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Carnatic Music Notation

Carnatic Music Notation

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Published by ksenthil kumar
Carnatic Music Notation
Carnatic Music Notation

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Published by: ksenthil kumar on Jun 11, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Carnatic music notation is written using the solfa 'sa ri ga ma pa da ni' in textualform unlike the staff notation which is graphic. In carnatic music sa (shadjam) is thetonic. The artiste has the liberty to choose any pitch as the tonic and the note sa willthen refer to that pitch. Hence the notation does not prescribe the absolute pitchesin which the composition is to be sung.Generally the notation is used to learn a composition rather than play it by sightand some of the practices in writing notation may be attributed to this.Samples of notation inTamilandEnglishare given below. The notation is written on one line and the lyric is written on the line below withwords of lyric aligned to their corresponding notes.To establish the rhythmic frame work ('Thaalam'), vertical lines are drawn, toseparate the 'angams' (components) of a rhythmic cycle. The commonly usedthaalams have three 'angams' - Laghu, Dhrutham and Anudhrutham. TheDhrutham is always 2 units of time and in singing the action (kriya) associated withit is a clap (or beat) and a wave (turning up the palm). The Anudhrutham is alwaysa single unit and the action is a clap (or beat). The Laghu has varying number of units indicated by the 'Jaathi' or class of the thaalam. The possible units for Laghuare 3 (thisra), 4 (chathurasra), 5 (khanda), 7 (misra) and 9 (sankeerna). The actionfor Laghu is a clap followed by counts (number of counts is one less than the total jaathi value so that clap and counts together account for the number of units of the jaathi). The order and number of the components (angams) of the thaalam are fixedby the thaalam name. Thus Thriputa thaalam has a laghu followed by 2 druthams.If it is charhurasra jathi thriputa thaalam it will have a laghu of 4 units, and 2druthams of 2 units each totaling eight units in a cycle.The symbols for the three Angams of the thaalam are:Laghu - a vertical line (or digit 1) followed by the number of units indicated by the jaathi ex. |4Dhrutham - A circle OAnudhrutham - A half circle UThese symbols are often omitted.When more than one rhythmic cycle is shown on one line double vertical lines aredrawn to separate them. In the sample below there are 3 rhythmic cycles in one line.The notation is written using the the solfa symbols 'sa ri ga ma pa da ni'(corresponding to 'doh re me fa so la te'. Normally the notes represent the middleoctave. A dot over the note indicates the higher octave and a dot below the note
indicates the lower octave. Generally the compositions cover a range from ma of thelower octave up to pa of the higher octave - usually even less.There is no absolute time measure. A note written as sa or ri takes one 'maathra'which may be equal to the unit duration of the thaalam frame work itself or be asub-multiple of it. A common convention uses 4 notes per basic unit of the thaalam.In the sample below 2 notes are used per unit of the thaalam which itself has 6 units(a dhrutham of 2 units and a laghu of 4 units). Thus in the sample one cycle has 12notes (after accounting for half notes etc.)When the note vowel is doubled as in 'saa' or 'ree' the note is held for twice theduration of the single note 'sa' or 'ri'. This convention is always used while writingnotation in Tamil or Telugu but some books published in English use the notation 'SR G M P D N ' to represent notes of single time unit and they cannot double the timeby adding vowelsTo prolong a note further, or to indicate periods of silences (especially in thebeginning of a rhythmic cycle) the symbols "," (comma) and ";" (semicolon) areused. A comma signifies one note duration and a semicolon 2 notes duration. In theEnglish publications which use 'S R G M P D N' a 2 note saa is written as "S,".Half notes and quarter notes are indicated by drawing lines over the notation. Asingle line halves the duration of the notes and a double line makes it one fourth.Sample notation sheets are given below in Tamil and English

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