by the trinity Haydn, Wolfgang, Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. The roots of Western classical music lie in early Christian liturgical music, and its influences date back to the ancient Greeks who developed the individual tones and scales. Pythagoras created a tuning system and helped to codify musical notation. The term ‘classical music' did not appear until the early 19th century, in an attempt to ‘canonise' the period from Johann Sebastian Bach to Beethoven as the ‘Golden age.' The magical, mystical three has sanctified the world of music.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 12:14:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/Universality-of-Trinity/article14741330.ece

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