Western and Indian classical music’s similarities

By Busy Fox Aug 31, 2022

The first three notes just so happened to be, as Julie Andrew would say in the 1959 musical drama The Sound of Music.

The syllables in western classical music may be different from those in Indian music, but their vibration and the music they produce are the same.

The stark disparities between western and Indian classical music would arouse heated opinions from purists of classical music. It’s not impossible to combine these two musically distinct offspring, though.

If it were the case, there wouldn’t have been as many performances featuring fusions of western and Indian classical music, including the simultaneous playing of the violin, double bass, clarinet, and the Saraswati veena and Hindustani sitar.

What then distinguishes Indian classical music from Western classical music, and what characteristics bring them closer together? Let’s investigate.

Western and Indian classical music’s historical roots
classical music from India It is believed that music initially appeared in India before 500 BCE and may be seen in the Vedic literature. The majority of the earliest scriptures were discovered to have been written in couplets, which suggests a rhythmic recital practice and culture.

The majority of the ancient Indian texts were transmitted orally to future generations. The same processes have also been used to construct Indian classical music. Early on, pupils were taught Indian classical music verbally by the instructors. Indian classical music lessons are being taught in the same way today.

The finest thing about Indian classical music is how, as it has been handed down through the decades, improvisation and contributions from new performers have further enhanced it. Through the next years, documentation, categorization, and refinement persisted, and it is still developing.

Western Classical Music: After making its first appearance in the plainchants of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, western classical music was advanced by the French poet-musicians Troubadour and Trouveres, who set their poetry to music.

The development of western classical music continued through time, starting with the monophonic religious songs and chants heard in churches, moving on to the troubadours’ use of courtly love as a topic, to the refining of rhythms, pitches, and eventually the addition of instruments.

Over time, many performers and instruments joined in, made contributions, and changed along with the pitches and chords. The first polyphonic works appeared in the tenth and eleventh century.

Western classical music continued to grow after that as orchestra and opera productions gained popularity. And as a result, over the years, both vocal and instrumental music have continued to evolve.

The Parallels
The two ancient musical traditions have many things in common despite the fact that they both began in places that are thousands of miles far from one another and have distinct characteristics that make them different from one another.

The first similarity is that tone, rhythm, and melody were the original means by which the human spirit was expressed.
The first emotion portrayed via music in both faiths was dedication, which was later followed by love and eventually other human feelings.

Even though they go by distinct titles, several aspects of western and Indian classical music have the same elements and sonic qualities.
For instance, the seven notes (west) or swaras used in both traditions are the same. In India, they are known as Saptak, whilst in the west, they are known as Solfege.

In both Western and Indian classical music, they produce the same vibration and contribute in the same ways to musical creation.

In western classical music, the term “octave” refers to intervals or the separation between pitches. The octave is split into twelve notes in both traditions.
Similar to how the western tradition uses modes and scales, Indian music uses raagas and thaats. Some aspects of some forms and modes are similar. They are: the Ionian mode from the west and Bilawal Thaat in India; the Dorian; the Phrygian; the Lydian; the Mixolydian; the Lydian to Kalyan; and the Aeolian to Asavari.
Seasons and classical music are closely related in both Indian and western cultures. Both traditions may be used to identify musical works that were affected by thunder, rain, and the time of day.
For instance, the music from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons beautifully depicts the beauty of each of the four seasons.

Additionally, Indian ragas have delved deeply into each season to highlight its subtler intricacies and link them to human emotions.

Additionally, a clear directive is given on which Raga to be sung at what hour of the day. Raag Deepan is sung in the evening, Raag Basant is performed in the spring, and so on. As an example, Raag Bhairavi is sung at dawn.

Western music incorporates melody in its compositions, much as Indian classical music. In contrast to the Indian tradition, the melody in western music is just a small component of the overall.
But in India, the melody is at the heart of music’s essential soul.

closing remarks

Although there are many similarities between the two traditions, there are also clearcut differences between them. What better way to conclude than by quoting a few lines from Rabindranath Tagore?

The universe throughout the day is like the music of Europe; it is a continuous concourse of immense melody made up of concord and discord as well as many disjointed bits. And our Indian music, one pristine, profound, and delicate raga, is the nighttime universe. They both move us, yet their spirits are in opposition to one another.

Related Post