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TitleIntonation in Hindustani Music
TagsInterval (Music) Harmony Scale (Music) Cent (Music) Pop Culture
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Page 1


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Feedback Papers 43

I .,

The Ratio Book, C. Barlow (ed.), Feedback Papers, Köln, 2000, pp. 50-71

Page 2

FEEDBACK PAPERS 43 (November 2001)
herausgegebeo voo Johanoes Fritsch

Feedback Studio Verlag, Genter StraBe 23,50672 Koln, Tel 49 (0) 221 527763 Fax 5104139
http:// eedback.htrnl

Layout, Design, Text & Graphical Editing, Typesetting: Clarence Barlow

Copyright by the Authors 1999

Druck und Verarbeitung: Hundt Druck GmbH Koln

Page 11

[2 - continued

Further observations
It could be expected that notes with an easy_ choice for low or high would
a) follow that choice and b) be quite stable. This is so for Re, Ga and Pa
It could therefore be expected that notes with two accessible positions
are tempered and unstable- this is the case with ga and ni
The instability of ma, is spite of an easy choice, is due to its lack of
support by the tanpura- mverted harmonic matching is more difficult
The semitones adjacent to Sa and Pa are at a distance of 94-96 cents,
but for dha at 99 cents above Pa, seeming to indicate a phenomenon
unknown in literature
The temperament of Dha indicates balanced consonance with Re and Ga

J.Tenney: So if there were for example in your sample two different
versions of the major sixth, you would lose that distinction by
averaging them out.

W.v.d.Meer: Absolutely. Of course. That is the next question that has
to be raised.

Differentiation of intonation by raga

I must tell you that after studying the history of Indian music and
discussing with many people this scheme of Bharata in which you
make this distinction between the higher position and the lower
position, a distinction which is discussed very often among Indian
musicologists (not so much among musicians, as you value), I find
that musicologists like to talk about the high position which is the
bright position of the notes that relates to the day time, and the low
position which is the dark position and relates to the night. You
know; day ragas, night ragas. I must say, about ten or fifteen years
ago, I staunchly believed that somehow some scheme like this was
being followed by Indian musicians. So naturally, when you take
this kind of general average of course it happens that sometimes
musicians take the higher position, and sometimes they will get a
lower position: you will get an average.

So naturally the next thing we did was to see, raga by raga, if one
can find some ragas that really take the high position and some
which take the lower position, because that would be the theory,

58 The Ratio Symposium

Page 12

[3- Intonation of eleven scale degrees measured for twenty-two ragas

Van der Meer: Intonation in Hindustani Music 59

Page 22

[ii continued

The few cases of ma-tuned ragas are interesting:
re remains, as with Ma and N~ at about 95±4 cents from drone centres
Re stable and surprisingly quite high
g_a slightly lower than with ?a-tuning
Ga higher than in ?a-tuning, probably due to the 95ct proximity to ma
ma very stable, exactly at the low position
Ma see re
Pa only one case was measured, not surprisingly low

dha here the least stable, at the same pitch as with ?a-tuning
Dha stable and low as expected

ni slightly lower than with ?a-tuning (as with ga)
Ni see re

Historical background of the Vibhas tuning

I will finish my talk here. You should still know in this particular
case that there are three varieties of Raga Vibhas. One is just like
the Raga Bhup, Sa Re Ga Pa Dha (do re mi sol/a). Then there is
Sa re Ga Pa Dha (do re~ mi sol/a), which you just heard with the
minor second. The third is Sa re Ga Pa dha (do re~ mi soli~) in
which both the second and the sixth are lowered. Now it could be
the case that this raga was imported from another culture where
quarter-tones are used. I don't know for sure, because I don't know
any other than Indian music. Perhaps this Dha (la) has been slowly
trying in the process to find a place either in the higher or in the
lower position. It could also be that what's happening is a transition
from one to the other, a kind of transition seen very often in Indian
music, of notes one by one slowly shifting by a semitone: that
would be particularly probable in this case because there are
already four ragas using these tones and it's really very confusing.

It has been shown to be a general principle, that when there are
many ragas using the same tones, some modification starts taking
place in one of them to differentiate it from the others. So it could
be simply a process in which Re (re) and Dha Ua) are slowly being
lowered. One point perhaps in that direction is that Mallikarjun
takes the second at 145 cents, higher than the normal minor second.

W.Swets: It sounds to me like the Turkish makam Hicaz. There you
have the same thing. The high minor second and the third a little
bit lower, and the sixth has about that pitch. But then of course
Hicaz is heptatonic, not like Vibhas.

Van der Meer: Intonation in Hindustani Music 69

Page 23

Some final conclusions:

Natural intonation is based on harmonic matching, the
coincidence of the n-th harmonic of the drone with the
m-th harmonic of the instrument.

Whenever harmonic matching offers two possibilities,
temperament occurs.

Inverted matching is more difficult- you have to listen to
whether the drone is in tune with the note you produce.

The combined spectrum of the drone with its adjacent
semitones has a unique quality that defies the laws of

• Editor's Note: The note-names of North Indian music are based on the
seven degrees of the major diatonic scale, named as follows (commonly
used abbreviations in brackets): Shadj(Sa), Rshabh (Re), Gandhar(Gal,
Madhyam (Ma or mal, Pancham (Pal, Dhaivat (Dha) and Nishad (Nil.
Through the addition of the lowered (komal) second, third, sixth and
seventh (notated &, Qa. I2ha. Ni or alternatively re, ga, dha and nil and
the raised (tivral fourth (notated Ma# or Ma (here against ma for the
perfect fourth]), one gets the complete twelve-tone chromatic scale as
generally used in North Indian music. The notation system used here is
Sa - re - Re - ga - Ga - ma - M a - Pa - dha - Dha - ni- Ni - Sa:

70 The Ratio Symposium

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