Book Review: Classical Music Of India | A Practical Guide By L. Subramaniam & Viji Subramaniam

Book Review: Classical Music Of India | A Practical Guide By L. Subramaniam & Viji Subramaniam

Learn the intricacies between the Hindustani and Carnatic music forms from the master himself

Sharmistha Chaudhuri
July 09 , 2019
01 Min Read

When noted violinist Dr L. Subramaniam brings out a new book on Indian music one needs to take note. Arguably one of India’s finest music icons, Subramaniam, in his latest book, has drawn from his earlier work Euphony (1995), which had been co-authored with his late wife Viji. While Euphony had been a definite book on Indian classical music dealing mainly with the intricacies of the Carnatic form, this ‘practical guide’ is for everyone. From music aficionados to beginners, everyone can benefit from the pages where Subramaniam clearly examines the intricacies between the Hindustani (north Indian) and Carnatic (south Indian) music forms.

‘Indian classical music is the oldest, most sophisticated and scientifically complete musical system in the world’. While the north and south Indian streams share ‘common origins and were part of a single tradition until the 13th century’, Subramaniam, chapter by chapter, gives the readers a coherent introduction to the various composer-saints from the beginning of time to the 18th century, the relevance of music, the notation system, the melodic and rhythmic concepts, and the kind of instruments used among other things.

This books takes care to introduce every aspect of classical music to its readers: nuances, gamakas, shrutis etc and explains keeping the western note in mind. It was interesting for me to learn clearly about the raga system which can be historically traced through lakshana-granthas or treatises about music theory, written over the centuries. Also, did you know that the ancient text Natyashastra had classified musical instruments into four categories, something which came about in Western music only in 1914? Were you aware that in ancient India music was given the most important position among the 64 arts practiced? I’m not surprised, after all almost every aspect of life has some involvement of music.

While it will take me some time to fully understand the concepts (I don’t have the sharpest memory), this book is extremely handy to learn the basic know-hows. And who better than Subramaniam to tell the tales?

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