Healing Secrets in Indian Raga Music - 2

by - Dr. T V Sairam

Probabilistic Considerations in Pitch Stability
Due to its very structural form, an Indian raga accommodates five note possibilities: vadi, samvadi, anuvadi, alpvadi and vivadi, all of which contribute variously towards evolving the uniqueness found in a raga. It has been argued that this classification of five characteristics in notes merits probabilistic considerations in the sense that a note belonging to the first three groups is likely to have a relatively high probability compared to a note of the fourth group, which has a small probability. From entropy considerations, a note with a small probability, however, has a corresponding, high surprise elements. Since entropy actually measures the surprise element in a message (in this case, the realization of a note), it is possible to distinguish ragas based on note duration and this could be an answer as to how the ragas of the same thaat evoke contrasting emotions in the minds of its listeners. (3)

Non-word Repetition or Aalaap in Indian Raga Music
Aalaap or aalaapana, a musical practice of expanding the musical horizon or space is a time-tested method, known for its therapeutic value. (4) in a recent research paper, it has been noticed that the children with special learning disability (SLD) performed poorly on the non-word repetition task compared to the typically developing children- especially as the length of the now-word increased (6). It is this author’s experience that routine musical training in non-word aalaap will address such deficiency efficiently and improve the performance level of such children significantly. It is also a recent conclusion by the researchers that an oral music segment of only 30 seconds from the aalaap of a raga generally elicit a specific emotion and that the elicited emotion from different segments from the same raga has strong specificity. (7)

Voice-Centred Raga Music Culture
Indian music is human voice-centred. Human voice is an extraordinary phenomenon. It is capable of conveying not only complex thoughts, which are dehors any human linguistic expression, but also a medium for communicating elaborate and subtle human emotion, aspiration and will. That’s how human voice has been used in many a shamanic practices around the world and also in the age-old practices of nada yoga in India. As the raga music is an off-shoot of the later, the system is also evidently evolved with this nada background. In classical singing raining, one of the goals has been developing a voice quality for singers. A recent study proved that singing power ratio (SPR) increased as the number of years of training. (8).

Phonological Awareness (PA) and Verbal Working Memory (VWM)
Phonological experience (PA) is known to be linked to the development of reading abilities of children. A recent experiment (9) indicates that children receiving Carnatic classical musical training were in advantage for phonological awareness (PA) and verbal working memory (VWM) along with enhanced pitch perception abilities. It was also found that the children who had undergone longer duration of training showed better performance in these areas. It is inferred from this experiment that musical training may enhance the reading abilities and memory function in growing children.

Enhanced Auditory Selective Attention (EASA), Reduced Auditory Fatigability (RAF) and Improved Speech-in-Noise Perception (SNP) in Musically Trained
A recent research with musically trained has further reported the larger MOCB (Medial Olivocochlear Bundle) activity in both the ears, in case of musicians than in non-musicians. Though the perceptual implication of this finding is yet to be determined, in all probability, they might include enhanced auditory selective attention (EASA), reduced auditory fatigability (RAF) and improved speech-in-noise perception (SNP) in musically trained people.


  • 1. Sairam, T.V. 2006. ‘Melody and Rhythm: ‘Indianness in Indian Music and Music Therapy’. Music Therapy Today, Vol VII (4) 876-891.
  • 2. Ranjani, HG et al, 2012, ‘On Stochastic Approaches to Speech and Music Signal Analysis’, Proc. FRSM 2012. 18-19 Jan 2012. KIIT College of Engineering, Gurgaon. Pp. 1-5.
  • 3. Datta, A.K. et al, 2006, ‘Experimental Analysis of Shrutis from Performance in Hindustani music’, Kolkata: SRD ITC SRA, pp 18-19. )
  • 4. Sairam, T. V. 2008. “Aalaap, a Sure Cure?’ Eternal Solutions, March 2008. Pp. 80-82.
  • 5. Chakraborty, S. et al 2011. ‘How do ragas of the same thaat that evoke contrasting emotions like joy and pathos differ in entropy?’ Philomusica Online, 10 (2011): 1-10.
  • 6. Shylaja, K. et al (2012) ‘Non-word Repetition in Children with Specific Learning Disability’ Proc. FRSM 2012. 18-19 Jan 2012. KIIT College of Engineering, Gurgaon. Pp. 34-38.
  • 7. Sengupta, R. et al 2012. ‘Emotion induced by Hindustani Music- A cross-cultural study based on Listeners’ Response’. Proc. FRSM 2012. 18-19 Jan 2012. KIIT College of Engineering, Gurgaon. Pp. 49- 54.
  • 8. Aithal, S. et al. 2012.’Effect of Different Levels of Training on Singing Power Ratio and Singer’s Formant in Classical Carnatic Singers’, Proc. FRSM 2012. 18-19 Jan 2012. KIIT College of Engineering, Gurgaon. Pp. 85- 90.
  • 9. Shrilekha, B. et al 2012. ‘Phonological Awareness and Verbal Working Memory Skills in Children with Music Training.’ Proc. FRSM 2012. 18-19 Jan 2012. KIIT College of Engineering, Gurgaon. Pp. 116-120.
    Dr T V Sairam is from F/48B, Hari Nagar,New Delhi 110064. For any doubts you can contact him at - tvsairam@gmail.com
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