Musical Texture, Modes & Scales (Indonesia, India)

Pictured: Saraswati (Sanskrit: सरस्वती, Sarasvatī) is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. 


ANNOTATED PLAYLIST ASSIGNMENT:  Compile a playlist of music you find compelling primary due the timbre/tone color of the music. The playlist should include at least ten selections. At least three of these selections must be either non-Western in derivation or incorporate “world music” influences. Use the platform of your choice (Youtube, Spotify, Dropbox) to compile your playlist and send a link to together with track-by-track annotations.

In your annotations, describe what it is you find compelling about the timbre of each selection. Is it a particular voice, instrument, or isolated section that draws your attention, or is it the tone color of the musical selection as a whole? Using subjective terminology, give a description of the timbral quality as you hear it–her are some terms commonly used for tone color–and describe the associations you make with the timbre. The latter may include synesthetic descriptions or other visual imagery, emotional associations, personality characteristics, cultural associations, personal memories, etc.

Individual annotations can range from a few sentences to a full paragraph. While I expect that you draw mostly on familiar and favored music, I would also recommend using this assignment to discover new music–especially when it comes to the several required international/world music selections.


What is musical texture?

What is gamelan?
Jenny Heaton and Simon Steptoe “Indonesia – Gamelan: A Storm of Bronze” (excerpt) from World Music: The Rough Guide, Vol. 2

*** A great playlist of gamelan music below–check out at least a few tracks to get the sound of gamelan in your ear ***


Musical universals and Indian aesthetics:

Ravi and Anoushk Shankar give brief descriptions of the “raga” concept:

BRIEF READING: What is a raga?

Niladri Kumar gives a longer demonstration of raga:

Further explanation of melodic ornamentation by Anuja Kamat:

Read more about it:  Musical Ornamentation (optional)

Introduction to the concept of taal/tala by Anuja Kamat:

Two medium-length essays, and one short essay, on globalized Indian music and culture:
1) Bellman, Jonathan. 1998. “Indian Resonances in the British Invasion, 1965-1968.” In The Exotic In Western Music.
2) Desai, Jigna. 2005. “Planet Bollywood: Indian Cinema Abroad.” In East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture.
3)  Chadha, Tina. 2003. “Mix This: Indian-Influenced Hip Hop.” The Village Voice.

*** SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION BELOW — recommended but not required ***

AUDIO:  A BBC report on the “Nightingales of India”–Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle–the two most recorded voices in human history

Crash Course History–Indus Valley Civilization:

Crash Course History–Early Indian history/religion/philosophy (post-Indus Valley Civilization):

Point & Counter-Point:
Point:  Indian “classical” music can be traced back to the Vedas
Counterpoint:  No it can’t, not definitively

Indian Independence and the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947:

VIDEO:  Dance sequence from Satyajit Ray’s classic film, The Music Room (Jalsaghar) 1958

PODCAST:  The recently-inaugurated “Bollywood is for Lovers” podcast

Segment on Hindi Cinema / Bollywood in Mark Cousins’ history of cinema: