Sample Music Essay Paper on Indian Classical Music

Indian classical music refers to the ancient music of the Indians and is rooted in their religious vedic hymns, tribal chants and devotional temple music. Indian music is divided into two classes of Hindusthani(Northern Indian) and Karnatak or Carnatic (southern Indian) and is mostly characterized by being melodic in nature with its movements based on a one-note-at- a- time. Another most common style of singing is the Khayal and refers to musicians’ feelings and thoughts concerning the chosen raga (Rangayyan 7). Other forms of lighter singing include the dhrupad, thumri, tappa and hori, which are romantic in their theme.

Indian classical music has three distinct features in its performance and these include the melody, rhythm, and the drone. Melodic feature is also known as the ‘rag’, forms the basis of melodic improvisation in performance, and is intended to convey a certain emotion or mood. Most significant elements making up the melody are the mode that, number of pitches used (‘jati) and the ascending and descending structure of the ‘rag’ (arohana and avorahana). The mode feature of the hindusthani music usually has seven different pitches (swar) in each octave and interval between each pitch and the tonic is not same but varies according to the music mode. However, performer does not limit him or herself to only seven specific notes but can use the notes of the rag at several different octaves. Notes in some rags may ascend and descend while others may involve melodic twists and turns.

The drone feature of hindusthani music is the harmonic basis and is sounded throughout the performance of a rag. Simplest drones consist of one note while mostly drone consist of only two notes. Drones are played in two different ways. Traditionally, they are played on a stringed instrument called a Tanpura. While in many Hindustani melody, there are other instruments which have a way of playing drone for instance, the Sitar, has a number of strings used specifically for producing the drone, players sound the drone strings as well as performing the notes of the rag on the instrument’s other strings.

Rhythmn feature of hindusthani music is cyclic and based on sequences played repeatedly rhythmic cycle is called a ‘tal’ (Rangayyan 4). Performance of hindusthani music involves three performers that  are the drone which is played on the Tanpura, the rag which is played on the sitar and the tal, which is played on the tabla. Performance of this music has three sections involving the introduction part called the Alap section whereby the drone begins and is followed by the slow playing of sitar as it explores the ascending and the descending notes of the rag at different octaves.

Later on, sitar player introduces an identifiable pulse to improvisation of rag while the music is still quite relaxed at the second section called Jor section. The third section is called the Jhala and it is at this section whereby the tempura and sitar are joined in by the Tabla as it begins slowly while gradually gaining pace. In this section, there is improvisation by the table and sitar players while at some instances they imitate each other improvised patterns as the music gets faster and faster and more lively and exciting before it concludes.

Works Cited

Rangayyan, M. Rangaraj. “An Introduction to the Classical Music of India.” University of

Calgary. 2016, pp 1-27