21 November, 2005

Harmony - lacking in Indian classical music ?

It amazes me to learn about the interest of Westerners in Indian classical music. Not only is there interest, but also they are begining to understand it better than us! I came across a blog post by Rob http://robquick.blogspot.com. His post is mainly about the harmony that is present in western music, which is lacking in ours. The closest to harmony in our music is the Drone (Tanpura/Swarmandala etc) on which two notes, fifth apart are continuously played. Its on the background of these two notes that the melody or Raaga is expounded.
Yes, I accept that there's not too much harmony in Indian classical music. But then, our music has rhythm and melody which more than makes up for lack of harmony. Imagine, there are only 12 notes in the octave of western music, but 22 notes in ours! It is these micro notes that give our music its variety, richness and melody! In Western music, lot of stress is given on tonal clarity and harmony, which is produced by playing different notes simultaneously (Chords) many times on different instruments. On the contrary, Indian classical music is monophonic with the singer or the instrumentalist singing or playing the notes and other accompanists viz, percussionist, drone player only providing the rhythm and melody base respectively. Yet, inspite of it being monophonic, Indian classical music is much appreciated in the west. What is it that attracts them to it? Is it its inherent spiritualism, rhythm , melody, soothing effect or something else? I want to know the answers to it!