musings on music and life

March 11, 2014

Misra Chapu solo

Filed under: Carnatic Music — Tags: , — sankirnam @ 9:08 am

Good news! This can now be shared publicly:

I had submitted this for the IndianRaga Fellowship last month, and since it was a blind audition, did not share the recording with anyone else. Now that the first round (which this was submitted for) is over, it can be identified with me.

Many thanks to my sister for putting the thalam accurately! The challenge in preparing this recording was mainly in structuring a complete thani (solo) within the 7 minute time constraint. Fortunately I have a lot of experience in doing so from playing numerous concerts in Chennai, and for whatever reason, Misra chapu is the easiest one for me to structure for a short time. It is all too easy to lose track of time when playing something like Adi thalam or Misra Jampa.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Misra chapu. It seems deceptively simple at first, with the 3+4 (or 1.5+2 structure, depending on how you look at it), but it allows for enormous scope and can get very complicated. In chatusram itself, you can split it not just as the usual 6+8, but 7+7, 5+9, 10+4, 12+2 (and these can be noncommutative as well, in the sense that playing 9+5 will sound different from 5+9). Tisram in misra chapu also leads to several new ideas. The base can be kept as 7+7+7, but 9+3+9 is also possible, and 6+3+6+6, and 6+5+5+5, 5+7+9, etc. This is the basis for kannaku (calculations) in carnatic music, and as one can see, it is all just arithmetic! Of course, the bottom line is aesthetics. Beauty in form is paramount. The most complicated calculations are worthless if there is no elegance in how it is perceived by the ear.

The late mrudangam vidwan Palghat Raghu sir was also very fond of Misra chapu, and drew a lot of inspiration from the solos of Palani Subramania Pillai. Unfortunately, recordings of Palani are scarce, but one can get an idea of how he played from listening to his star student, Trichy Sankaran sir. All of these vidwans laid the groundwork for a lot of the splittings I mentioned in the previous paragraph, establishing them and showing their scope.

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