Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sound Seeing Samkhya

I dont know much about dance. I dont know much about music either but at least with music I have some familiarity. My education and interests however have often made me ponder about music and its connection with time. How do we bring our modern understanding of vibration/sound(longitudinal wave) /fourier series/vocal apparatus/human anatomy to realm of Indian classical music(ICM)?

Indian classical music(both Hindustani/Carnatic) has this unique feature of using this concept of 'taal'(rhythmic cycle?) to convey time and also timelessness. Using a circular concept, passage of time is conveyed via aavartans (आवर्तन). Using a cyclical approach, time is divided into repetitive recurring pieces. The most defining event in this repetitive-cycle is the starting point(called Sam सम) and ending point (also termed Sam and it begins another cycle). I call this the Big-bang or the Big gong when t=0.

This blog also, has wasted several CPU cycles (आवर्तन ;-)) on Time and its mythification. And of course the sense of passage of time and tense bla bla bla.

Then one day I heard Pt Birju maharaj saying, u can hear tala via tabla, mridang and pakhawaj but to see tala u need a dancer :). This made me tinker further with the idea of, "seeing the time". Music and dance have this unique capability, one can 'see' and 'hear' the "time". Of-course I am using the wider definition of time here.(I think you can fathom what I am hinting at)

Now think on these lines. All of you know very well, from the Indian perspective, sound is categorized as para-pashyanti-madhyama-vaikhiri.Para being the most subtle and vaikhiri being gross. Pashyanti is made from the root (pashya/too see), means seeing the sound. So, just before the unmanifested sound(para) the first perception of sound is pashyanti(seeing).
Now sound. The only way sound can be defined, is an auditory sensation. So the argument now becomes, that the perception of sound(hearing) first happens as pashyanti i.e. vision.

Now think of those Vedic seers, the so called mantra drastha crowd. The 'seers' of the 'sound' chaps. And ofcourse now we bring in time here. Shruti is Eternal ..Right ? Eternal means all the time. Now connect all of this to concept of taala.

In someway this all somewhat becomes absurd, since as per the thesis put forth by the tradition, hearing (sound) is a more fundamental property than seeing(light). In my own personal understanding, also I feel the same. To me, hearing does indeed happen at a zone where image making mechanism of mind is inactive. Hearing is a more subtle sense than seeing is my firm belief/experience.But the tradition it seems, calls the subtlest form of hearing, seeing(pashyanti) :) at one place but at some other place says hearing is subtlest(akasa) and seeing is grosser(agni).

Ok maybe I have not made myself clear enough. But I am sure few of you can catch the trash which I just threw. I can develop this further, connecting time to pinda(body) and brahmanda(cosmos) but some other day.

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