Why Veena and Nadaswaram are two most important reference manuals for Carnatic music?
A small observation about classical Carnatic music from an ordinary rasika.
Is this carnatic music a pure science or a pure art?
It is both because it encompasses both and much more because it is a creativity emanating from the soul weaving a very pleasant and aesthetic pattern of combination of structure of sounds and not a mere compressed and packed a bunch of notes.
We can scientifically analyze it, we can even dissect and analyze many of its parts.
We can artistically and aesthetically enjoy and express it in multiple ways.
Perfection in aspect or part of it is obviously relative based on the fallacies of and short comings of human perception. [a]
But that does not mean there is no clear cut and concrete attribute to it. In fact it has many, all that many other forms of music have and much more.
Of these let us see three unique aspects which distinguish it from other forms of music.
The available literature on, about and appreciating music in general are too vast and comprehensive and hence, even venturing to come out with any definition is either bound to be redundant and/or subjecting oneself to a great risk of facing a bombardment of counter opinions and criticisms. However, to embark on any topic without definition would be giving room to ambiguity and an indication of vagueness.
Thus defined music is in simple terms an effective manipulation and structuring of appealing [sometimes aesthetically] combination of sounds to enjoy oneself as well as captivate, engage and engulf everyone around and invigorate the whole environment in enjoyment, entertainment, enlightenment etc leading to even a trancelike mode.
Different types of music appeal to these different gradations through various methods.
Carnatic classical music has three very distinct aspects which distinguishes it from the rest they are:-
1. Multiple raga systems, [I say multiple raga systems because some other music systems also have ragas but not this many in number]. The effects of these are the contributing factors for other two aspects as they enhance and produce multiple shades of sounds with very subtle nuances. As an analogy what comes to my mind is the enviable canine sense of smell or the olfactory repertoire of dogs [ most dogs have more than hundred million scent receptors and so they can distinctly differentiate a few million odors/smells at anytime anywhere.]
2. Niravals and Kalpana swaras [giving great space and scope for individual imagination and creativity of the performing artist who is at liberty to elaborate adhering to certain parameters like adhering to grammar, punctuation , syntax etc while writing.[Jazz does a bit of this] last but not the least is.
3. Gamakas, a very unique aspect and difficult to define verbally, as dogs smells different scents with unique imprints, these have to be discerned through the human auditory sensors. If at we venture to define a Gamaka it can be defined thus with all the inevitable redundancies:-‘the very subtle nuances of combinations of minute modulations involving certain specific amounts of all the following aspects: emphasis or stress, pause or gap, frequency of specific vibration all together oscillating, embellishing and most importantly minutely modulated and emanating from a particular swara making its pleasant journey or jaunt outside and permeating back into the same swara without meandering into the other swaras around, either the ones before or after it. These gamakas are like the jivathma which emanates from paramathma and goes back to the paramathma. They proceed from a particular note in a particular scale and after its pleasant pilgrimage in sound waves permeate back into the same note. It is these gamakas with their minute nuances, or to use a more modern scientific terminology with their nano presence, go on to polish and present a perfect and precise shade of a raga, I would like to repeat that all these work of a gamaka is the manifestation of the vibration of love by sound waves with a particular note within a scale.
Veena manifests best with crystal clear clarity these gamakas , as one great veena vidwan used to say in Tamil [nunukamana alavana asaivukalum, alaigalum , azhuthamum]
So veena becomes a very important reference manual for those who want to know the correct amount of gamaka as Nadaswaram is an important reference manual for fathoming the full extent of resonance and reverberation. In fact the vocalists who embed nadaswara phrases [piddippugal] in their singing know the value of its impact.
In fact I have been using physical analogies not only because all of us can relate to it with ease the impact of such advanced music system, all those who have been immersed in it knew always was emanating more from within than transported from outside, but also because recent research by a relative of mine done with the protein Rhodopsin with the help of a veena player Mrs. Nirupa Vinayagam (1gzmgama.mp3) manifested certain specific raga [as a matter of serendipity I got an email informing about this on 21st morning when we at Tapas Academy are awarding in the evening a Veenai artist Veenai R. Parthasarathy].
For the research material you may contact
CAS in Crystallography and Biophysics,
University of Madras,