The Natural Music of Vedas: Creation of Sound Expressed with Intonations
Veda represents the integrating quality of consciousness. It has predominantly series of thoughts that is practiced by Rishis of Bharat. It has teachings on existence, mind, body, soul, music, science, space technology, history and geography.
Vedic music has all the cycles and rhythms of the physiology; hormonal secretion, metabolism, cardiac rhythms, circadian rhythms and more which keep the mind and body in tune with the rhythms of Nature.
The greatness of Hindu Vedic literature is infinite. When you find it hard to connect to nature devoid of Vedic knowledge you can connect with the divinity in the form of music. Music from Vedas are eternal, the sound vibrations are defined in cognizance with nature. The frequency of intonations follow the natural pattern prescribe by supreme divine himself.
No ancient culture clearly postulated norms of music like it was defined by Vedic Rishis. The depth in their music and singing had such a high intensity that it caused thunderstorms, earthquake and also forced Indra to release rain in selective famine areas. Infact music itself was introduced to the world by Vedas.
- 1 The Eternal Music of Nature from Vedas
- 1.1 Hindu Vedic Music that Connects You with Nature
- 1.2 Swar, The Sound of Eternal Music
- 1.3 The Sound of Bhagwan Controls The Arrangement of Planets
- 1.4 The Mother of all Music OM ॐ
- 1.5 The History of Eternal Music Gifted by Hindus to the World
- 1.6 The Hindu Music and Raga Melodies
- 1.7 Vedic Music Corresponding to the Time
- 1.8 Gandharva Veda and Musical Blessings of Supreme Bhagwan
- 1.9 How the Essence of Music Formed
- 1.10 Intervals of Just Intonation
- 1.11 Striking Difference Between Limitless Natural Indian Music and Limited European Music
- 1.12 Problems Related to Tuning in Just Intonation
- 1.13 The Twelve Tone Equal Temperament System
- 1.14 Limitations of the Twelve Tone Equal Temperament
- 1.15 The Influence of Sound Intervals on The Mind
- 1.16 Sound Beats and Beating
- 1.17 Just Intonation in Combination with Equal Temperament
- 2 The Famous Experiments of Positivity of Music on the Plants
The Eternal Music of Nature from Vedas
Hindu Vedic Music that Connects You with Nature
A breath-taking sunset, a panoramic mountain view or a waterfall in the woods can fill you with wonder and joy. The melodies of Gandharva Veda mirror this experience. If you could hear the frequencies of Nature, you would hear the sounds of Gandharva Veda music.
Swar, The Sound of Eternal Music
In the general sense for explanation Swar means tone, and applies to chanting and singing. The basic swaras of Vedic chanting are udatta, anudatta and svarita. The musical octave evolved from the elaborate and elongated chants of Sama Veda, based on these basic swaras. Siksha is the subject that deals with phonetics and pronunciation. Naradiya Siksha elaborately discusses the nature of swaras, both Vedic chants and the octave. The premise of world music take the basics from the musical notes of Sama Veda, Gandhrava Veda and Siksha sutras of similar Hindu texts. The massive explanation on music cannot be found elsewhere in any other civilization but only in Bharat (India).
The Sound of Bhagwan Controls The Arrangement of Planets
Hindus associate several instruments with deities and Vedic gods. Bhagwan Krishna plays flute while Bhagwan Shiv perform tandav dance to the tune of Damru. Vedic gods playing different instruments has to do with the connection of sound and managing the elements of Universe. The sound vibrations of Vedic gods are so perfect that their specific frequencies actually balances the ’cause and effect’ for which the music was created. Maa Saraswati plays Veena to maintain the balance of knowledge. Sage Narad chants Narayan, recites Vishnu mantra while playing the tambura, Nandi bail, Bhagwan Shiv’s disciple plays the Mathalam. Whenever Bhagwan Krishna played his panchajanya conch in Mahabharat war it decimated the strength of enemies and cleared negative energies.
Tata vadya – String instruments (Chordophonous)
This is further classified based on the mode of playing:
– by friction with a bow like the violin, sarangi, dilruba, esraj, etc
(Ravanastram is one of the earliest known bowed instrument)
– by plucking the string like the veena, rudra veena, gotuvadyam, sitar, sarod, guitar, mandolin, harp, (tambura, ektar -drone instruments) etc.
– by striking with a hammer or a pair of sticks like gettuvadyam, swaramandala
Sushira vadya – Wind instruments
This section comprises hollow instruments where wind is the producer of sound. These can be further classified by mode of playing:
– those where wind is supplied by some mechanical means, commonly bellows – e.g. organ, harmonium
– those where the wind is supplied by the breath of the performer, which can be further classified as mouth blown & nose blown.
Mouth Blown: Those where wind is blown through the mouth pieces in the instrument – e.g. clarinet, oboe, nadaswaram, shehnai
Nose blown: Those where wind is blown through the orifices in the wall of instrument – e.g. flute
Avanaddha vadya – Membrane covered (Membranophonous)
This section comprises all percussion instruments. These can be further classified by mode of playing:
– those played by hand – e.g. mridangam
– those played using sticks
– those played partly by hand and partly by stick – e.g. tavil
– self struck – e.g. damaru
– those where one side is struck and the other side stroked – e.g. perumal madu drum
Ghana vadya – Solid percussion instruments
This covers instruments made out of metal, wood, stone or clay but those that are solid like the ghatam, kartal, gongs, cymbals, etc.
The Mother of all Music OM ॐ
Planets revolve around sun in elliptical paths similar to the shape of sacred sound ॐ OM as shown above. The shape of planets is not perfectly round to give scope to other types of energies which are opposite to the positive energy of creation. Sun revolve galaxy in elliptical pathways like other stars do. The perfect balance is maintained across all planets w.r.t gravity/anti-gravity with the help of elliptical pathways. Without sound vibrations creation of planets and life is not possible. The sound of ॐ OM create shapes in the cells, atoms, electrons and also forms the feature of different flowers, fruits, plants and animals including humans. The beautiful to ugliest beings created all across the earth are due to sacred vibrations of ॐ OM set in different scope of energies and atmosphere.
The History of Eternal Music Gifted by Hindus to the World
Thousands of years ago in India, great Rishis or sages cognized within their own consciousness the subtle rhythms and enlightening melodies of the Veda, which is pure knowledge at the basis of Nature. As a part of the Veda, Gandharva Veda is the tradition of musical performance that replicates the vibrations of Nature at different times of day and night. Maharishi Gandharva compiled eternal music of Nature and inspired the most renowned musicians of India, since thousands of years, to bless the world with soulfelt music. By playing the Indian classical music you join in creating greater peace, harmony and joy for yourself, your dear ones and the world.
The Hindu Music and Raga Melodies
Gandharva Veda is based on melodies called Ragas. Each Raga has a unique structure which combines both fixed elements and infinite possibilities of variation, allowing the musician to bring out all the subtle values of the frequencies present at that time of the day. Each Raga is based on one of the ten basic scales called Thaat, which determine the notes that are permitted in the Raga.
Vedic Music Corresponding to the Time
The knowledge of when to play each Raga comes from the time theory of Maharishi Gandharva Veda. This theory is based on three-hour periods called Praharas which correspond to the changing frequencies of Nature throughout the day. It is best to listen to Maharishi Gandharva Veda in a comfortable position-sitting or lying down-with the eyes closed. Even when no one is present to listen, playing the music 24 hours a day in your home or workplace generates a peaceful, soothing atmosphere that uplifts the whole environment.
Gandharva Veda and Musical Blessings of Supreme Bhagwan
Gandharva Veda is the music of nature, of natural law, that can create bliss and harmony and aid the development of consciousness. It is also said that there were elements of Gandharva Veda in all types of music, but seemed to be of the opinion that traditional, Indian classical music was what was most in tune with the laws of nature – especially when the different Ragas, which are the tonal framework for this music, are played at their appropriate time.
However, in the latter 100 years or so, due to British invasion, Indian music has been badly influenced by a foreign tonal system, different from its own original. This foreign system is the western tonal system, which has influenced Indian music mainly by Indian musicians adopting western instruments. This is especially the case with the harmonium, which has become very popular and widespread in India.
We believe it is important to raise awareness of the issue, we will try to explain what this is about, and what implications it has for Gandharva Veda.
The case is that unlike original Indian music, the modern western tonal system is not in accordance with natural tuning, and consequently neither the instruments based on this system. It’s a question of intervals between notes. While the intervals used in the original Indian music is based on what is called natural harmonics, the intervals used in today’s western music is tempered, which means that they are artificially made. We will in the following describe these two tonal systems, their cons and pros, and make a comparison between them. We will start by describing the basic elements of music.
How the Essence of Music Formed
The essence of music can be said to be relationship of sounds. Definition of music according to Oxford dictionary, Vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
The sounds of music are both in traditional western and Indian music ordered in scales, which thus is the basis for the musical expression. Most commonly a scale has 7 notes, while it sometimes can have less and sometimes more. One of the notes of the scale is called the key note, the basic note of the scale. If you can liken it to a family, the key note is like the mother, while the rest of the notes are like the children, sometimes playing between themselves, but always with the mother in the background and always returning to the mother. Hence, the most important relationship between the notes of a scale is between the key note, the mother, and the other notes.
The key note is the starting note from which we build a scale. The different notes of a scale are often named by its position from the key note. Hence, the second note of a scale is called the second, the fourth note, the fourth, the fifth note, the fifth and so on.
Intervals of Just Intonation
The Nature of Sound
When we strike a string on a guitar, it makes a sound. The sound comes about by the vibrating string making the adjacent molecules of air vibrate. The vibration spreads in all directions in space, like ripples in a pond. When it reaches our ear membranes, it makes them vibrate, and we perceive a continuous sound of a definite pitch.
The air vibrate in the same speed as the string, and the pitch of the sound is determined by the speed of this vibration, which is called the frequency. The frequency is measured in Hz, which is the number of vibrations pr. second. The frequency of the vibrating string is determined by its length, thickness and tightness.
Disregarding possible amplification devices, the amplitude of the vibration determines the volume. While the frequency, and thus the pitch of the sound, stays the same as long as the string is vibrating, the amplitude gradually diminishes, making the sound steadily fade away.
Intervals of Harmonic Series
An interval is the difference in pitch between two sounds. When we listen to the sound of a guitar string, we do not only hear one sound, but many sounds of different pitch. We actually hear a compound of different sounds. The intervals between these sounds are not at random, but very precise and orderly. What we hear is one sound that is most prominent, the basic sound, but in addition so called overtones.
Disregarding possible limitations of the physical medium of the string, the overtones are exact multiplied frequencies of the basic sound. If for instance the main sound is 200 Hz, the first overtone, which is the second sound, will be 400 Hz, twice the basic frequency. The second overtone, or the third sound, will be 600 Hz, three times the basic frequency. The third overtone, or the fourth sound, will be 800 Hz, four times the basic frequency. The fourth overtone, or the fifth sound, will be 1000Hz, five times the basic frequency, and so on. We can illustrate this by using a scale of frequencies in Hz:
A sound and its overtones
This sequence of sounds is called the harmonic series and represents a collection of natural intervals. They embody the sound intervals of nature, also called intervals of Just Intonation. In the most prominent cultures of the world’s history, one built one’s musical scales on such intervals. Also in Europe – all through the middle ages and in the renaissance – there was a general agreement that intervals of Just Intonation should be the basis for making music.
The intervals of Just Intonation can be expressed as ratios of the sound numbers, which are one number divided by the other. We can illustrate this in the following way:
Mathematics of Just Intonation
The interval ratio between two sounds in the harmonic series is the number of the last sound divided by the number of the first sound. By multiplying the number of the first sound with the ratio one gets the number of the last sound. The following demonstrates this:
The first interval we have is from sound 1 to sound 2, which in this case is from 200 Hz to 400 Hz. This is also called an octave. The interval ratio for this interval is 2/1. By multiplying 1 with the interval ratio, we get 2. Likewise, by multiplying 200 Hz with the interval ratio we get 400 Hz, the frequency of the 2. sound.
The second interval we have is from sound 2 to sound 3, which in this case is from 400 Hz to 600 Hz. The interval ratio for this interval is 3/2. By multiplying 2 with the interval ratio, we get 3. Likewise, by multiplying 400 Hz with the interval ratio we get 600 Hz, the frequency of the 3. sound.
The third interval we have is from sound 3 to sound 4, which in this case is from 600 Hz to 800 Hz. The interval ratio for this interval is 4/3. By multiplying 3 with the interval ratio, we get 4. Likewise, by multiplying 600 Hz with the interval ratio we get 800 Hz, the frequency of the 4. sound.
But we also have intervals comprising more than one interval, like for instance from sound 4 to 7, which in this case is from 800 Hz to 1400 Hz. The interval ratio for this interval is 7/4. By multiplying 4 with the interval ratio, we get 7. Likewise, by multiplying 800 Hz with the interval ratio we get 1400 Hz, the frequency of the 7. sound, and so on.
Striking Difference Between Limitless Natural Indian Music and Limited European Music
Building The Natural Scales And Scales of Just Intonation
What we see is that there is a mathematical principal involved. All the interval ratios are expressed by whole numbers. So what characterizes natural intervals, or intervals of Just Intonation, is that they can be expressed as whole number ratios. First it was taught by Indians and later this was also the discovery of the old Greeks, like Pythagoras, the Chinese and many other cultures of the world history, who all thought that musical scales should be based on such intervals.
Hence, one can choose a key note and build a natural scale, or a scale in Just Intonation, by adding intervals of whole number ratios. Which intervals to choose for different scales is a science by itself. There is, however, one basic guideline: The interval ratios of smaller numbers are more harmonious, or consonant, than those of larger numbers. As the numbers of the ratios become larger, the intervals become less consonant and more dissonant.
By applying whole number ratios, one can make a collection of intervals within an octave, from the smallest interval to gradually larger. These intervals then constitute a series of notes. From these notes or intervals, one then can select the ones to be used in different scales. In Indian musical theory, the largest number of notes in such a collection is 66, because this is considered to be the smallest degree of differentiation of sound one is able to perceive. Hence, the original Indian classical music, such as the genre of Dhrupad, is the only known form of music that systematically utilizes all possible intervals of naturally harmonic notes. Such a series of notes is also called shrutis or microtones.
In the later developed primitive European tradition, however, one has since long back used a tonal system with twelve intervals in the octave, constituting a series of notes called half tones. From these, one selects the notes for a scale. Originally, the twelve tones of western music were in accordance with Just Intonation.
While giving preference to the most consonant intervals, which have ratios of the smallest numbers, we can make a collection of twelve somewhat evenly spread out notes within an octave. Thus, we will have a series of half tones in Just Intonation. We can start with the standard A in western music, which has the frequency of 440 Hz.
Example of a series of notes in Just Intonation
As we see from the table, one can also calculate the interval ratios between the half notes. To do this, one takes the interval ratio of a note and subtracts the interval ratio of the previous note. This is done by an interval ratio being multiplied by the inverse of the interval ratio to be subtracted. For instance, to find the interval ratio from Bb to B, one subtracts the interval ratio 16/15 from the interval ratio 9/8, which is done by the following multiplication: 9/8 x 15/16 = 135/128.
One can also add interval ratios. To do this, one multiplies one ratio with the other. For instance to add the ratio 16/15, which is the half note from A to B b , to the ratio 135/128, which is the half note from B b to B, one do the following: 16/15 x 135/128 = 9/8.
Problems Related to Tuning in Just Intonation
When we calculate the interval ratios between the half notes, we find that they are not equal. While the ratio from A to A# is 16/15, the ratio from A# to B is 135/128 etc. What this means in practice, is that to apply Just Intonation on a so called fixed-pitch instrument, like for instance an organ or a piano, one has to tune the instrument in accordance with one specific key note. If one should want to change the key note, which means starting the same scale from another pitch or frequency of sound, one most likely would have to retune the whole instrument, and to retune a piano is no small job.
This became a practical problem in western music when one started using fixed-pitch instruments, because one wanted to be able to frequently switch the key note. It also became a problem because one wanted to explore more complicated music with frequent modulations, which means transporting scales to different key notes in the middle of a composition. We can illustrate this problem by the following example:
The scheme above is based on the key note of A. So if we use this tuning with an A-major scale, we will see what will happen if we for instance try to change the key note to C. The A-major scale consists of the notes A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G#, while the C-major scale has the notes C – D – E – F – G – A – B.
Example of an A-major scale in Just Intonation changed to C
What we see is that the intervals between the notes of the two scales in many cases become different. For instance, the interval ratio between the first and second note of the A-major scale, which is from A to B, has the interval ratio 9/8, while the interval ratio between the first and second note of the C scale, which is from C to D, has the interval ratio 10/9. The interval ratio between the second and third note of the A-major scale is 10/9, while the interval ratio between the second and third note of the C scale, which is from D to E, has the interval ratio 135/128, and so on. Because the intervals of the notes of these two scales in many cases are different, they are actually two different scales. It is therefore not possible to change the key note of the major scale from A to C with this scheme of tuning.
The Twelve Tone Equal Temperament System
Because of these problems related to tuning in Just Intonation, one started in Europe, sometimes during the Renaissance, to experiment with different types of so called tempered tuning, which means altering the intervals of Just Intonation so as to be able to change the key note of a scale without retuning. Many different systems of tempering were proposed through the years, but finally, in about 1850, the most simplistic system, called the twelve-tone equal temperament, became the standard and has remained so since in western music.
Equal temperament means equalizing the interval ratio between the twelve notes within the octave and fixing their frequencies. The frequency of the note A in the middle of the piano keyboard was for instance set to be 440 Hz. Hence, We can start from this frequency to calculate the equal temperament interval ratio:
Calculating the frequency ratio for the twelve-tone equal temperament
One multiplies 440 Hz with the frequency ratio to get to the frequency of the next half note. Then one multiplies this new frequency with the same ratio to get to the next half note thereafter, and so on. This one does all together 12 times to reach the octave of A, the next A on the keyboard of a piano, which has twice the frequency of the previous A.
In the formula, one can replace 440 Hz with 1 and the octave with 2. One can then calculate the interval ratio to be 1.0594630943593, which is an irrational number, which means that it can not be converted to a whole number ratio, which again means that it is not an interval ratio in accordance with the natural harmonics.
So, to make it clear. We start with the note A of 440 Hz. We multiply this frequency with the frequency ratio 1.05946 and we get 466.1624 Hz, which is the frequency of next note on the keyboard of a piano, Bb. Then we take this last frequency and multiply with the same frequency ratio, and we get 493.8824 Hz, which is the next note thereafter on the keyboard of the piano, B, and so on. This is the twelve-tone equal temperament system.
This tonal system is a compromise solution, where one compromises the consonance, or the harmony, of the intervals with the possibility of playing a scale in any key without one scale sounding more dissonant than another. However, this also means that none of the intervals except the octave are in accordance with the natural harmonics of Just Intonation. So what does this imply? We can make a table that compare the previous twelve tones in Just Intonation with the twelve tones in equal temperament:
Twelve-tone equal temperament compared to Twelve tones of Just Intonation
As seen from the table, the difference in frequency between equal temperament Just Intonation might seem to be small. The supporters of the twelve-tone equal temperament system will therefore probably claim the this difference is not of great importance. They also might ask why the intervals of Just Intonation should be more preferable, even if they can be considered to be so called natural, which means in accordance with the natural harmonics.
To answer this question, we will first consider the limitations of the twelve-note equal temperament system and then its influence on the mind of the listener as compared to Just Intonation.
Limitations of the Twelve Tone Equal Temperament
The twelve-tone equal temperament system has great limitations for musical expression. While one in just Intonation have a large number of natural intervals available, one has in the twelve-tone equal temperament system only 12 fixed intervals to use.
As an illustration of this limitation, much of the world’s folk music and contemporary music would actually not have existed if one only had to stick to the tempered system. This includes genres of music like Irish and English folk music, Negro Spirituals, Blues, Soul, many types of Jazz and Rock and Roll. The reason is that these genres of music rely heavily on intervals that simply are not available in the tempered system, as for instance the so called blue notes, which often are a lowered third, fifth or seventh of a scale, but not lowered as much as reaching the next half note in the equal temperament. These are notes that in many ways are the life-blood of these genres of music. Without them, they would loose their vitality and power of enchantment.
It is possible to create a kind of an illusion of a blue note on for instance a piano by playing very fast intervals of half notes, and thereby create a feeling of a blue note, which is situated somewhere between two half notes. Hence, some pianists can to a certain degree compensate the limitations of the tempered system by their technical ability. But this is definitely not the same as playing the blue note itself, which is not available on an equal tempered piano.
The limitations of the tempered system are even more apparent when it comes to Indian music. There are so many intervals in Indian classical music that are not available in the tempered system. The tonal framework for composition and improvisation in Indian classical music is called Raga, of which there is recorded to exist about 300, and each of them has their own specific scale. The difference between the scales of two Ragas, for instance a morning and evening Raga, can sometimes be only a microtone on some of the notes.
Furthermore, an important part of a Raga is to move certain notes away from their position after they have been sounded, so to slide between the microtones or from note to note in the scale, enhancing the beauty of the composition. This is certainly not possible on a piano or a harmonium, which therefore makes it impossible to play a Raga properly on them, even if they should be tuned in accordance with the natural harmonics.
Moreover, the limitation of the equal temperament is not only the reduced selection of intervals, but also that each note is fixed to a certain frequency. In traditional Indian music one never did that. Every frequency of sound has a particular influence, a particular quality or feel to it. If there weren’t different feelings connected to different sound frequencies, there would, for instance, be no point of playing in different keys. By the fixity of the frequencies of the notes, the twelve tone equal temperament excludes many frequencies – obliterate them from nature’s palette. If you liken the sound frequencies to the spectrum of colors, it is as if artists only had a small limited number of set colors to work with.
The Influence of Sound Intervals on The Mind
Another very important consideration regarding intervals of sound is how they affect the mind of the listener. In the classical texts of Indian music, as also in the theories of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, a key factor for music to have a positive effect is that it should be pleasing to the mind. Studies show that when people hear intervals of just intonation, they find them to be more pleasing, more beautiful than the equivalent intervals in equal temperament. People are actually often amazed that the intervals of equal temperament at all can be considered consonant, or harmonious, when hearing them after having heard the equivalent intervals in Just Intonation.
Esthetic appeal was also Pythagoras’ starting point. He discovered that the length of a string is equivalent to the difference in sound frequencies. If for instance the length of a string was twice the length of another with the same thickness and tightness, the interval between them would be an octave. By this, he discovered that the intervals of sound were the most beautiful when the difference in the length of the strings were in small whole number ratios. On the basis of this discovery, he was even able to use music to cure people from diseases.
Esthetic reasons were also the main argument against the equal temperament when it was introduced in Europe. Musical theorists of the time felt that equal temperament degraded the purity of each chord and the esthetic appeal of music. It is also interesting to note that none of the renowned western, classical composers wrote for equal temperament, including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Brahms and Chaikovskii. Mozart is even quoted to have said that he would kill anyone that would play his music in equal temperament.
However, considering that the differences in frequency between the notes in equal temperament and the equivalent notes in Just Intonation are not very large, as seen in terms of percentages, why should there be such a difference in the pleasantness of hearing their intervals? Can it be just a question of imagination? Or some kind of a placebo effect?
Consonance and Dissonance
The answer to this is that the intervals of Just Intonation are more consonant, or harmonious, than the equivalent intervals in equal temperament, which also can be shown by modern scientific experiments. Consonance is a word derived from Latin: com, “with” + sonare “sound.” If we look it up in the Wikipedia, it will be defined as the following:
Dissonance is also a word derived from Latin: dis “apart” + sonare, “to sound.” It defined by the modern musicologist Roger Kamien in the following way:
Both consonance and dissonance are important for musical expression, but it has a value that the consonant intervals are truly consonant. To show by modern scientific experiments that the intervals of Just Intonation are more consonant than the equivalent intervals in equal temperament, we have to go into a branch of physics called acoustics. This is a comprehensive science, because many features are involved in the relationship between sounds. We will therefore only look at what is considered to be the most important factors for consonance and dissonance. These are concurrence of overtones and a phenomena called beating.
Sound Beats and Beating
When the difference in frequency between two sounds is more than zero Hz and less than about 20 Hz, we will perceive them as one sound. The frequency of the combined sound that we hear, will be the average of the two sounds. The volume of the combined sound, however, will for certain reasons constantly vary, and this is what is called beating. It is a phenomena that is considered to be the principal cause of dissonance. The reason why beating occurs is because of the constantly changing relationship between the vibrations of the two sounds.
When we strike a string on a guitar, the air molecules surrounding it starts to vibrate back and forth. The vibration spreads in all directions of space. The volume of the sound is dependent on the amplitude of the vibration. When the frequency of two sounds are so close together that they are perceived as one sound, the amplitude of the combined sound is the summation of the amplitudes of the two sounds. As one of the two sounds vibrates slightly faster than the other, the relationship between their vibrations will continuously vary. At one point they will be synchronous, which means that they will swing back and forth simultaneously. Then they gradually will be less synchronous, which also means that the sum of the amplitudes gradually will be less, until they reach a point when they vibrate opposite each other. If they then have the same amplitude, the sum of their amplitudes will be zero, making no sound. If the amplitude of one of the two sounds is larger than the other, the amplitude of the combined sound will not be zero, but less. Then gradually the vibrations of the two sounds will move back to being synchronous, which also means that the amplitude of the combined sound gradually will increase, and so on.
The sound that we hear is the result of the two sounds working against our ear membranes. When their vibrations are synchronous, they will push and pull the ear membranes simultaneously, and thus with twice the force as by one sound. Then when their vibrations are opposite each other, one sound will push the membranes, while the other will pull it, and thus they will block each other, making us perceive a reduced sound or no sound at all. This is what is called beating. It can be likened to listening to the radio while turning the volume rapidly up and down.The frequency of the beating is the difference in frequency between the two sounds. We can illustrate the phenomena by the following figure, which shows the sound vibrations as waves:
Example of Beating
The two upper waves are the sounds, while the wave under is the combined sound that we hear. The two sounds have the same amplitude. The changing amplitude of the lower wave shows the change in volume of the combined sound. At point A the two sounds are somewhat synchronous, and the combined amplitude is at its largest. Then they become less synchronous and the combined amplitude becomes less. At B they vibrate opposite each other and the combined amplitude becomes zero, making no sound. Then they gradually move back to synchrony, while the combined amplitude gradually increases and reaches its maximum when the two waves again become synchronous, and so on.
When the difference in frequency increases between two sounds, while it’s is still less than about 20 Hz, the frequency of the beating increases. When the difference between the sounds becomes larger than about 20 Hz, the beating is replaced by a general experience of roughness. When the difference reaches a point somewhere between a whole note and a minor third, the beating stops, and we hear two separate sounds.
Example of Consonance and Dissonance
The phenomena of beating denotes that just a slight variance in frequency have a strong impact on the degree of consonance or dissonance. We can illustrate this by a mistuned interval of an octave:
Example of beating for a slightly mistuned octave
We see that between the key note and the pure octave, the overtones are in concurrence with each other on different levels, which means that there are no beating and that the two sounds have a very high degree of consonance. If we however mistune the octave by 2 Hz, we get beating between the overtones on many levels, between the 2nd and 1st sound, between the 4th and 2nd sound, between the 6th and 3rd sound etc. This will result in reduced consonance, or increased dissonance.
We can now compare the consonance of Just Intonation with that of equal temperament by using the fifth as an example. The fifth is considered to be a highly consonant interval.
The comparative consonance of a fifth in Just Intonation and in equal temperament
The tempered fifth is actually 659.2564 Hz.
We see in this table that there are a large degree of concurrence between the overtones of the key note and the fifth in Just Intonation. By none of the sounds are there such a difference that beating can occur.
But if we look at the tempered fifth, none of the overtones are concurrent with the overtones of the key note, and we get beating between many of the overtones. We get beating between the 3rd and the 2nd sound, between the 6th and the 4th sound, between the 9th and the 6th sound etc. This means that the consonance is much weaker, or the dissonance stronger, compared to the equivalent interval in Just Intonation.
Just Intonation in Combination with Equal Temperament
Still, somebody might say that even though an instrument like the piano or the harmonium, which are tuned in equal temperament, have their limitations, and that their intervals are less pleasing, why should it not be okay to use them for accompaniment, for instance for a singer?
To answer this question, let us first consider the singing by itself. In the Indian classical tradition of music, as for instance in the genre of Dhrupad, one is trained by ear to sing in Just Intonation. Studies also show that people in general, singing alone or in a vocal group, naturally tend to sing in Just Intonation when not being accompanied by an equal tempered instrument. But what happens if you try to sing in Just Intonation when being accompanied by an instrument tuned in equal temperament? Let’s say that you are singing a tune in the A-major scale based on the intervals of Just Intonation that we have shown above. And let’s say that you sing a fifth, which in this case is the note E, while an A-major chord is being played on the instrument, having the notes A – C# – E. Let’s look at the following table to see how this will work:
A fifth in just intonation combined with a fifth in equal temperament
The tempered fifth is actually 659.2564 Hz.
The Famous Experiments of Positivity of Music on the Plants
Hindus were first to conduct experiments on the impact of music on plants, herbs and trees. The positive impact of Veda Music energized plants and with the invocation of sound energies the plants grow faster and stronger giving healthier fruits.
The chanting of mantras and Ragas on specific times helped in eradicating negative energies thereby attuning to the frequency of nature which extrapolated the positive energy to several miles from where the chanting was done, increasing the circumference of musical impact. Hindus maintained the originality of music that was in congruent to the elements of nature.
The adjustments in music was later introduced by west. The piano or harmonium will play the key note and the tempered fifth, which is the notes A and E, while the singer will try to sing the note E in Just Intonation. If we then look at the difference in frequencies between these two Es, we see that not only are neither of their sounds concurrent with each other, but that we will get beating on all levels, both between the basic sounds and all the nearest overtones. This will probably create a very strong degree of dissonance, which most likely will force the singer to sing in equal temperament. Hence, to sing a Raga in accordance with the natural harmonics will probably not be possible when being accompanied by for instance an equal tempered harmonium.
What these examples taken from the science of acoustics show, is that very minute modifications of natural intervals, which in isolation might seem to be trifles, might have far reaching distorting consequences on many levels.
Indians Distorted Their Music Under Influence of Western Music
As explained in detail above, Western musicology has made a prison for its music. It has locked it out from a vast universe of sounds and potential musical expressions. In addition, it has marred the harmony and beauty of the sound intervals by distorting their natural relationship. It has even conditioned musicians to hear music that are in accordance with natural harmonics as out of tune!
By incorporating western musical instruments into Indian music, the original strength and purity of the music is distorted and polluted. One is bringing the music away from natural law, while it should do the opposite, bring us more in tune with natural law. We believe it therefore to be important that everybody interested in Gandharva Veda should become aware of this.
Inspired by age-old experiments and Vedic texts that plants have senses and react to the positivity around, thereby spreading the same to the atmosphere or rejecting the negativity completely by not becoming catalyst to the flow of negative energy, a woman named Dorothy Retallack, in 1973, published a small book called The Sound of Music and Plants. Her book detailed experiments that she had been conducting at the Colorado Woman’s College in Denver using the school’s three Biotronic Control Chambers. Mrs. Retallack placed plants in each chamber and speakers through which she played sounds and particular styles of music. She watched the plants and recorded their progress daily. She was astounded at what she discovered. The experiment was contrary to the misplaced view of west that plants are non-living beings. Jagdish Chandra Bose had already established based on his Vedic theories that plants have senses, Dorothy was working to further contemplate the theories in ways already tried by ancient Hindus.
Her first experiment was to simply play a constant tone. In the first of the three chambers, she played a steady tone continuously for eight hours. In the second, she played the tone for three hours intermittently, and in the third chamber, she played no tone at all. The plants in the first chamber, with the constant tone, died within fourteen days. The plants in the second chamber grew abundantly and were extremely healthy, even more so than the plants in the third chamber. This was a very interesting outcome, very similar to the results that were obtained from experiments performed by the Muzak Corporation in the early 1940s to determine the effect of “background music” on factory workers. When music was played continuously, the workers were more fatigued and less productive, when played for several hours only, several times a day, the workers were more productive, and more alert and attentive than when no music was played.
For her next experiment, Mrs. Retallack used two chambers (and fresh plants). She placed radios in each chamber. In one chamber, the radio was tuned to a local rock station, and in the other the radio played a station that featured soothing “middle-of-the-road” music. Only three hours of music was played in each chamber. On the fifth day, she began noticing drastic changes. In the chamber with the soothing music, the plants were growing healthily and their stems were starting to bend towards the radio! In the rock chamber, half the plants had small leaves and had grown gangly, while the others were stunted. After two weeks, the plants in the soothing-music chamber were uniform in size, lush and green, and were leaning between 15 and 20 degrees toward the radio. The plants in the rock chamber had grown extremely tall and were drooping, the blooms had faded and the stems were bending away from the radio. On the sixteenth day, all but a few plants in the rock chamber were in the last stages of dying. In the other chamber, the plants were alive, beautiful, and growing abundantly.
Mrs. Retallack’s next experiment was to create a tape of rock music by Jimi Hendrix, Vanilla Fudge, and Led Zeppelin. Again, the plants turned away from the music. Plants subjected to music of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix didn’t survive. Not surprising, people who listen to such music are more prone to drug abuse and alcohol addiction.
Thinking maybe it was the percussion in the rock music that was causing the plants to lean away from the speakers, she performed an experiment playing a song that was performed on steel drums. The plants in this experiment leaned just slightly away from the speaker; however not as extremely as did the plants in the rock chambers. When she performed the experiment again, this time with the same song played by strings, the plants bent towards the speaker.
Next Mrs. Retallack tried another experiment again using the three chambers. In one chamber she played North Indian classical music performed by sitar and tabla, in another she played Bach organ music, and in the third, no music was played. The plants “liked” the North Indian classical music the best. In both the Bach and sitar chambers, the plants leaned toward the speakers, but the plants in the Indian music chamber leaned toward the speakers the most.
She went on to experiment with other types of music. The plants showed no reaction at all to country and western music, similarly to those in silent chambers. However, the plants “liked” the jazz that she played them. She tried an experiment using rock in one chamber, and “modern” (dischordant) classical music of negative composers Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern in another. The plants in the rock chamber leaned 30 to 70 degrees away from the speakers and the plants in the modern classical chamber leaned 10 to 15 degrees away.
One of her admirer and student of Zoology said this “I spoke with Mrs. Retallack about her experiments a few years after her book was published, and at that time I began performing my own experiments with plants using a wood-frame and clear-plastic-covered structure that I had built in my back yard. For one month, I played three-hours-a-day of music from Arnold Schönberg’s negative opera Moses and Aaron, and for another month I played three-hours-a-day of the positive music of Palestrina. The effects were clear. The plants subjected to Schönberg died. The plants that listened to Palestrina flourished.”
These experiments inspired from the eternal science and logic behind Hindu Veda music gave us the genesis of a theory of positive and negative music.
Though the scientists still find it mysterious on what causes the plants to thrive or die, to grow bending toward a source of sound or away from it. But the answer lies in the Vedic texts that every living being likes to remain in positive state – basically we all are part of Sacchidanand Roopay Bhagwan and sound of OM ( ओ३म् ) keeps everything alive.