Free Download: Carnatic Instrumental Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

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Instrumental music is music that has been created without the use of words, or lyrics. It is typically created by playing musical instruments, either individually or as part of an ensemble.

Carnatic instrumental music is a type of South Indian classical music that is typically played on traditional Carnatic instruments. These include the sitar, veena, mridangam, ghatam, and Kanjira.

Carnatic instrumental music is known for its intricate rhythms and relaxing melodies. It is often used as a form of meditation, and can be enjoyed by both listeners and performers alike.

If you are interested in learning more about Carnatic instrumental music, there are many resources available online and in print. This guide will provide you with a starting point for your journey into the world of Carnatic music.

What is Carnatic Instrumental Music?

Carnatic instrumental music is a genre of South Indian classical music. It is one of the two main sub-genres of Carnatic music, the other being vocal Carnatic music. It is primarily performed on musical instruments.

The most common instruments used in Carnatic instrumental music are the violin, veena, flute, mridangam, ghatam and kanjeera. These instruments are known as melodic instruments. In addition to melodic instruments, there is a class of percussion instruments known as tala vadya which include instruments such as the mridangam, ghatam, kanjeera and tala.

Carnatic instrumental music has its roots in the ancient system of Indian classical music known as the Gandharva Veda. The Gandharva Veda was codified and propagated by Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Carnatic instrumental music developed further under the patronage of the Vijayanagar Empire and reached its peak during the rule of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma (1813-1846). Swathi Thirunal was an accomplished musician himself and composed hundreds of carnatic songs which are popular even today.

Carnatic instrumental music has a close association with devotional worship and many famous composers have also been saint-musicians (such as Purandara Dasa and Muthuswami Dikshitar). However, carnatic instrumental music is not limited to religious expression and has also found a place in secular contexts such as film music and fusion experiments.

Today, carnatic instrumental music is enjoyed by listeners all over India and abroad. It is an integral part of South Indian cultural heritage and continues to evolve in new directions while staying true to its traditional roots.

The Different Types of Carnatic Instrumental Music

From the classical music of South India comes Carnatic instrumental music. It is based on 72 melakarta ragas, which are further permutations and combinations of the basic 12 swaras (notes). These 72 ragas are classified into 3 types depending on the number of notes used in their construction.

The first type, called sampoorna ragas, use all 7 notes in their structure. The second type, called audava ragas, use only 5 notes. The third type, called shadava ragas, use 6 notes.

Some well-known Carnatic instrumental music instruments are the violin, flute, veena, mridangam and ghatam.

The History of Carnatic Instrumental Music

Carnatic instrumental music is one of the two main genres of classical music in India, the other being Hindustani music. It is also referred to as Karnātakāgam or simply Carnatic. The term “Carnatic” derives from Karnātaka, referring to the geographical area occupied by the former state of Mysore.

The Carnatic style is typically practised in South India, and its popularity has spread to other Indian states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as to other countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Instrumental music in the Carnatic tradition can be traced back to the 15th century

Carnatic Instrumental Music Today

Carnatic instrumental music is one of the most popular genres of music in India today. It is often heard in South Indian classical concerts and is also increasingly being performed in North India.

There are a variety of Carnatic instruments that are commonly used in Carnatic music, including the violin, flute, veena, and mridangam. In recent years, a number of Western instruments have also been incorporated into Carnatic music, such as the guitar, saxophone, and piano.

Carnatic instrumental music often features complex, fast-paced rhythms and intricate melodies. The genre is known for its emotive expressiveness and for the ability of its performers to improvise freely within the framework of a piece.

The Future of Carnatic Instrumental Music

The future of Carnatic instrumental music is rosy. With the increased popularity of Carnatic music, more and more people are exposed to the beauty of the composer’s works. While some people may not be able to appreciate the complexities of the music, they will be able to enjoy the pure, unadulterated sound of the instruments.

There is a growing market for Carnatic instrumental music CDs and MP3s. As more people become aware of Carnatic music, they will want to purchase CDs and MP3s of their favorite artists. This will provide a much-needed boost to the industry.

The increased popularity of Carnatic music will also lead to more opportunities for aspiring musicians. More music schools will offer courses in Carnatic music and more concerts will be organized. This will give young musicians a chance to showcase their talent and earn a living from their passion.


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