Today I had my first music lesson. Every morning around 9.30am I'll go to class for singing and violin, well, basically learning raga. On the violin you play what you would sing, so it is useful that I should learn Indian singing also.
And today I had the revelation as to why I was so confused by my newly tuned violin!
The notes in India are:
SA - RE - GA - MA - PA - DHA - NI - SA ; corresponding to French:
DO - RE - MI - FA - SOL - LA - SI - DO (or anglo-saxon C D E F G A B).
My violin is supposedly tuned like so:
SOL(G) string: SA (do)
RE(D) string: PA (sol)
LA(A) string: SA (do)
MI(E) string: PA (sol)
For years, when my mind is quiet and clear and if I hear any melody, when each "note-sound" (actual sound) has met my ears my brain has been automatically translating it into its corresponding "note-name" (DO, RE, MI etc.) - so that I could reproduce a melody easily on the violin. That's why I've been enjoying so much playing the violin over the CDs of my favourite music. :) And so I was most puzzled by the way Sukhdev had re-tuned my violin: I would swear each time I practised, that the SA I heard (supposedly DO in French) was not, DO. Yesterday I decided to practise tuning my violin on my own, without the help of my MP3-recording from one of our lessons. I went down and down and down and my SA - I understand now - did become a French DO.
And today I told Shivananda. Tthe key to the mystery is that indian notes are RELATIVE. A SA is not necessarily a DO. It is only the FIRST note of the scale (the tonic)!! So it can be tuned on any actual note-sound. And so my SA had always been a RE dieze(D sharp)! Gaaaah... I was not crazy after all. My ears were not deceiving me after all. Horray.
But that means I will have to change the gear of my brain - again! When I started studying violin in Scotland, I had to get used to the anglo-saxon notes. I had to write each corresponding notes (DO-C; RE-D, MI-E) etc. On a piece of paper and stick it to my wall so I would see it all the time and eventually my brain would know pretty much automatically that DO is C and LA is A etc. But that took a long time. Plus, the first note of the scale in French (DO) is not the first note of the scale in scotland (A)! It was most confusing at first, but my brain got round to it.
And now I find myself in India, and it is another matter all together. I have to STOP trying to match SA with DO, RE with RE (that one is convenient), MI with SA etc. Or perhaps loosely. What I have to really learn is the ORDER and juggling of the indian notes. What I don't want is lose the 'anchor' I have with "note-sound" matching "note-(french!)name"... Because it is most helpful to me! Brain gymnastic! But then, the 'anchor' I got from a lifetime of learning piano/music/hearing music... So i shouldn't lose it from three weeks of learning "different" Indian notes... (But then will I stop after three weeks?) - I guess my brain should only soon(ish) become very flexible in terms of notes... The joy... :P
So I today sang ragas - or rather, a raga (singular!) over and over again. A raga is basically a scale pattern. Or perhaps it can be compared to modes (ionian, dorian, lydian, etc.) in Western music theory. Take a scale, SA RE GA MA PA DHA NI SA, and add a couple of "modifications" so to speak: flatten a couple notes, and these notes also "slide-sing" them (sliding up or down from the neigbouring notes) and make "most important" of the raga... etc.
There are thousands of ragas, but I can make do with learning about 10 - the most important ones... Indian classical music revolves around improvising within a raga/pattern. BASICALLY. Huhu. I knew this pretty much. But after just a singing class learning just the basic of one raga, I get a better picture. (And oh, add to that the tabla/rhythm pattern too...) a whole new music world...
So morning (after yoga!) will be theory/technique class. After lunch will be violin practice on the school's rooftop, followed by violin class with the kids. We shall see where I get after three weeks of this?
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And in the meantime I am settling in the new ashram. I arrived on the last day of a meditation retreat and so most people have gone and it is pretty empty now. People come and go. Swami Rama's ashram. Swami Rama whom I hear a lot about, obviously, and I should really read more about his life and his teaching... I have met most interesting people here. Yesterday found out another thought I looked familiar! Indeed I feel very much at home here, after just about a week.
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.