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Let us now turn to the description of the experiment. Description of the empirical study 'Perception and Expression in South Indian and Western Classical Music' 7 For some, this just shows there is no real meaning here. This is not the place to argue against such a view. For arguments that Western instrumental music can have proper meaning, see for instance Davies , Levinson , Schlenker forthcoming , or Scruton , and, for Carnatic music, Vijayakrishnan In the following, we will thus assume that what we call affective meaning is a plausible candidate for the output of a musical grammar in both these traditions.
Main aims Here are the two main questions that are being tackled in this study: 1 Perception of musical structure. Given that different musical idioms have different tonal organizations based on different grammatical structures, would a listener who is familiar with musical idiom MI1, but not with musical idiom MI2, be better than average at perceiving musical structures that respect the grammatical organizations of MI1, but not of MI2? To take an example: if you have listened to a lot of South Indian music and I haven't, would you be better than I at recognizing South Indian melodies? Will you hear the notes, so to say, more distinctly, and thus be able to detect differences in two melodies that will sound the same to me?
The hypothesis here is that the answer will be "Yes" to both questions. Would a listener who is better at perceiving musical structures from MI1 than from MI2 be also better at telling what is expressed in musical pieces of MI1? I have the intuition that the answer should be "Yes" here too. The main predictive hypothesis here is that, in order to better understand what is being expressed in a musical idiom, one needs to have developed its musical grammar to a sufficient level. How can music be meaningful given that it is only abstract patterns of sound? What is the difference between linguistic meaning and musical meaning?
Can we speak literally of musical grammar? What does it take to be a competent listener of a given musical idiom? Of course, these questions, which have been discussed by philosophers for centuries, are not going to find a definite answer here. The main purpose of this chapter is to show how empirical studies help us to take fresh look at them while supporting or debunking some philosophical claims. The experiment has thus been designed to measure differences and commonalities in populations with varying degrees of familiarity to two musical idioms. The grammars of Western classical music and South Indian classical music The two idioms are Western classical music and South Indian classical music also called Carnatic music.
They have been chosen because they are among the only ones whose grammars are described in book-length theoretical works: for South Indian classical music, Vijayakrishnan's The Grammar of Carnatic Music and for Western classical music, for instance, Lerdahl's Tonal Pitch Space Let me briefly talk about some grammatical commonalities and differences between Western classical and Carnatic musical grammars. In both these idioms, pieces are composed according to principles of tonality: they are tonal idioms9. Very roughly, this is the idea that, given a melody, there are some notes that are structurally more important than others, that are the tonal centers, and toward which other notes of that tonality revolve.
Atonal melodies, melodies in which there are no perceivable tonal centers, then are ungrammatical in both idioms. Both musical idioms are also modal10 in the sense that their tonal principles are defined by modes. A musical mode is basically a finite set of notes usually 5 to 9 notes from which melodies and harmonies are constructed. More precisely, modes are defined by the musical intervals that they allow.
A basic principle of tonality is that, given a musical mode, the most important note is the tonic. Let us give some examples from Western music. In both the modes of C-major and C- minor, the tonic is C. The next most important notes in these modes is G whose interval to the tonic is a perfect fifth.
Now C-major uses the note E interval of major third while C-minor doesn't and replace it with the note Eb minor third. Neither of these modes uses the note Gb interval of tritone, or diminished fifth. Western classical music is made of only three modes: the major, natural minor, and harmonic minor modes. The first two makes use of 7 of the 12 notes available in Western classical music i.
This also allow me to talk of raagam as modes. Typically, in a piece of Western classical music, the music changes from one mode to another. This is called a modulation. Modulations in Western classical music is very common there are modulations in virtually every piece , but it is highly regulated. A grammatical principle of Western classical music then is that one cannot switch from one mode to another randomly, one must respect the rules governing modulation.
Carnatic music also is made of melodic modes, called raagam singular: raaga. In fact, it is made of 72 different raagam — 69 more modes than in Western music! Raagam are not only differentiated by which notes belong to the raaga, but, among other things, by which melodic movements are authorized or not. As with Western modes, the tonic is the most important note in a raaga, but, unlike Western classical music, the perfect fifth may or may not be the second most important one the perfect fifth is in fact absent in many raagam. As in Western musical modes, there is a total of 12 notes that make up the different raagam, which are roughly the same as the black and white keys of a piano not quite as Carnatic music tends to use just intonation tuning.
Just like Western modes, raagam select a certain number of notes between 5 and 9 from these Unlike Western music though, Carnatic music can add up to 10 more 'embellishment notes' called shruti Shruti are micro-tonal intervals, with no fix pitch, which ornament the notes making up the different raagam. A very important difference between the grammars of Western and Carnatic music is that, in the latter, modulations are not allowed: one must stick to only one raaga during a piece of Carnatic music. These two grammatical differences are the main ones on which I and K. Vijayakrishnan have based the stimuli in the part of the experiment described in section 2.
In India, participants were recruited at the University of Chennai in classes of Carnatic music and of journalism. Participants sat together in a room and were asked to fill out a paper questionnaire while listening to musical stimuli through loudspeakers. After the survey, the experiment came in three parts. For lack of space, the first part of the experiment, on felt emotions, cannot be presented here. First Hypothesis: familiarity and the perception of melodic and rhythmic structures In this part, our aim was to test how participant's familiarity with the two musical idioms affects their perception of musical structures.
The musical structures in question were designed to either fit in or to not fit in the grammar of the two musical idioms. The musicalanguage explanation for this phenomenon is the following: in both music and language, we have more difficulty computing utterances that are ungrammatical in idioms with which we are familiar, and atonal melodies do not respect the syntax of Western tonal music, the idiom with Westerners are most familiar. This is why they find atonal melodies harder to recognize. Even if it is mostly Western popular musics rather than Western classical music that has spread to India, we can expect an asymmetry as Western popular music has widely borrowed its harmonies, melodies, and rhythms from Western classical music.
To test this hypothesis as applied to Carnatic vs. Western classical music, K. Vijayakrishnan and I have designed stimuli that were supposed to either fit in or not to fit in the grammar of the two musical idioms. I then tested how well participants were able to perceive them accurately.
The paradigm is the following: subjects are presented twice with a first musical stimulus ca. The comparison stimulus is either the same as the first, or slightly different e.
Participants had to answer 50 trials: 10 with rhythms and 40 with melodies. For half of these 50 trials, the comparison stimulus were the same as the reference stimulus, while there was a change in the comparison stimulus for the other half. They won't be described here. All of them were designed to either respect or not the grammars of Western and Carnatic music. This sound has been selected because it is clear, distinct, and relatively neutral, i. These 12 stimuli were composed of monophonic melodies with constant rhythms eighth notes , as in Figure These 3 stimuli were thus supposed to be as neutral as Logic Pro "harpsichord" melodies can be with respect to the two musical cultures Finally, 3 of these 12 trials trials were designed to respect neither Western nor Carnatic systems: they were constituted of completely atonal melodies, not fitting in any raaga or Western mode.
Examples of melodic stimuli. These figures show the transcription of the stimuli of two trials where reference and comparison stimuli are different. Still: Indian music students often use Western keyboards to learn music and so the biased might not be so strong.
Reference stimulus Comparison stimulus Reference stimulus Comparison stimulus ii 18 stimuli were recordings of violin played either by a Western semi-professional violinist Mathieu Orioli or a Carnatic professional violinist Lalitha Raghavan. Each of these 18 trials were were based on the 18 violin pieces used in the second part of our study see below.
Thus 9 were exctracted from the Western classical repertoire and 9 from traditional Carnatic playing. An example is given in Figure A reference and comparison stimulus selected from the Mozart extract see below. The main advantage for recorded violin is that they are more ecological: in Carnatic and Western music, the way instruments are played differ widely, even if it is the same instrument. This is an important part of what makes these music unique, and the way instruments are played is certainly part of their grammar on a phonological or prosodic level.
A violinist might attempt to play the same melody twice and, even though it would sound the same to his or her ears, a slight difference might persist. For the violin stimuli, participants were asked to judge whether the notes of the melody in the reference and comparison stimuli were the same or different, and to ignore any difference in rhythm, tuning, or interpretation. Still, human error brings in unknown variables. The main advantage of computer generated stimuli, on the other hand, is that we can control for each of the parameters that are modified in the comparison and reference stimuli.
The main disadvantage is that these sounds are unnatural to both grammar, and especially to Carnatic music. This asymmetry is not surprising since Logic Pro is a computer program designed to reproduce Western music, which unfortunately is the case for any standard music computer program. As explained above, our overall expectation for these 30 melody trials was the following: for someone who is more familiar with a given musical idiom, the melodic structures which are grammatical in this idiom will be easier to encode.
Thus, we expected that Carnatic musicians would be better than Western musicians at identifying melodic trials that do not fit in the Western modes, but fit in Carnatic raagam, while Western musicians would be better than Carnatic musicians for the melodic trials that display modulations.
Linguistic history of India
As data collection ended a few days before this chapter was submitted, the analyses presented here are only preliminary. Carnatic and the demographic origin of participants Switzerland vs. We hypothesized that the first two factors would interact with the third, so that music that stimuli that respect Western or Carnatic rules would yield higher scores, but that this effect would be greater for European participants in the case of Western music, and greater for Indian participants in the case of Carnatic music.
We venture that this asymmetry between Western and Carnatic stimuli might be due to three factors, which could have combined: i As said above the computer generated stimuli do not reflect Carnatic music as well as Western music, the Carnatic stimuli might thus have sound "foreign" even to familiar Carnatic listeners. Less foreign than the atonal stimuli, but as much as the Western ones. This might have been a source of confusion, especially for the Indian musician participants.
In Western music, the notes of two melodies are different if and only if they wouldn't be written with the same symbols on a score. Carnatic music uses no score and the concept of a note in this tradition is not as agreed upon as in Western classical music. For instance, there is an ongoing debate as to how many shruti, or embellishment notes, there are see Datta et al and section 2.
In any case, for both Indian and Western populations, the Western and atonal stimuli confirmed the expectation that it would be easier for someone who is more familiar with a given musical idiom to encode the melodic structures which are grammatical in this idiom, a result which makes a lot of sense from the musicalanguage hypothesis. Table Western rules Carnatic rules European part. Indian part. European part. Respected 1. Second Hypothesis: familiarity and judgment of emotions expressed by music In the second part of the experiment, participants were presented with 18 extracts of pieces for solo violin of one minute each.
Their task was to rate continually, while the music was playing, how much they thought the music expressed a given affective dimension see Tables They did so for each of the twelve 5-second slots of the one-minute pieces. This dynamic method allows for the investigation of the attribution of emotional characteristics to music in a very precise manner.
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Hence, through the judgment of competent listeners, this allows for a detailed investigation of what I called above the affective meaning of music. These 9 dimensions have been selected through an elaborate empirical process whose goal was to select, from an initial list of about items, the terms which best reflect the affects most frequently expressed and evoked by music. I used the GEMS model as it currently represents the most effective attempt to study affective dimensions related to music Torres-Eliard et al.
For this second part of the study, the stimuli consisted in extracts from the Carnatic and Western classical music traditions played on a solo violin. The Carnatic music extracts were played by professional violinist Lalitha Raghavan. I chose to use a solo instrument because accompaniment in Western and Carnatic are too dissimilar. The violin was the obvious choice as it is an instrument that belongs to the core of both these musical traditions. Recorded extracts of professional musicians playing solo violin thus constituted a culturally neutral, sufficiently expressive, and musically ecological medium.
The Grammar of Carnatic Music (With CD)
Apart from these criteria, these extracts were selected because of their expressive qualities. Each of the 9 Western extracts and each of the 9 Carnatic extracts target one of the 9 affective dimensions of the GEMS see Tables 1 and 2 below. I used the same recordings. Western classical music pieces used in this study and the GEMS affective dimension they target. Piece first 1 min. Nostalgic, sentimental Beethoven, Violin concerto in D major, Op. Tense, uneasy 64, I. Mozart, Violin concerto no.
The Grammar of Carnatic Music : K. G. Vijayakrishnan :
Powerful, strong Posth. Sibelius Violin concerto in D minor, Op. Filled with wonder, amazed The 9 Carnatic music extracts were selected and designed by K. Vijayakrishnan and Lalitha Raghavan.
Carnatic music pieces used in this study and their targeted GEMS affective dimension. From the musicalanguage hypothesis perspective, the idea here is that participants more familiar with a given idiom will better understand what the musical utterances in this idiom are meant to express, better at understanding the musical affective meaning. Quantitatively, given the available data, this translates in several ways. We will just concentrate on the most straightforward analysis, without taking into account differences between the 9 GEMS dimensions, or the time-curves resulting from the 5-second slots dynamic judgments.
These further analyses will be available in Bonard et al forthcoming. The hypothesis examined here was that Western participants would judge Western music as more expressive than Carnatic music and vice versa. Western music Carnatic music European participants 3. Further question: do you need to have learned the musical grammar of an idiom in order to understand its musical meaning?
In light of these results, my overall hypothesis is that differences in the perception of affective expression — that is, differences in understanding musical meaning — might be partially explained by different levels of grammatical mastery. This is tantamount to saying that, as Westerners, we understand our classical music better than Carnatic music because we have a poorer grammatical knowledge of Carnatic music, it being a foreign musical idiom.
If this hypothesis is correct, it would in turn explain some cultural asymmetries in musical tastes and aesthetics, why people tend to better understand the values of musical idioms with which they are more familiar.