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Acoustic Mythologies of The Natyasastra: Text of Celestial Music

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Indian Aesthetic tradition
  3. The Hindustani genealogy of celestial music
  4. The musical traditions of India
    1. Gandharva Sangeet
    2. The laws of aesthetics in the Natyasastra
    3. The music of the tabla
    4. The musical range of the tabla
  5. The differentiation of time in Hindustani music
    1. The slower tempo
    2. The relationship between cosmic time and musical tala
  6. Conclusion

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. [...]


[...] In the Natyasastra there is thus the basis to understand tabla as a way of both the Gandharva devotional music and the tantra of Abhinavagupta's rasa theory. The musical range of the tabla is due, as the Natyasastra describes, to the range of distinct pitches available and to the combination of the tones of the tabla's two drums. The large metal drum, the bayan, is the bass drum whose pitch is shifted in a glissando technique in which the left-hand palm is rolled towards the center syahi (ink spot)[xxix] increasing the tension and the pitch of the syllable ga which has the range of about an octave. [...]

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