INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF INDIAN MUSIC : An attempt to reconcile modern Hindustani music with ancient musical theory and to propound an accurate and comprehensive method of treatment of the subject of Indian musical intonation.
By Sir Ernest Clements, The Indian Civil Service of Bombay Presidency.
Published by Longmans, Green & Co.,London - 1913.
Book Extract :
The time is perhaps far distant when it will be possible to write a connected history of Indian music, tracing its origins, development, and old age. It is clear, however, that its golden age—that period so short in the history of any art cycle, and so prepotent in determining the modes of both art and life for long subsequent periods—must lie far back from the present. Not improbably, that golden age coincided with the moment of greatest achievement in drama, Kalidasa, and for the theory, Bharata. Long anterior to this, however, music was a most highly cultivated—perhaps the most highly cultivated—of Indian arts, and to the present day it has remained the most continuously vital and most universally appreciated art of India. Taking together what has been lost, and what remains, music is, then, the most complete expression of the soul or genius of the Indians—a mirror faithfully reflecting their inner life. That English Orientalists and educationists have so long ignored this music, is the measure of their misunderstanding of India.
While it is true that, until modern times, music has remained in the best sense one of the most popular of Indian arts, it is also true, though with exceptions, that it has been neglected and despised, for example, by Aurangzeb, as well as by more modern puritans. But the music remained too intimately associated with religion, with the drama, and With life, whether courtly or popular, and was too faithfully guarded by the traditions of the guilds for it to be possible that it should die out altogether. There are to be found even now, for the most part at the courts of Indian rajas, or in specially musical towns like Lucknow, Tanjore, and Poona, a few ustads who are artists of high, and even of supreme rank ; but they belong to an order that is passing away.
The neglect of centuries, as in so many analogous cases, has proved less disastrous than the renewed patronage of a few decades. The constant use of the tempered harmonium ; the endeavour to adapt Indian modes to the purposes of tenth or fifteenth-rate brass bands maintained by Indian rajas ; the absence of any aesthetic element in modern Indian education ; the mania for English accomplishments : all these causes have actively contributed to the degeneration of Indian music. By degeneration, I mean literally confusion, a running together,and destruction of bounding-lines ; a process quite distinct from any natural waning of vitality at the latter end of an art cycle.
Now that life has changed, so that the old music, however splendid, no longer expresses race-intention (we are no longer united by such an intention), there are two considerations that must weigh with us, when we think of Indian music ; to maintain the memory of our past experience, as an interpretation and inspiration and delight, and to clear the way for new creators. For both these ends it is necessary to escape from the confusion into which the theoretical part of Indianmusic has unfortunately fallen. It is here, I think, that Mr.Deval has done great service in applying a purely experimental method to the analysis of the actual intonation of thoroughly trustworthy hereditary musicians. Mr. Deval's work, the results of which are published in his " Hindu Musical Scale and the Twenty-two Srutees," deserves the highest praise. It is true that Mr. Deval did not succeed in his endeavour to improve his case by importing aid and corroboration from scientific acoustics and Sanskrit philology ; but I think that certain of his critics fall into more serious error when they judge the results of his patient and invaluable experimental work by weakness or inaccuracies in his method of presentation.
The preparation of the sruti harmonium, and the presentation of the general results of Mr. Deval's work, combined with a critical discussion of the theory of music according to Bharata and Sarangdev in Mr. Clements' most interesting book, mark, I think, an epoch in the scientific study of Indian music. It will at any rate be possible for future writers, even when they disagree with Mr. Clements, to say more clearly and definitely than heretofore, what they exactly mean ; andstill more important, for future recorders to make a nearer approach to a true transcription of the Indian ragas. I cannot but hope that Mr. Clements will himself extend his studies in this direction. It may be a long time before we have as full and as exact a knowledge of Indian music as we have of Indian literature ; but if that time ever comes, it will, I am sure, be acknowledged that the work of Mr. Deval and Mr.Clements did much to clear the way for such a development of knowledge.
I should like to say a word of warning with regard to the sruti harmonium. This instrument is to be welcomed, in any case, as infinitely preferable, from the standpoint of intonation, to the tempered harmonium now in common use. It is a valuable tool, and may be used for purposes of research, and also for class teaching, where the instruction of large classes (a process foreign to the Indian conception of educational method) is unavoidable. Thus used, the sruti harmonium will serve the ends of exact knowledge, and will not (as thetempered harmonium now does) destroy the sensitiveness of the Indian ear to those " hair's-breadth " distinctions which are essential to a highly evolved art of pure melody. But, as I think, no harmonium of any kind should ever be regarded as a substitute for the tambura, because the quality of tone of the tambura is so infinitely superior to that of the harmonium, to say nothing of other aesthetic and social considerations ; above all, the harmonium should never be used as an accompaniment to the voice, leading or imitating note by note. This last, even with the vina, would be foolish ; with a blatant instrumentlike the harmonium, incapable, moreover, of any gliding from note to note, it becomes repulsive.
Much the same argument applies to the use of a system of notation ; for the purposes of exact knowledge—most desirable as a means of escape from the present chaos—it is very important that a suitable method of transcription should be discovered. But the publication of Indian music in staff notation, without warning that the scale is other than that usually implied by that notation, tends to the destruction ofthe character of that music in the same way as the use of a tempered harmonium. It is for the purposes of science, of teaching, of the preservation of existing songs, and the making of these accessible to Western students, that a notation is now so necessary—above all, for the preservation of what is so rapidly disappearing, and must soon be lost. But if it be possible to maintain still, amidst the general popularization of music in the modern and democratic sense, a tradition of master-musicians in pupillary succession, as heretofore, then for these it is far better that the method of oral transmission should be maintained. No matter if the masters in different parts of India do not all agree ; the very divergences of their ragas may be an expression of local character. But it is not for the sake of variety that I would preserve the system of oral transmission ; but rather because this is the true method of learning for an artist, because every singer so taught must be in some degree a composer (he is taught, not merely to repeat a given song, but to sing in a given mode and mood),and because it is so great an advantage for the true musician to need no external aid to memory, such as a printed score. Indeed, I suppose that even if we succeed in recording the greater part of Indian music as it still survives, the music itself cannot persist as a part of everyday life unless it is thus handed on as a sacred tradition.
In any case it is much that the existing music should be recorded and analyzed for the student of whatever time or country. The necessity of such a record in India need not be dwelt upon ; but perhaps the most valuable result of the growing interest in Indian music would be realized if the time ever comes when, in the words of Captain Day, " the study of the national music of the country will occupy, as it should, a foremost place in all Indian schools," and certainly, also, in the Universities. But I should also like to emphasize the importance of this study for western musicians ; not only as a means of better understanding the heart of India, but also because it must be in the long run disadvantageous to ignore one half of the world's experience in any art. If Indian music is very different from European—and the fundamental difference is less than at first sight appears—then all the more reason for the Western musician to enlarge his outlook. Perhaps even, in the words of M. Bourgault-Ducoudray, Oriental music may "provide Western musicians with fresh resources of expression, and with colours hitherto unknown to the palate of the musician." At least we may feel certain that both for us, and for the Western student, the exact study of the science of Indian music is a necessary process in the interests of progress and interpretation.
It is then with gratitude that I have accepted Mr. Clements' invitation to write a preface to his learned and stimulating work ; in so doing I wish to specially commend both the whole subject of Indian music, and this book, to the notice of all Indians and Englishmen who have any voice in determining modes of education in India.
ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY.
September 12, 1912.