Ragamala

Interactive Music / Week 2 / Score as Code, Code as Score

This is a tentative concept for the visualization of a score and probably the final project that I wish to work towards. However, I’ll need a certain amount of research and testing the capabilities of the available softwares before knowing whether this project is feasible or not within the given timeframe.

Preface

The entire concept of musical notations, scores, composition, pitch, timbre, et cetera were alien to me. They still are, but I have gained some understanding of it over the past couple of weeks. After copious hours of being confused, contemplation and apprehension, I arrived at an idea that’s both personal to me and something that is new and unique.

Objective

I’m thinking about attempting to design a visualization for Indian Classical Music. Despite of having a rich history and being immensely influential to Western Music, I haven’t found any interpretations of classical Indian music on computers or computer generated visualizations for Indian music. At a time when this form is losing popularity and significance in India, I’m considering reinventing it so as to find relevance in the contemporary culture.

Research Involved

Indian music is complex and has many forms. Two broad classifications of this form of music are Carnatic and Hindustani. Plus, there’s an entirely different language for composing it, scoring it and playing it. My area of focus would be Hindustani music. Instruments typically used in Hindustani sangeet (music) are sitar, sarod, surbahar, esraj, veena, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, violin, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. There’s still a lot of research and learning that I need to undertake before I can claim to have an understanding of this form of music. However, this is a start.

Visualization

The source of inspiration for generating visualizations for the score would be Ragamala. Ragamala is a series of illustrative paintings from medieval India dating back to early 17th century. Ragamala translates to “Garland of Ragas”, depicting various Indian musical modes called Ragas. ( link for further information )

I have been going through a research paper written by Dr. Nameeta Shah on Indian music and it’s visualization strategies for the computer medium ( link ).

Problems and Grey Areas

However before delving into this subject and actually initiating work on this project, I wanted to understand how tone.js works and whether it will be able to emulate the sounds of Indian instruments. If not, will it be able to use pre-recorded sounds and give me the freedom to play with it.

Manifesto

Interactive Music / Week 1 / Introduction

Creation of music is something that has always fascinated me, but something that I haven’t indulged in yet. As someone who has zilch experience of creating music, the first week of the class was particularly eye-opening for me. The questioning of the fundamental concepts surrounding the understanding of music, sound and listening were quite influential in reshaping what I perceived to be music. One definition that particularly stood out was:

“Music is organized listening.”

I have always held a reverence for music, through the many artists that I’ve explored and obsessed over for the past many years. This reverence was centered around the creation of music. However, to know that the perception of music is as critical as the creation was one thing that I had not thought about earlier. Which brings me to the next set of learnings from the class discussions and personal reflections.

  • Interactive music is a beautiful way to create music while engaging the listener. How they perceive the music, is of course, subjective. This form of creation is not something that is created by one and consumed by many. Here, the consumer is as equal a creator as compared to the one who constructed the interactive piece in the first place. Which is why inclusion is fundamental. The interface should be intuitive and engaging.
  • Fandom. Or mentioned during a class discussion how the new age of music streaming is slowly diminishing the fandom around music. Which is true! Why is Alt J’s album art (An Awesome Wave) not being discussed as much as maybe Sgt Pepper’s? There is a general ignorance around an album as a singular listening experience. People are less aware of the artists and their motivations behind creating the music that they do. Music listening is becoming an ephemeral experience, instead of being an exploration. The art created around music needs to be reshaped and reinvented.
  • Wayward. My life, so far, has been full of wayward interests and experimentations. Which is why I’m here at ITP. I want the music I create to be reflective of my nature, for it to be wayward, for it to have different interpretations.

Keeping all of these in mind, here is the manifesto that I came up with. I revisited Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto for some inspiration, before I sat down to write my own.

Manifesto
Music for One and Many

What is a manifesto but a guide for creating art in the future. What is the future but an expectation of what might be. What are expectations but preludes to satisfaction or disappointments. What is satisfaction but a feeling of contentment. What is contentment but a lack a disappointment. What is art but something that gives you pleasure, purpose or resonance. The perception of art is sensory; aural or visual or both. What is music but the perception of art through sound. What is good music but something that has the capability to trigger feelings or emotions in the listener. What triggers feelings but something that can connect with the listener’s conscious or subconscious. Interactive arts often aid in establishing this connection. What is interaction but an immersive experience for the user. Interactive music, if good, carries huge potential to strike a chord with the user’s emotions. It’s time to harness this potential. It’s time to make music that is interactive. It’s time to make music that is beautiful.