Music to Me

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Shamanth Nag – Composer

“Music is an independent language which addresses the finer aspects of emotions which can be addressed only through music as a language and as a language alone.”

Shamanth Nag

Music in its absolute sense. The most important question that poses in front of a musician is only one, ” what is music?”, those who don’t see this question are like those who doesn’t question about why we live. To anatomically direct music is very easy, we can easily deduce it in to pitch & rhythm, or to even describe precisely by interpreting the concepts like melody, harmony & rhythm, or even further go on by quoting texture, arrangements, orchestration so on and so forth but the fundamental question about what music is, is still unanswered, because the music that is explained in these terms still poses the question “why it is required to create music?”, to understand

why’ we need to understand ‘what’. Music, according to my understanding is an expression of thoughts which does not fit in the space of words or terminology. we speak with the use of language with the tools such as words, which ends in making a statement, but the statement is more important than the words, isn’t? but to go further, the purpose of a statement is to make others understand the expression of a thought, but what are thoughts? Another question which we still struggle to answer, but let me try here, a thought is something which the mind conceives, which may have a possible physical action remotely or directly, such thoughts may result in a statement which acts as a catalyst in conspiring the action.

‘Now another question arises about ‘what an action is? ‘action is a physical movement of a person/body which results in another action, this is where we have an absolute discretion on deciding what an action constitutes, even when a change as remotely as a change in blood pressure is an action in a strict physical sense. now we need to understand something very simple but very hard to realize that anything which alters a static state and puts the body in to motion needs to be an action alone which is conspired by a thought, again which was a resultant of a statement, isn’t? then if music can alter your physical nature, should carry a thought in it, which is made possible through a statement. it is essential that a statement to be made requires a language, thus music should be a language which conveys thoughts through statements, isn’t? Now to carefully consider music as a language, we need to understand what language is and it’s purpose. language is nothing but a tool to express the emotions through words. if music is a language as we deduce, it essentially should communicate to our emotions, isn’t? So its natural and also logical that emotions can be tapped through many ways, and all the ways are considered to be languages. then the fundamental question arises “what is music?” Which can be answered by simply saying “music is a language to convey emotions”.

As any language consists of alphabets, words, meanings, statements, phrases & context, music also has similar components to it, we can deduce it to semantics & syntax, just like any language which can be deduced naturally. It requires patience and perseverance to look in to a language which is completely alien to what ever is practiced to convey thoughts by humans for 1000s of years now , at the same time it still directly conveys to the mind. the most important point that we need to understand is that the music exists as a language in its own rite and cannot be understood through any other means, music cant be interpreted through the physical language spoken commonly, we may try to represent it just like writing a French word in English with the mere help of the alphabets, but just by writing a French word in English doesn’t make it complete, unless we understand the sound of the word, the context of the word, the cultural usage of the word or the customary usage of the word, similarly music can be represented through the theories which is absolutely reverse engineered to understand commonly, but cannot be understood in its absolute sense without the other elements such as context & culture.

The context and culture is interwoven so finely that we need to take a microscopic perspective when we speak about the context and cultural representative aspects of music, for example the major scale in western classical music and shankarabaranam in Carnatic classical music, though consist of the same notes doesn’t consist of the same intervals, and its not only difficult but also practically impossible to represent them in the language that we speak with the use of tongue and teeth, but never the less we cant deny the fact that both the scales represent subtle differences in appealing to the emotions of our mind, another classic example is to compare the Chinese pentatonic scale which is equivalent to raga Revathi in Carnatic music which has a completely different contextual understanding, it is considered a scale in context to happiness in china or japan while its very serious and spiritual in Indian context, which means the context and culture plays an important role isn’t? But to come back to our original question “what is music?” can be answered only under one understanding, that is simply “music is a language, which exists completely separate from all the other languages, which communicate with our mind to create emotions”, in the sense, my understanding is that mind has more subtler aspects to it where language made up of alphabets can’t explain, to be more precise, its like cooking food in various ways like baking, frying or steaming, but the purpose of the food is to satisfy hunger, its same with music, the purpose of music is to communicate with mind in order to address emotions, or to even take liberty to manipulate the mind in order to kindle the emotions which are even more subtle, that a regular language (like English or tamizh) finds it difficult to create, or simply to say that, to address the emotions which cannot be addressed by any other tool other than music.