I am currently enrolled in a world music survey course in which the class studied several different kinds of music in the Classical Indian tradition. One of the key aspects of these styles is the cyclical nature of the music. All the instruments are aware of and voice these cycles to a certain degree. These cycles are roughly comparable to “measures” in Western music. However they differ from that analogy in that the cycles can continue for extremely great lengths before repeating, can be extremely short, or cover any of the lengths in between those extremes.
Now, in our musical cognition class we have studied pulse salience and beat induction to some degree; however I feel that all the studies we followed were Western-biased. I would like to apply a similar form of analysis to a musical tradition not based in the West, to see if the concepts we developed are truly universal. I propose to study beat induction in the clearly non-Western classical Indian music and to confirm the universality of the conclusions we drew from study of Western pulse salience. Beat induction refers to the creation of a sense of pulse from the music; I would like to study this concept to see if the radically variable-length cycles affect the concept of pulse and beat in Indian music. I would study a piece from both Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (Southern India), which differ slightly, so that the results of study would be slightly more universal. I would also provide a short survey of the most important aspects of pulse salience and possibly describe the current models of beat induction and the factors they take into account when analyzing pulse.
I am still not entirely show how the experimental part of this experiment will be conducted. One thought was to analyze how strongly listeners felt pulse when various instruments/parts of a song were taken out, so that the elements contributing most to pulse salience could be identified. Another possibility is to find a well-established model for salience, apply it to a piece, and compare the predicted results with listener’s interpretation of pulse. The differences between the two could help to identify how pulse salience might differ between Western and Indian. One experimental problem that will have to be addressed is whether or not the listeners will be familiar with the genre of music already; listeners unfamiliar with Indian classical music may skew results. On the other hand, both types of listeners (familiar with the genre and not) could be tested and the data compared. Another possible approach to detect beat induction would be to use video of the performers and/or listeners to determine when a pulse was felt and for how long it was maintained (similarly to how Clayton conducted his experiment).
Ruckert, George E. Music in North India Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Global Music Series). New York: Oxford UP, USA, 2003.
This source provides an excellent background understanding about the basics of Indian Hindustani Music. I will assume that some of my readers are not familiar with this style of music and so will spend some time providing an introduction to the music.
“Observing entrainment in music performance: Video-based observational analysis of Indian musicians’ tanpura playing and beat marking” by Clayton, Martin R. L., Faculty of Arts, Open University Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
This study might be useful in that Clayton had to devise a way to measure entrainment in the musicians without disturbing a performance. In a similar manner, I would like to look at pulse perception; obviously being familiar or not with this culture’s music would affect perception, so a more objective study method such as this might help with my experimentation.
“Thinking time and thinking about time in Indian music” by Rowell, Lewis from Communication & Cognition, Vol 19(2), 1986. pp. 229-240
This article provides insight into the cultural aspects and considerations of time in Indian culture. This article will help provide a more focused background study of time and prepare the reader for further study.
“Raga Palas Kafi” from the CD The Master Musicians of India (1964) By Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar