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Emotional Secrets in Musical Constructs

Dr. T. V. Sairam

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Now what is the impact of sad songs? Firstly, they provoke intense feelings, triggering memory, making the listener nostalgic. It should be remembered that the sad songs do not create just sadness, but sadness with certain beauty that can be savoured or relished by its listeners! This helps listeners to a pleasant simulation of thought feelings, which remain inexpressible. Following the law called “similia”, which stands for the concept, like cures like, it is the sad tinge in music that works as a cure for those who are saddened by events and relationships. A feeling of consolation as someone is undergoing the same sense of isolation and tension is guaranteed by such musical forms.  They also help in unburdening the unwanted emotional baggage in the listener’s personality. Though there are millions of songs which can be grouped as ‘sad songs’, one of the recent ones I admired was Rahat Fateh Ali’s ‘Saaiyaan mere’.  Minor scales are also thus known for their impact in Indian music. However Indian classical music places less emphasis on the use of minor chords and instead it is the right combination of tones (or semi-tones) that can infuse melancholy to a particular raga. Ragas like Asavari and Subhapanthuvarali are the burning examples of ragas that express melancholy. Ragas like Charukesi, Hindolam (Malkauns), Jagan Mohini, Kapi, Kharaharapriya, Madhuvanti, Marga Hindolam, Mayamalavagowla, Nadanamakriya, Purvikalyani, Revati, Ritigowla, Shivranjani, Sriranjani etc  have been successfully  tested by the volunteers of Nada Centre for Music Therapy, a pioneering organization devoted to popularizing music therapy in India on the survivors of major calamities in India such as tsunami and cloudbursts in recent years.

Joy in Music
We all know that the physical state of joy reflects thrill or faster heartbeats. Lot of exuberance and extrovert characteristics in the happy man’s personality. All these are reflected in music which give joy to us. Fast paced, peppy music or those which mimic squeals or shouts with joyful lyrics and played or sung in higher volumes are the typical music that reflect joyful moods and create the same in its listeners. Among the contemporary artistes, one can find joyful beats and rhythms in Calvin Harris (Feat- Ne-Yo- Let’s Go number for instance). In carnatic ragas, we hhave Bhupalam and Bowli  which depict moods of the morning – fresh and joyful to enter into a new wakening! Brindavana Saranga depicts the moods of midday- laced with joy, peace, devotion and majesty – a recipe for being happy and healthy! Chandrakauns, Desh, Gauri Manohari, Hamsa Nandi, Kanada, Kadanakudoohalam, Nagaswarali,    are the other beautiful Indian ragas, which are capable of infusing joy and peace to its listeners. 

Angry Tunes and Songs 
Anger in music is reflected through the “diminished” chords which we had mentioned earlier. By diminishing the stable notes and making them unstable and tense, the musician is able to create certain sense of instability in the minds of the listeners as well. The same “similia” principle works here too. The people who are prone to anger is attracted to such tunes, which like joyfule ones are also fast-paced. They are however more ‘growling’ than ‘singing’! They depict distorted voices and shrill screaming which produce fear or hatred in listeners. Percussion of this kind of music also produce a feeling of venting pent-up anger. The odd sounds of this music as in many a metal genre of music do produce such impact which help many of its listeners –especially the younger ones- overcome the lurking anger and frustrations, caused by high expectations in life and from people around. Modern lyrics such as “Break you” by Lamb of Gods in Heavy Metal format  and verses such as “you taught me hate, I’ll teach your fear” etc feed the medicine of anger to those who are already angry. This helps them pleasantly overcome their anger and disgust. Coming to the Carnatic ragas,  Abheri , Atana, Bhairav and a host of other ragas, which reflect anger or disgust or ridicule can be used for healing similar feelings in patients. While doing so, it is advisable to incorporate fast or irregular tempo which reflects the physical aspects of anger.  Nada Centre for Music Therapy, a pioneering organization devoted to music therapy in India since 2004, has done research experiments on ragas such as Chakravakam, Devagandhari, Panthuvarali, Punnagavarali and Shanmukhapriya and studied their beneficial influence in manageing anger on executives and students.

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