Concerning the use of musical rhythm as a sadhana, a path to liberation, one preliminary distinction to make is between the tantric means of rasa and the yogic means of bhakti; The mythological tradition inherited by Hindustani music distinguishes between gana (music for pleasure) and gandharva (music for devotional ritual). While the former does not accrue to the performer the spiritual merit (adrsta) of ritual offering, it does create the occasion for the rasa that is explained by the tantra of Abhinavagupta to be a means to the taste of the divine' (brahmasvada).
[...] The differentiation of time in Hindustani music progresses in a hierarchy from pulse, to count, to grouping, to tala, and then to a theka. For the drummer, however, it is useful to perceive the flow from tabla syllable to bol phrase (note cluster) to the theka, situated within a tala.[xxxi] The musician embodies the theka within its tala through the practice of kriya gestures, in which the downbeats of each measure are assigned either a thali (hand clap) or khali (wave). [...]
[...] Gandharva-Sangeet is defined in the Natyasastra as embodiment of tone, rhythmic cycle, and verbal structure.”[xiv] Through this orchestration of musical elements, Gandharva music “should be pleasing to the Gods” and to the Gandharvas, the celestial demi-gods of music.[xv] The basic bracket of time-space in Gandharva music is tala, which organizes an unmeasured pulse into groups of beat cycles. This is shown etymologically: tala unites movement and rhythm (tandava and laya).[xvi] In Abhinavagupta's commentary to the Natyasastra, the famed aesthete explains the significance of jatis, which are groupings of either melodic or rhythmic types. [...]
[...] Goddess Sarasvati is the projection of Brahma's sakti in “spontaneous flow.” The Gandharvas are the race of celestial musicians whom “Brahma empowered to perform music for the Gods.”[v] According to the Vishnu Purana, the course of the creation Brahma became passionate and sang. From his passionate singing the Gandharvas were born. Literally Gandharvas mean they who meditate on music.”[vi] The mythological Gandharvas were already extant at the time of the Vedas, for example in the Hymn to Savitr (Inspiration). Rg Veda 10.139 .5: Visvavasu, heavenly Gandharva, mid-air's Celestial meter, sung for us this song, So that we may learn what we ignore: Inspiration of our song and help of our praise.[vii] In tandem with their mention of these musical demi-gods, the Vedic hymns speak of an impersonal ordering principle that operates apart from any deity. [...]
[...] By means of this rhythmically relevant interaction, the tamboura's drone pitches are brought from out of the background into the musical foreground. The musical function of the drone of the tamboura is to establish the tonic throughout the modal explorations of the soloist's melodic improvisations. The tabla's rhythmicized drone brings auditory focus back to the tonic while involving this harmonic awareness in the rhythmic play of the composition. Richard Widdess, “Dhrupad As a Musical Tradition”, (Journal of Vaishnava Studies, v.3 no.1, 1994) Adya Rangacharya. [...]
[...] The mythological leader of the Gandharvas is Tumburu, great devotee of Siva.”[xliii] His tamboura (drone instrument) is made with “three strings producing three component sounds of the archetypal celestial music a u m generated from the navel, heart and throat points respectively.” In this correspondence, the tamboura is able produce or represent the anahata music by means of aahat.” This connection between the ‘unstruck' sound of the nada and the ‘struck' sound of the tamboura drone is a bridge between the harmonic content of the tabla's sound and its rhythmic aspect. [...]
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