Musical shorthand

A system that follows the principles of shorthand helps register musical notes.

WHAT COMES to your mind when you think of shorthand? Stenographers? Journalists? These are the two categories of people to whom Sir Issac Pitman means god. When he developed a new script in 1837, little would he have imagined the ingenious ways in which it would be put to use.

Take music, for instance. Can you imagine shorthand being used to capture the essence of music? Lovers of music are fascinated by the tunes and keep humming them for a long time. Some of them even try to reproduce popular tunes by playing them on their keyboards and musical instruments.

Recording an entire concert could be an option for such enthusiasts. But, then one needs to know the notes if she intends to practice. Writing musical notes during a concert could be helpful. However, the written language was not developed with emphasis on speed and when the concert goes on at a fast pace, it is nearly impossible to capture its emotion in writing.

This is about cutting a story short. Thanjavur R Subramanian, a flautist, wondered when it was possible to take down speeches in shorthand, why not musical notations? This made him devise a system, akin to taking down speeches in shorthand, for registering musical notes. The musician, who learnt shorthand at the age of 16, was really keen on using it to jot down musical notes.

"After completing my shorthand course, I tried to apply the same principle to record musical notes and was successful," he recalls. "Taking down musical notes in longhand is impossible. Through the system that I have devised, the musical notes of Carnatic music, Hindustani, Western and light music can be registered."

After several years of painstaking effort, Mr. Subramanian, now a resident of Avinashi, published "Sanketha Sangeetham" in June this year. The book contains complete set of exercises for `musical shorthand'. "It's like learning shorthand. One can study it in three months. There are 52 exercises in the book," he proudly explains.

"Carnatic music notes are more complicated. Comparitively, the notes of western and other forms of music are much simpler. So, they can be easily registered," he explains. A person who wishes to learn this version of shorthand only has to have swaragnanam and ragagnanam. "This method will be particularly helpful for students of music as they can register musical notes and study them in detail later."


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