Martin Clayton writes, “the highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects” (Clayton 10). To hear North Indian Classical Music is to engage one self in an experience of being in which music becomes an external expression of one's internal self. It reflects a continuous process of repeating transformations that engages both the audience and the musician in a non-verbal dialogue, drawing upon emotion or rasa to offer the experience of bliss and the realization of that which thou art, Brahman. Music becomes a process and through this process the seemingly concrete concepts of time, of space and even of one's self become fluid, collapsing within the rising tides of music filling the air. Peter Lavezzoli writes, “Indian music at its best can lead to an experience of oneness with a higher power…” (Lavezzoli 42).The fluidity of the music, its constant movement from moment to moment as one note blends into another without distinction or care as to beginnings and endings, of measures, chords, and harmonies, opens the mind of its listener to the seemingly infinite possibilities of one's imagination. The musician and his/her audience as individuals, fade within the unspoken rhythms of the raga, becoming channels through which their music shines – a sound that is and has always been present, the underlying breadth of the universe.
[...] The space of the room, no longer solid; time, no longer fixed, pulls us through his vibrations, as the music illuminates the reflection of our own beings, painted in waves of sound and light across our minds. Sitting, completely consumed and engaged in the chords of the raga and the repeating rhythms of the tala, a question emerges: What is the function of music and why study it? Why pick it apart and pass it through our sometimes incoherent rational babblings in a futile attempt to categorize and explain just what it is and why it is present within a culture? [...]
[...] And Indian classical music is then a means of realizing god through the power of sound. Brahman the underlying essence of all being, a void from which all mental projection, sense perceptions, all concepts, forms, sensation and emotions arise from and fall into, is defined by its inability to be defined. Brahman is beyond all forms of human conceptualization as it transcends the dualistic categories and frameworks through which we envision, comprehend and then know both atman (the self) and our reality. [...]
[...] And throughout these murmurings, by reflecting upon the music performed in class, recorded and performed throughout the diverse and vibrant traditions of India herself, I will explore use of sound within Indian culture, the roots of Indian music within Vedic and Upanishad texts, and the reflections of Indian philosophical concepts as to time, space, and self expressed through the external medium of music to arrive at a more complete understanding as to the nature of Indian classical music and its function within the underlying cultural frameworks it illuminates. [...]
[...] The conflicting need for structure through rhythm and the inherit fluidity of classical Indian music creates a movement, illuminating the relationship between time and creation. Both the raga and tala exist in inter- dependence, expressing through their tension the rasa (Farrel 118). Swarup writes: two elements Vak [speech, utterance] and Kala [time] combine to produce Nada [sound] which is the basis of the functioning of the whole universe” (Swarup 13). By imposed a pattern upon the raga, the music is transformed. [...]
[...] Indian Classical Music then becomes an expression of Brahman, of the wordless, voiceless, undefined and indescribable essence of all being. The one note upon which a raga begins and then ends expresses the beginning and eventual return to the source. When mood, rhythm and sound unite, when concepts of name and form are forgotten, the vision of one's self as being separate and independent from the processes of creation are dissolved and one experiences the bliss of falling, of transcending conventional reality to realize one-ness with Brahman. [...]
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