Svara

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Svara or Swara (स्वर, generally pronounced as swar or swara and not swaraa) is a Sanskrit word that connotes simultaneously a breath, a vowel and the sound of a musical note corresponding to its name. Most of the times a swara is identified for both musical note and tone, but a tone is a precise substitute for sur, related to tunefulness. Traditionally, Indians have just seven swaras/notes with short names, e.g. saa, re/ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni which Indian musicians designate as saptaka. It is one of the reasons why svara is considered a symbolical expression for the number seven.

The seven notes of the musical scale in Indian classical music are Shadja (षड्ज), Rishabha (ऋषभ), Gaandhaara (गान्धार), Madhyama (मध्यम), Panchama (पंचम), Dhaivata (धैवत) and Nishaada (निषाद). These seven swaras are shortened to Sa, Ri/Re (Carnatic) (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni.[1] Collectively these notes are known as the sargam (the word is an acronym of the consonants of the first four swaras). Sargam is the Indian equivalent to solfège, a technique for the teaching of sight-singing. The tone Sa is, as in Western moveable-Do solfège, the tonic of a piece or scale.[1]

North Indian Hindustani music has fixed name of a relative pitch, but South Indian Carnatic music keeps on making interchanges of the names of pitches in case of ri-ga and dha-ni whenever required. Swaras appear in successive steps in an octave. More comprehensively, swara-graam (scale) is the practical concept of Indian music comprising seven + five= twelve most useful musical pitches.[2][3] Sage Matanga made a very important statement in his Brihaddeshi some 1500 years ago that

षड्जादयः स्वराः न भवन्ति

आकारादयः एव स्वराः

Shadja aadayah svaraah na bhavanti

aakar aadayah eva svaraah

i.e. shadja, rishabha, gaandhaara, ... (and their utterance) are not the real svaras but their pronunciation in the form of aa-kar, i-kaar, u-kaar ... are the real form of the svaras.

The swara differs slightly from the shruti concept in Indian music. Both the swara and the shruti are but the sounds of music. According to the music scholars of the distant past, the shruti is generally understood as a microtone besides veda and an ear. In the context of advanced music, a shruti is the smallest gradation of pitch that a human ear can detect and a singer or instrument can produce.[4] There are 22 shruti or microtones in a saptaka of Indian music but Carnatic music assumes 24 shruti due to influence of 24 Hangaam of Arabic music. A swara is a selected pitch from 22 shrutis, using several of such swaras a musician constructs scales, melodies and ragas. In the presence of a drone-sound of perfectly tuned Tanpuras, an ideal swara sounds sweet and appealing to human ear but particularly some 10 shrutis of the saptaka sound out of pitch (besuraa) when compared to the very drone. A tuneful and pleasing tone of the swar is located at a fixed interval but there is no fixed interval defined for two consecutive shrutis anywhere that can safely and scientifically be used throughout with respect to a perfect drone sound.

The ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra by Bharata identifies and discusses twenty two shruti and seven shuddha and two vikrita swara.[4] The Natya Shastra mentions that in Shadja graama, the swara pairs saa-ma and saa-pa are samvaadi swaras (consonant pair) and are located at the interval of 9 and 13 shruti respectively. Similarly, swara pairs re-dha and ga-ni are samvaadi swara too. Without giving any example of 'a standard measure' or 'equal interval' between two successive shrutis, Bharata declared that saa, ma or pa shall have an interval of 4 shrutis measured from the pitch of the preceding swara, re or dha shall have an interval of 3 shrutis measured from the pitch of the preceding swara and ga or ni shall have an interval of 2 shrutis measured from the pitch of the preceding swara respectively. The following quote explains it all.

चतुश्चतुश्चतुश्चैव षड्जमध्यमपञ्चमाः |

द्वे द्वे निषादगान्धारौ त्रिस्त्री ऋषभधैवतौ ||

Chatush chatush chatush chaiva shadja madhyama panchamaah .

Dve dve nishaada gaandhaarau tristrii  rishabha dhaivatau..

Bharata also makes some unscientific and unacceptable observations ignoring practically proven truths like samvaad (samvaada/ संवाद) or consonance of ma-ni, re-dha, re-pa and ga-ni as each of these swara pairs do not have equal number of shrutis to establish samvaad. In reality, the above mentioned pairs DO create samvaad or consonances which Bharata did not recognize for unknown reasons. None of the musicologists give in writing the 'practical basis' or technique of ascertaining the ideal tonal gap between the note pairs like saa-re, re-ga, ga-ma, ma-pa, pa-dha, dha-ni, ni-saa* (taar saa) until Sangeet Paarijat of Ahobal (c. 1650). The swara studies in ancient Sanskrit texts include the musical gamut and its tuning, categories of melodic models and the raga compositions.[5]

Perhaps the greats like Bharata, Sage Matanga and Shaarnga-deva did not know the secret of tuneful tones (up to acceptable level of normal human ear, on the basis of taanpuraa drone) for they do not mention use of drone sound for any of the musical purposes. Most of the practicing musicians knew very well that all the tuneful tones of seven notes could be discovered with the help of the theory of samvaad, in which saa-saa* (*means upper octave), saa-ma and saa-pa play the most crucial role.

Origins[edit]

The word swara (Sanskrit: स्वर) is derived from the root svr which means "to sound".[6] To be precise, the svara is defined from Sanskrit nirukta system as svaryate iti svarah (स्वर्यते इति स्वरः, does breathing, shines, makes sound), svayam raajate iti svarah (स्वयं राजते इति स्वरः, appears on its own) and sva ranjayati iti svarah (स्व रञ्जयति इति स्वरः, that which colours itself in terms of appealing sound). [In Tamil and Kannada, Kannada word 'Swara' and Tamil Alphabet and suram are one and the same and represent the places of articulation (பிறப்பிடம்), ie alphabet/suram do not represent sound but represent PoA, where one generates sound and the sounds can vary in scale].

The word is found in the Vedic literature, particularly the Samaveda, where it means accent and tone, or a musical note, depending on the context. The discussion there focusses on three accent pitch or levels: svarita (sounded, circumflex normal), udatta (high, raised) and anudatta (low, not raised). However, scholars question whether the singing of hymns and chants were always limited to three during the Vedic era.[6][7] The word also appears in other texts. For example, it appears in Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana section 111.33, where the cyclic rise and setting of sun and world, is referred to as "the music of spheres", and the sun is stated to be "humming the wheel of the world".[8] According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, the roots "svar", meaning "to shine" (whence surya or sun), and svr, meaning "to sound or resound" (whence swara, “musical note”) and also in some contexts "to shine", are all related in the ancient Indian imagination.[8][9]

The swara concept is found in Chapter 28 of the ancient Natya Shastra, estimated to have been completed between 200 BCE to 200 CE.[10] It calls the unit of tonal measurement or audible unit as Śhruti,[11] with verse 28.21 introducing the musical scale as follows,[12][13]

तत्र स्वराः –
षड्‍जश्‍च ऋषभश्‍चैव गान्धारो मध्यमस्तथा ।
पञ्‍चमो धैवतश्‍चैव सप्तमोऽथ निषादवान् ॥२१॥
| नत्य शास्त्र | २८.२१ |

tatra svarāḥ –
ṣaḍ‍jaś‍ca ṛṣabhaś‍caiva gāndhāro madhyamastathā ।
pañ‍camo dhaivataś‍caiva saptamo'tha niṣādavān ॥21॥

Natya Shastra – 28.21[14][10]

These seven swaras are shared by both major raga systems of Indian classical music, that is the North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic).[1]

In the general sense swara means tone, and applies to chanting and singing. The basic swaras of Vedic chanting are udatta, anudatta and svarita. Vedic music has madhyama or ma as principal note so that tonal movement is possible towards lower and higher pitches, thus ma is taken for granted for no removal in any tonal music (madhyama avilopi, मध्यम अविलोपी).

One svara vedic singing is called aarchika chanting, e.g utterance or chanting of aum aum aum/ om om om, hari om tatsat, shivoham shivoham, raam raam raam raam, raadhe raadhe, siyaa-raam siyaa-raam, or the likes. Two swara vedic singing is called gaathika chanting, e.g.

om shaantih om shaantih om shaantih.

M M----P-M M M----P-M M M----P-M or

P P----D -P P P----D- P P P----D- P or

S S----R- S S S----R- S S S----R- S


The musical octave is said to have evolved from the elaborate and elongated chants of Sama Veda, based on these basic swaras.[15] Siksha is the subject that deals with phonetics and pronunciation. Naradiya Siksha elaborately discusses the nature of swaras, both Vedic chants and the octave.

Solfège (sargam)[edit]

The solfège (Sargam) is learnt in abbreviated form of swara: sā, ri (Carnatic) or re (Hindustani), ga, ma, pa, dha, ni. Of these, the first svara that is "sa", and the fifth svara that is "pa", are considered anchors (Achal Svaras) that are unalterable, while the remaining have flavors (Komal and Tivra Svaras) that differs between the two major systems. [1]

Svara in North Indian system of raga[16][17]
Svara
(Long)
Ṣaḍja
(षड्ज)
Ṛiṣabha
(ऋषभ)
Gāndhāra
(गान्धार)
Madhyama
(मध्यम)
Panchama
(पंचम)
Dhaivat
(धैवत)
Niṣāda
(निषाद)
Svara
(Short)

(सा)
Re
(रे)
Ga
(गा)
Ma
(म)
Pa
(प)
Dha
(ध)
Ni
(नि)
12 Varieties (names) C (shadja) D (komal re)
D (shuddha re)
E (komal gā)
E (shuddha gā)
F (shuddha ma)
F (teevra ma)
G (pañchama) A (komal dha)
A (shuddha dha)
B (komal ni)
B (shuddha ni)
(SouthIndia.png) Svara in South Indian system of raa[17]
Svara
(Long)
Ṣaḍja
(षड्ज)
Ṛiṣabha
(ऋषभ)
Gāndhāra
(गान्धार)
Madhyama
(मध्यम)
Panchama
(पंचम)
Dhaivat
(धैवत)
Niṣāda
(निषाद)
Svara
(Short)
Sa
(सा)
Ri
(री)
Ga
(गा)
Ma
(म)
Pa
(प)
Dha
(ध)
Ni
(नि)
16 Varieties (names) C (shadja) D (shuddha ri)
D (chatushruti ri)
D (shatshruti ri)
Edouble flat (shuddha gā)
E (sadharana gā)
E (antara gā)
F (shuddha ma)
F (prati ma)
G (pañchama) A (shuddha dha)
A (chatushruti dha)
A (shatshruti dha)
Bdouble flat (shuddha ni)
B (kaishiki ni)
B (kakali ni)

Notation and practice[edit]

Through svara, Īśvara [God] is realized.

A proverb among Indian musicians
Translator: Guy Beck[18]

A dot above a letter indicates that the note is sung one octave higher, and a dot below indicates one octave lower. Komal notes are indicated by an underscore, and the tívra Ma has a line on top which can be vertical or horizontal. {Or, if a note with the same name - Sa, for example - is an octave higher than the note represented by S, an apostrophe is placed to the right: S'. If it is an octave lower, the apostrophe is placed to the left: 'S. Apostrophes can be added as necessary to indicate the octave: for example, ``g would be the note komal Ga in the octave two octaves below that which begins on the note S (that is, two octaves below g).}

The basic mode of reference is that which is equivalent to the Western Ionian mode or major scale (called Bilaval thaat in Hindustani music, Dheerashankarabharanam in Carnatic). All relationships between pitches follow from this. In any seven-tone mode (starting with S), R, G, D, and N can be natural (shuddha, lit. 'pure') or flat (komal, 'soft') but never sharp, and the M can be natural or sharp (teevra) but never flat, making twelve notes as in the Western chromatic scale. If a swara is not natural (shuddha), a line below a letter indicates that it is flat (komal) and an acute accent above indicates that it is sharp (teevra, 'intense'). Sa and Pa are immovable (once Sa is selected), forming a just perfect fifth.

In some notation systems, the distinction is made with capital and lowercase letters. When abbreviating these tones, the form of the note which is relatively lower in pitch always uses a lowercase letter, while the form which is higher in pitch uses an uppercase letter. So komal Re/Ri uses the letter r and shuddha Re/Ri, the letter R, but shuddha Ma uses m because it has a raised form - teevra Ma - which uses the letter M. Sa and Pa are always abbreviated as S and P, respectively, since they cannot be altered.

Equivalencies
Carnatic name Hindustani name Western note
(when the tonic, Sa, is C)
Full form Abbreviation Full form Abbreviation
Shadja Sa Shadja Sa C
Shuddha Madhyama Shuddha Ma Shuddha Madhyama Ma F
Prati Madhyama Prati Ma Teevra Madhyama M'a F♯
Panchama Pa Panchama Pa G

Swaras in Carnatic c[edit]

The swaras in Carnatic music are slightly different in the twelve-note system. There are three types each of Rishabha, Gandhara, Dhaivata and Nishada. There are two types of Madhyama, while Pancham and Shadja are invariant. In Carnatic Music, swaras have prakruti and vikruti swaras. The vikruti swaras are Ri, Ga, Ma, Da and Ni. The rest—Sa and Pa—are prakruti swaras.

Position Swara (स्वर) Short name Notation Mnemonic[19] Semitones from Sa
1 Shadja (षड्ज) Sa S sa 0
2 Shuddha Rishabha (शुद्ध ऋषभ) Ri R₁ ra 1
3 Chatushruti Rishabha (चतुश्रुति ऋषभ) Ri R₂ ri 2
Shuddha Gandhara (शुद्ध गान्धार) Ga G₁ ga
4 Shatshruti Rishabha (षट्श्रुति ऋषभ) Ri R₃ ru 3
Sadharana Gandhara (साधारण गान्धार) Ga G₂ gi
5 Antara Gandhara (अन्तर गान्धार) Ga G₃ gu 4
6 Shuddha Madhyama (शुद्ध मध्यम) Ma M₁ ma 5
7 Prati Madhyama (प्रति मध्यम) Ma M₂ mi 6
8 Panchama (पञ्चम) Pa P pa 7
9 Shuddha Dhaivata (शुद्ध धैवत) Dha D₁ dha 8
10 Chatushruti Dhaivata (चतुश्रुति धैवत) Dha D₂ dhi 9
Shuddha Nishada (शुद्ध निषाद) Ni N₁ na
11 Shatshruti Dhaivata (षट्श्रुति धैवत) Dha D₃ dhu 10
Kaishiki Nishada (कैशिकी निषाद) Ni N₂ ni
12 Kakali Nishada (काकली निषाद) Ni N₃ nu 11

As you can see above, Chatushruti Rishabha and Shuddha Gandhara share the same pitch (3rd key/position). Hence if C is chosen as Shadja, D would be both Chatushruti Rishabha and Shuddha Gandhara. Hence they will not occur in same raga together. Similarly for two swaras each at notes 4, 10 and 11.[20]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mathieu, W. A. (1997). Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression. Inner Traditions Intl Ltd. ISBN 0-89281-560-4. An auto didactic ear-training and sight-singing book that uses singing sargam syllables over a drone in a just intonation system based on perfect fifths and major thirds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Randel 2003, pp. 814-815.
  2. ^ Rowell 2015, p. 13.
  3. ^ Vimalakānta Rôya Caudhurī (2000). The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 122–123. ISBN 978-81-208-1708-1.
  4. ^ a b Ellen Koskoff (2013). The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 2. Routledge. p. 936. ISBN 978-1-136-09602-0.
  5. ^ Rowell 2015, pp. 145-159.
  6. ^ a b Guy L. Beck (2012). Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition. University of South Carolina Press. pp. 91–94. ISBN 978-1-61117-108-2.
  7. ^ Rowell, Lewis (1977). "A Siksa for the Twiceborn". Asian Music. University of Texas Press. 9 (1): 72–94. doi:10.2307/833818.
  8. ^ a b Coomaraswamy, A. (1936). "Vedic Exemplarism". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Harvard University Press. 1 (1): 44–64. doi:10.2307/2718037.
  9. ^ Valerie Roebuck (2004). The Upanishads. Penguin Books. p. 534. ISBN 978-0-14-193801-1.
  10. ^ a b Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 21–25.
  11. ^ Te Nijenhuis 1974, p. 14.
  12. ^ Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy (1985), Harmonic Implications of Consonance and Dissonance in Ancient Indian Music, Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology 2:28–51. Citation on pp. 28–31.
  13. ^ Lidova 2014.
  14. ^ Sanskrit: Natyasastra Chapter 28, नाट्यशास्त्रम् अध्याय २८, ॥ २१॥
  15. ^ Naradiya Siksha 1.2.1
  16. ^ Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 13–14, 21–25.
  17. ^ a b Randel 2003, p. 815.
  18. ^ Guy L. Beck (2006). Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-88920-421-8.
  19. ^ Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications
  20. ^ Gaanaamrutha Varna Maalikaa by A.S. Panchaabakesa Iyer

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]