muurchhnaa(मूर्छना) modulation

Baji J. Ram Rao
21:03 +0530 Sun. 16-Apr-2017

Every Sunday morning, I attend a one-hour class in light Hindi film music (सुगम सङ्गीत). This class is held by my guru, Shri. Umesh Bipin Khare at his home.

Besides teaching singing techniques, he also shares interesting and valuable information about the raags we use and also the work of the great music directors of the golden era (1955-1980).
My coevals (people of my age and antiquity) and I, harbor deep nostalgia for the hindi film music of this golden era, which started a couple of years before I was born and blossomed through, my primary and high school years, ending when I graduated from engineering college.

On Sun. 16-Apr-2017, my guruji, talked about the thought processes, the great music directors must have gone through, while composing melodies.

My guruji educated us, that the svars(स्वर) were all related by a simple process of modulation known as “muurchhnaa(मूर्छना)”.
In the study of scales, muurchhnaa(मूर्छना) is the experimentation of shifting the tonic(शड्ज) on to any of the other six notes of the solfège(सरगम).
As the intervals between the diatonic notes in an octave, is asymmetric, shifting the tonic, results in change of mode, introducing new chromatic(विकृत) notes.

If one examines the Bilawal ThaaT(बिलावल ठाट) comprising all natural (शुद्ध) notes, one can clearly see how six other modes are produced by shifting the tonic.
Look at the table:


Guruji cited the following example:

Two everyday familiar, heptatonic (सम्पूर्ण) raagas in the Hindustani Classical world are:
raag yaman(राग यमन) and raag bhairavii(राग भैरवी).

Consider the raag bhairavii(राग भैरवी).
This uses the notes: सा, रे♭, ग, म, प, ध♭, नी♭, सा’. I use the symbols, “♭” and “♯” to denote flat(कोमल) and sharp(तीव्र), rather than the horizontal line below and vertical line above.

Assume the tonic was on the note C. (सफ़ेद एक).
Then the notes would be C(सा), D♭(रे♭), E♭(ग), F(म), G(प), A♭(ध♭), B♭(नी♭) and C’(सा’).

Now consider the raag yaman-kalyan(राग यमन-कल्याण).
This uses the notes: नी, सा, रे, ग, म♯, प, ध, नी, सा’.

Here comes the interesting part.
Assume the tonic शड्ज was on the note D♭.(काली एक).
Then the notes would be C(नी) D♭(सा) E♭(रे) F(ग) G(म♯) A♭(प) B♭(ध) C’(नी) and D♭(सा’).

Comparing to राग भैरवी, all the notes are identical.
So then how does one distinguish a भैरवी in D♭, from a यमन-कल्याण in C ?

The answer is in the movement of the melody.
Constant exposure to, and critical engagement with a raag’s elaboration alone is mandatory to develop familiarity.

Two raags, with identical notes can yet be very different raags

Pandit Vishnu N. Bhatkhande(1860-1936) -- one of the most influential musicologists in N. Indian classical music in the 20th century, observed that each traditional raag(राग) is based on (with small exceptions) one of ten basic thaats(ठाट), or modal frameworks.

These are

# HCM ThaaT (ठाट) Carnatic melakartaa(मेलकर्ता) Greek mode
1. Bilawal(बिलावल) Shankarabharanam[29](धीरशङ्कराभरण) Ionian diatonic-major mode
2. Kafi (काफ़ी) Kharharpriya[22](खरहरप्रिय) Dorian mode
3. Bhairavi (भैरवी) Hanumattodi[08](हनुमत्तोडी) Phrygian mode
4. Kalyan (कल्याण) Mechakalyani[65](मेच-कल्याणी) Lydian mode
5. Khamaj(खमाज) Harikambhoji[28](हरिकाम्भोजी) Mixolydian mode
6. Asavari(असावरी) Natabhairavi[20](नठभैरवी) Aeolian Natural minor mode
7. Todi(तोड़ी) Shubhapantuvarali[45](शुभापन्तुवराळी) Locrian chrom. lydian inverse mode
8. Bhairav(भैरव) Mayamalavagowla[15](मायामाळवगौळ) Gypsy major mode
9. Poorvi(पूर्वी) Kamavardani[51](कामवर्धनी) Chromatic Hypolydian mode
10. Marwa(मारवा) Gamanashrama[53](गमनश्रमा) missing dominant fifth

Two raags, with identical notes can yet be very different ragas.
For example: Although Shree(श्री) and Puriya Dhanashree(पुरिया-धनश्री), have exactly the same notes,
they are unmistakably different in structure and temperament.

Shree continually explores the relationship between the supertonic रे (ऋशभ) and the dominant प (पञ्चम).
Repetition of the phrase म रे ग रे म ग, is an enduring feature of पुरिया-धनश्री, but that would be not right in raag श्री.
Certain arrangements of notes, then, are characteristic of particular ragas and taboo to all others.

A simplistic knowledge of the notes of a raag (राग) or its family ThaaT (ठाट) may serve as a convenient starting point to achieve understanding. However the expert quickly finds it inadequate to be truly familiar or properly engaged with the raag.
Constant exposure to, and critical engagement with a raag’s elaboration is mandatory to develop familiarity.

(1) HCM is Hindustani Classical Music.
(2) The numbering of the 72 Carnatic melakartaas is important.
The melakartaa number [in square brackets]can mathematically decode, which स्वरs are in each melakartaa.