Introduction to Indian Classical Music 101

The system of Indian classical music known as Raga Sangeet can be traced back nearly two thousand years to its origin in the Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples. Unlike Western classical music which has written scores, an Indian classical performance is based on improvisation, and anywhere from 10% to 90% of the performance could be extempore, depending on the creative imagination of the artist. The music is rendered orally to the disciple by his guru, popularly known as guru-shishya (teacher-student) parampara (tradition).

The very heart of Indian music is the raga, the melodic form upon which the artist improvises his performance. A raga is a scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic form with its own ascending and descending movement consisting of either a full seven-note octave or a series of six or five notes.

Every raga is characterized by its own particular mood. The acknowledged order of these nine sentiments, or emotions, is as follows: romantic and erotic, humorous, pathetic, anger, heroic, fearful, disgust, amazement and peaceful. Each raga, in addition to being associated with a particular mood, is also closely connected to a particular time of day or a season of the year. Thus through the rich melodies and rhythm of Indian music, every human emotion, every subtle feeling in man and nature, can be musically expressed and experienced.

In terms of aesthetics, a raga is the projection of the artist's inner spirit: a manifestation of his most profound feelings and sensibilities. The musician breathes life into each raga as he unfolds and expands it so that each note shimmers and pulsates with life and the raga is revealed vibrant and incandescent with beauty.

The tala, or rhythmic cycle of a raga, plays an equally important role in expressing the mood. There is a unique relationship between melody and rhythm. The intricacies depict the complexities and sophistication with which they are woven together. The division in a taal and the stress on the first beat, called sum, are the most important feature. The most exciting moment for a seasoned listener is when both the musicians, after their individual improvisations, come back together on the sum.

Today, Indian classical music is a permanent part of Western culture. Many composers and musicians have been influenced by our music. The openness, will to learn, and sincere enthusiasm of Western audiences are a continuing source of inspiration and delight. Indian music is one of the highest forms of music existing and nourished through its rich cultural heritage.

Shilpa Rao is a professional Indian Classical Music [] artist. Learn basics of Indian Classical Music system at []

Benefits of Playing Classical Music to Your Baby and What Music to Play

Newborns react to music as well as aural simulation from when they are in the womb and all throughout their development; this is particularly effective until the age of roughly three. This is because during fetal development, it is the auditory system that is formed first, and the ear is the first sensory organ that develops a connection with brain. Due to these reasons, the infant's ability to respond to music and sounds grows stronger.

What Songs to Play

A newborn baby is able to be acquainted with familiar songs and tunes and identify the voice of parents. Babies of up to one year however like sounds at which they can physically move to, as there is a strong connection between a baby's hearing and motor ability.

Benefits of Classical Music

Classical music is also particularly effective when played to babies. It can have:

    Benefits to language skills: According to senior child development researchers and researchers at the Chicago Children's Museum, there is a powerful connection between musical ability and language development. Music heard by small babies can help them to develop language skills in more efficiently and at a more complex level. Listening to complex classical tunes can help them identify words with similar sounds such as 'I' and 'Y'. Classical music helps babies to build up auditory memory and enhance the ability of the decoding auditory data.
    Soothing down physical effects: Classical music can have great positive effect to the physical health of babies. It also makes their bodies and muscles become relaxed and well rested. Even the heart rate of babies responds positively to this situation. Therefore, slow yet soothing classical pieces of music can help these even the most fidgety of babies to relax, reduce physical pressure and get rid of their tensions, especially during bedtime.
    Effects on mood: Listening to multiple types of classical music can help babies to lighten up their mood. Their body develops endorphins that are considered natural relaxants and are released from the brain. Development of such relaxants helps their bodies to reduce pain, promotes calmness and improves mood.
    Diminishing birth trauma: The entire process of being born to a completely new world can be both stressful and frightening for newbie. According to famous doctors, soothing classical music can help newborns to get out of this trauma easily when they are first born and in the following weeks. When babies are in utero, they are able to listen to their mother's heartbeat. This sound is familiar as well as comforting for them both during and after birth, replicating this with a slow piece of music helps the effect to continue.

Besides these vital benefits, babies have a natural tendency to respond positively to music. It is also very entertaining for them as well. Whether you want your child to be the next Einstein, or just to get a good night's sleep, play music, let them enjoy, dance, move and even parents will find themselves starting to experience the benefits.

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Elcamphane Peace is a mother, grandmother and contributor to

Imagination in Indian Classical Music

Khayal literally means imagination, thought or fancy. Khayal is that vocal genre of all North Indian vocal styles which gives its performers the greatest opportunity and also the greatest challenge to display the depth and breadth of their musical knowledge and skills. Khayal has dominated the performing art for past 150 years. Khayal is the genre of improvisational music, and hence it is the study of artist's creative individuality and ability to render a unique khayal at each performance. Despite the presumed freedom in khayal singing, it is structured upon three main characteristics: (i) the raga (melodic mode), the taal (meter) and the cheez (composition), (ii) the types of improvisation which are acceptable for khayal such as alap, taan, boltaan, sargam and nom-tom, and (iii) the placement of these material for creation of aesthetically and technically balanced performance. Khayal is not only a distinguished, richly evolved improvisational music genre, but also a study of cultural history of India since thirteenth century onwards.

Legend, scattered commentary, and speculations suggest that khayal originated with Amir Khusrau (1251-1326). Born in North India, Amir Khusrau was a poet as well as a composer and a great musician of his time. He enjoyed importance at the courts of the Khilji rulers in Delhi. Khayal's origin may have been attributed to Khusrau because of the rapid fusion of Perso-Arabic and Indic musical systems during his lifetime. After Khusrau, the next prominent figures in the history of khayal are the sultans of Jaunpur - Muhammad Sharqui (1401-40) and Hussain Sharqui (ruled 1458-99), who were contemporaries of Babur, the first Mughal ruler in India. The precise role of the Sharqui sultans with respect to khayal is unclear; some scholars suggest a patronage role for them. Most historians are of the opinion that neither Amir Khusrau nor any of the Sharqui sultans was the innovator of khayal, but that khayal was an outcome of the gradual process of evolution that was at work during an era of Indo-Persian amalgamation.

For khayal, the first musical evidence of court support is noted at the Delhi darbar (court) of the eighteenth century Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah Rangile (ruled 1720-48), where the musicians Nyamat Khan (Sadarang) and Firoz Khan (Adarang) composed songs that have been transmitted to the present time. It is believed that Sadarang and Adarang also formalized the structure of modern day khayal. As khayal continued to evolve in the courts throughout North India, distinct performing styles emerged into different gharanas. Three major khayal gharanas carrying the names of the princely states in which they were originally fostered, are Gwalior, Rampur (Sahaswan) and Patiala. Later Agra, Kirana and Jaipur gharanas also became prominent centers of khayal singing. Today this style of classical vocal music is even adopted by some of the instrumental gharanas such as Ithawa. Throughout most of its existence khayal has always been the music of elite patrons. Only in the twentieth century has any other group attained significant involvement in khayal.

The rendition of a khayal recital is typically divided into two parts: Bara (great) khayal and Chhota (small) khayal. During bara khayal, the artist is expected to cover a range of subjects, ideally giving importance to all musical elements such as melody, rhythm and technique, with a slow and contemplative beginning to invoke the very mood of the raga. The lyrical as well as melodic content of bara khayal compositions are devotional or romantic, and they are set in vilambit laya (slow tempo). Bara khayal is followed by a madhya or drut laya (fast tempo) in chhota khayal. Here the artist carries the mood created during the earlier part of the recital to its crescendo. The acceleration is maintained during the performance with increasing complexity of taans and interplay with rhythm. The compositions written for chhota khayal have syllabic text settings appropriate for the faster tempo. The performing ensemble for khayal consists of a lead soloist, an accompanirt on a melody producing instrument such as harmonium or sarangi (bowed lute), a tabla (drum) player and one or two tanpura players to provide continuous drone. A possible addition to the basic ensemble would be a supporting singer. The role of the accompanists is to complement the lead vocals by repeating ends of phrases during short breaks.

The other forms of Indian classical vocal music include dhrupad, dhamar, tappa, tarana, thumri, hori and bhajan. Of all, dhrupad is considered to be the oldest classical vocal form. It is generally accompanied by tanpura and pakhawaj. Dhrupad compositions are set in a 12 beat rhythmic cycle. Dhamar compositions are akin to dhrupad and enjoy an identical status. They are set in a 14 beat rhythmic cycle. Because of their structured style of singing, both dhrupad and dhamar do not allow as many elaborate and extempore improvisations as khayal. Tarana is a style consisting of particular syllables woven into rhythmic patterns as a song and it is usually sung in the faster tempo. The creation of this style of singing is believed to have originated to bring out the tantrakari, or the discreteness of instrumental music, in vocal music. Tappa has its origin in Punjab. Its beauty lies in quick and intricate display of permutations of notes. Thumri is believed to have originated in Uttar Pradesh. It is the lighter form of Indian classical music. Its most distinct feature is the amorous subject matter that picturesquely portrays the play of Lord Krishna with Radha. It can be viewed as an unconstrained form of khayal singing. Hori compositions are mainly sung in the style of thumri and are associated with the festival of hori (the festival of colors). The mood is joyous and playful, illustrating the divine leela of Lord Krishna. Bhajan literally means pray (bhaj) the lord (narayan). Bhajans are devotional songs based on light classical music. It is a popular form of singing today.

Shilpa Rao is a professional Indian Classical Music [] artist. Learn basics of Indian Classical Music system at []

Classical Violin Music For Beginners

Classical music dates back to the Baroque era (1600 to 1750) that followed the Renaissance and was subsequently followed by what is known as the classical era. Baroque composers included Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, and many others you've no doubt heard of. It was during this period that music and instrumental performance expanded in both scope and complexity and opera was established as a new musical genre. The violin has the unique ability to convey emotion and is said to produce notes closest to the human voice in tonality.

Classical violin is typically associated with the orchestra and orchestral groups such as the string quartet in which all the members of the instruments family play a part. This instrument family includes the stringed instruments the viola, cello, and double bass and they all play a role in the orchestra. The violin is the real star of the show however and represents the largest number of musicians typically in two sections. The sections are known as first and second and classical composers generally specify the first violins to play the melody and the second are assigned the harmony or other deviations such as playing the melody an octave lower than the first.

Some well known classical violin pieces include:

Tchaikovsky's concerto for violin in D major

Zigeunerweisen by Pablo Sarasate

Three Violin Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Max Christian Friedrich Bruch

Violin Concerto in D major by Ludwig Van Beethoven

Concerto for violin in D major by Johannes Brahms

Although the violin was not initially well accepted as a valued musical instrument, it soon proved to be the showpiece of the orchestra. Into the 1800's many virtuosos proved the instrument worthy of its stature in the orchestra and in the hands of such masters as Paganini and Sarasate, The violin truly had a voice.

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The Importance of Classical Music in Parenting

Today, if you know a couple who is expecting a child, chances are, they have heard the effects of classical music to an unborn fetus. But, what is in these classic tunes that enhance the brain development of babies inside the womb?

Well, music is a broad term. If you simply let your fetus hear rock or pop music, they are more likely to adapt the song they frequently hear. On the other hand, it is different with classical music. Popular composers of the olden days like Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky are known to have a complex ability of creating music without the beauty of words. During those days when digital tools used in enhancing songs were not yet invented, you have to be a very brilliant person to come up with a series of keys and create a tune. But, these brilliant men did not just create a tune -- they created a masterpiece, just like Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.

Are you still wondering what their music has to do with the development of an unborn baby's brain? Well, according to research, classical music involves a series of complex musical framework. Just as you would when you hear a song playing repeatedly, babies can follow that complex structure which claims to enhance the baby's brain development. Even neonates react to the complexities of this classical music through recognizing the tunes even if they have never heard of them before.

The experts believe that the intricate structure of classical music is the key in enabling the unborn child to improve his problem solving skills. It is due to this fact that classical music has a different effect on a baby's brain instead of the other kinds of music. On the contrary, while classical music may be helpful in the brain development of a baby, it does not follow that the other unmentioned types of music have no good effects whatsoever. As a general rule, if babies are exposed to various types of music during the early phases of their lives, the pathways of their brain becomes more inclined to music. This can be shown through our high regard to music as something that can soothe our nerves, help us breathe, and cool us down during moments of stress.

Now, if classical music and other types of music aid in the development of your baby's brain, does it mean it could actually make us smarter as well? Basically, adults can also be smarter, but only in terms of solving spatial problems. The truth is that the pathway in our brain that is triggered when we listen to classical music is responsible for our spatial reasoning. The brain is perhaps the only part of our body that the more you make use of it, the more it becomes stronger. In any case, the part of the brain responsible for spatial reasoning is stimulated each time we hear classical songs, and this enhances the brain's capability of solving spatial problems we typically face every day.

Nicole Patrick enjoys writing for which offers Christian Guitar lessons and guitar theory as well as a host of additional services.

Modern Classical Music

Classical music in strict terms is music that was written and composed during a very specific time period. This time period is 1750 to 1820. What is it that sets this particular period apart from the Baroque period which comes right before or the Romantic which is the period right after? These are not just random dates that some forgotten historian chose, but rather refer to the actual way that the music was composed.

In literature, there are a number of recognized styles of writing. A limerick or a Haiku are both poems, and yet each one has a very strict format and layout. This same principle applies to music. Pieces written during the classical period have a very distinct structure and layout as well. A person who has classical music training can recognize the differences between pieces in the same way that a person schooled in literature can tell you the exact difference between an English sonnet and an Italian one.

So what happens when you have a piece of music that follows this exact format, but was written during a later period? Do you call it a piece of classical music, or maybe, a modern classical piece?

One of the latest trends in the world of video gaming is to have background music that is written in the classical style. These are not simple tunes, these are pieces that are written to be preformed and played by an entire orchestra. The people who are composing the music are those that have been educated in the field of music and are following the format of the classic composition. The creators of these pieces are not only wonderful writers, they are often musicians themselves.

A spin-off of this trend is a change in the productions being held in theatres and auditoriums all around the globe. People are flocking to these pl`ces to go and see concerts that are played by the orchestras. These productions are much more than a listening experience. Many of the productions involve huge screens with videos and lights. One special tour even permitted audience participation. Select members of the audience were given the chance to show off their gaming skills against others on the big screens while the entire audience watched and cheered. Prizes awarded to the best gamers at each performance.

The modern classical piece may not be exactly what Beethoven had in mind when he was writing his great works, but you can imagine what he would have been able to do with all the new resources and advancements. Who knows, he might have written his twentieth symphony as an elf battle theme.

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