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Course Co-ordinated by IIT Madras
Dr. Lakshmi Sreeram
IIT Madras


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Carnatic music is a vibrant musical tradition that has evolved, and is largely practiced, in Southern India and wherever else there is a significant diaspora of South Indians.
A highly nuanced and tonally rich melodic music, its rhythmic aspect too is considerably complex.  As much as it is rooted in tradition there is immense demand on the improvisational skills of the musicians.  The coming together of these two aspects in a concert can give the listener a musical high.
What makes this music so unique and rich?  What happens in a typical concert?  What do we look for?  Who were the great musicians and composers who have made the music what it is today? These are some of the questions this course will try to answer. 
What does a student need to bring to this course?   An interest in music, a willingness to bite into a music technically and aesthetically very different from popular music-s and other forms like Western Classical music.
It would help if you have heard Carnatic music before, but that is not absolutely necessary.  You will hear plenty during the course.

  • Music in India
  • Variety of Music in India - Traditions of art or classical music in India
  • Carnatic Music – the southern music.
  • Musical material
  • The 12 pitches or swara sthana-s
  • The scale - natural or just tempered scale as opposed to the equal or even tempered scale.


  • Raga – the basic melodic facet of Indian music
  • What makes for a raga – swara (note/tone), gamaka (embellishment), pidi (phrase), graha, nyasa, jeeva swaras.
  • Variety of raga-s and their classification.  The 72 melakarta schema
  • Tala – the rhythmic facet
  • Concepts of the avartana, samam, and eduppu
  • Suladi sapta tala schema


  • Composition
  • Composers – the Carnatic trinity and their contribution; before them and after them
  • Kinds of composition
  • Some great compositions
  • Carnatic music and notation
  • Improvisation: What is the nature of improvisation in Carnatic music; various kinds of improvisation - alapana, neraval, swara prastara and tanam


  • Presentation of a Carnatic concert – the meshing of the compositional and improvisational aspects.
  • Accompaniment – its unique nature in Carnatic music.


  • Percussive and melodic instruments
  • Listening to a Carnatic concert – aesthetic and technical aspects.


  • A Karnatic Music Primer by P. Sriram.
  • Bonnie C Wade – Music in India: The Classical Traditions.
    (Prentice-Hall,1979; reprinted Riverdale/Simon and Schuster, 1987; second edition, Manohar, 1997)

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