29 August, 2015

Sampoorna Bhashanga Mela Concept

The concept I have postulated is more an intellectual exercise with theoretical validity, aimed to give a codified structure to what is often attempted in contemporary orchestral/operatic/fusion/film forays with "a Carnatic base".  My postulate also offers a mathematical extension to such forays since many new combinations can be tried more systematically by futuristic composers interested in venturing into this territory.

Carnatic music, renowned globally as much for its exciting aesthetics as for its scientific and precise approach, made tremendous strides both theoretically and practically after the 72 parent-raga (melakarta) system was postulated and developed several hundred years ago by Govinda Dikshitar, Venkatamakhin and others.  Prominent classical composers including the Tyagaraja, Muttuswami Dikshitar, Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi and others embraced the system and created attractive pieces which bestowed musical immortality upon this already brilliant concept, which is one of the greatest musical strides ever taken by man.  

Recent developments 

Though a couple of extensions have been proposed in recent times to the grand 72 mela system, only the 36 dvi-madhyama melas (using both varieties of Ma instead of Pa) by Tanjore S Kalyanaraman briefly made it to the stage since the proponent was a noted performer and composer who created pieces in each of the 36 scales.

Of the 5184 mela system of Prof Sambamurthy (which is really ascent of every mela with descent of every mela 72x72), 5183 are only in theory books.  The only one seen in concerts is Manji (S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S - S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S) which existed in folk and classical centuries before the mathematical formula was postulated by the professor. However, both retained only 7 notes in a straight sequence. (Bhairavi is of course more popular in this category though it is technically supposed to use a zig-zag SGRGM. In practice, it also uses straight phrases like NSRGM, RGM etc.)

188 sampoorna bhashanga ragas 

A bhashanga raga is one that uses notes not native to the scale. Since foreign notes is an automatic disqualification for a raga to be considered a parent raga (mela) like the 72, I have not used the term mela for what I proposed on 3 Sept, 2013 (as per my notes).  I merely called them sampoorna bhashanga ragas.

This is a system of 188 ragas which use one or a maximum of two foreign notes in ascent or descent (Arohana/Avarohana) or in both. In some ways, this merely extends the vivadi concept already seen in 40 ragas out of the 72 mela system.  In a manner of speaking, these 40 are also bhashanga since they use 2 varieties of R/G/D/N but vocalise it as a sharp 2nd/6th (Ri/Da) or as a double flat of the 3rd/7th (Ga and Ni).   Again the 72 have only 7 notes.

The sampoorna bhashanga raga system introduces foreign notes to these 72 which means that it will have 8 or 9 notes.


  1. To understand and codify it easily, let us divide the notes into two tetra chords SRGM and PDNS. 
  2. A maximum of one foreign note is introduced in each tetra chord.  
  3. This means that a raga can have one foreign note in either SRGM or PDNS or in both SRGM and PDNS, allowing it a maximum of two foreign notes in all.
  4. Anything more than one foreign note per tetra chord will make it even more boring and weird!
  5. The foreign note can occur in either ascent (arohanam) or descent (avarohanam) or both. 
  6. The 188 ragas I have proposed do not have any zig-zag (vakra) phrases like say, Bhairavi - which uses SGRGM. 
  7. This is not intended so much to extend Carnatic frontiers, which I firmly believe has tremendous beauty and scope as is.  
The calculation:  I have only given below the broad classification here.  Please see image file for details. 

(a) One foreign note in SRGM with PDNS having usual 6 varieties = 14x6 = 84. 
(b) One foreign note in PDNS with SRGM having 6 varieties each with M1 and M2 = 12x4 = 48
(c) One foreign note in both SRGM and PDNS is obviously 14x4 = 56

Grand Total = 84+48+56 = 188

To reiterate, most of these are no more than melodic formulas. They will not fit in with core Carnatic aesthetics. Of these, probably a handful could be interesting in Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandhis since the latter system is much more liberal about foreign notes (perhaps not surprising since it was deeply impacted by foreign (Persian) concepts for several centuries since the 1300s). 

It would also be appropriate to clarify that the 188 sampoorna bhashanga raga system is in no way related to my concept of melharmony whose primary spirit is to project melodic-harmonic systems' existing and established values and aesthetics rather than extending them.  


PS: I thank Mr Ram Athreya for pointing out a calculation redundancy in my original list. 

14 July, 2015

One more formula for Squares of Integers

Even though I have left formal math behind several years ago (though somewhat later than it had left me behind!), I have always had a fascination for numbers, some of which has been applied in original musical concepts I have popularised over the years including Seamless Korvais.

This topic is completely off the music charts as it attempts to chart a different course in pure math in a fairly populated area - Squaring numbers. Doubtless there are several time-tested and elegant approaches to this including the most well known algebraic formula of (a+b)^2 and others based on pattern recognition.  I found another approach staring me in the face this afternoon, literally in my half-sleep state.

I roused myself to action and tested the concept. It seems to hold good from negative infinity to positive infinity and I decided to not get too greedy and ask for more but share it with heads wiser than mine in the field.  So here goes (in fairly simplistic, rather than formal terms)...

Explanations and examples: (I have uploaded an image file as the Blog formatting didn't seem to have options for exponents):

It can be tried out for any number.

  • Algebraic formula vs RK formula: While the algebraic formula is very elegant, my approach - which could be viewed as its (distant) cousin - may prove easier in the case of certain numbers.  
  • Other short-cuts vs the RK formula: Most of these are based on simple though multi-layered operations on number patterns. But they need different approaches for different numbers which means one needs to remember different short-cuts based on the final digit and/or the number of digits of the original number.  
RK method advantage

  • Uses one consistent approach across the board 
  • Eliminates one whole level of multiplication
  • Introduces the underscore _ symbol which can find use across the math world. 

I look forward to critical feedback from experts and enthusiasts!

27 February, 2015

A new option to make cricket ODIs more balanced

“ICC has ruined cricket, there is no real contest between bat and ball. Win the toss, bat first and there you go!” screams a cricket lover.  “ODIs now are no less stereo-typical than T20s! Please ICC, change the nature of the wickets,” berates another.

Several thousand feel the same way, whether they voice it or not.  Teams scoring about 200 runs in the last 20 overs have become as unexciting as it used to be when they scored about half the runs in the same space. SA scored about 222 in just 15 overs in the latest against WI with De Villiers raking up 60 plus in the last 14 balls he faced, almost obliterating memories of Chris Gayle’s 215 just a match before.  Ironically, this was 8 shy of their booty a few weeks before against the same team in Jo'berg in the last 15 overs, where AB's strike rate was 333 plus as opposed to a mere 245 in this match. 

With cyber-debris of such numbers hurtling at one literally at the speed of light, even (chrono-) logical awareness is consigned to the black hole of mental fatigue. Rohit Sharma’s 264 seems like a distant galaxy while Kapil’s 175* in 1983 seems as radiant as the Sun. 


This is not nostalgia in full bloom - objectively, AB's phenomenal ability is as timeless as the games' greats. It is a commentary on how predictable batting has become, especially when making first use of the wicket.  Even when a team is no more than 125-2 (or 130-4) after 30 overs, there is a sense of jaded inevitability one feels that they are on par for about 330 or more, based on some great karma in their previous matches (where they may have generously donated much more)!  Even chases of 300 plus have become so clinically risk-free because there is absolutely nothing for bowlers though batsmen like Kohli and Rahane have become mentally tougher and technically versatile to control the game from first to 10th gear in  form of the game.  

Tournament sixes roll is as deadening as spectator turnstile.  In fact the first thing I looked for in the Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh match was how many 6s Dilshan and Sangakara had not scored. I was thrilled that they had hit just one six between them and immediately watched the highlights! 
RIP, 50-over ODI?

Sensible people want keen contests, not mindless marauding.  Between T20 and ICC’s new rules, the ODI is in grave danger of losing its identity or even existence, what with ECB contemplating proposing what could be named an OD-40 format.  Were ICC to accept it, a more apt name could not be found.  

Fans will sure overdose on more 6s off hapless attacks, “boring” new inventive strokes, more brain-drained field restrictions, more concessions to batsmen at the cost of the game on the field.  TV viewers can “extra” OD on cricket between ads, new types of manufactured hypes by commentators long dried out of clich├ęs, sleep-inviting “Extra-hour” analysis by tried and tired ex-players ranging from great to ugly, extra-cricket snippets on camels to crocodiles, desperately trying to maintain eyeball rating for the match and so forth. 

ICC’s synthetic stats

The ICC could well turn around and say that even as such arm-chair analysts are showering it with bouncers, it’s laughing all the way to the bank.  Viewership and sponsorship have surely increased but the questions persist – ‘At what cost?’ and ‘For how long’? As a wag quipped, “Nothing succeeds like success – and nothing exceeds like excess”.

While desperate suggestions have been made even by pundits like Martin Crowe who called for a “Restriction on bat-sizes” and others who have suggested to revisit the two new balls from both ends and field restriction rules, all of them may not be implemented in one stroke nor may they make viewing more exciting. 

Bowler-dominated mismatches

The fact is lopsided contests are inevitable in any game, once in a while and there have been hundreds of such matches dominated by bowlers in the first innings, making chases a foregone conclusion.  A case in point is the latest Eng vs NZ mis-match after Southee’s Seven launched McCullum’s massacre. The 1983 Final threatened to be in this list when India was bowled out for 183 until Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch of Richards and Mohinder Amarnath’s cool-headed dibbly-dobblers thwarted a late recovery attempt by Dujon & Co.

A solution

Thus, changing pitches in favour of bowlers, reducing bat sizes etc may be only partial solutions.  A far simpler and elegant one is staring at us in the face.  Just as Batting Power Play has been introduced, why not a Bowling Clever Play phase of 8-10 overs, preferably over 2 segments? This will not only give bowlers a fair chance but also test batsmen’s skills, something that both T20 and ODIs have omitted to do almost 100%. 

Ideally, the first phase must be compulsory within the first 10-12 overs and the next one can be chosen by the fielding captain any time before the 42nd over, so that the last three overs are back to “general” mode. 
BCP 1 could be with no field restrictions and no free-hits for no-ball.  No sensible captain is anyway going to have 9 fielders guarding boundary ropes at anytime, least of all within the first 15 overs.  BCP 2 can stipulate 4 fielders inside the 30-yard circle but impose the non-free hit rule. 

Ideally the Free-hit rule needs to be banished altogether but that is another story…

19 July, 2014

Law of Collective Inertia...

        [People from diverse fields (including social-scientists, psychologists, government and corporate leaders, who read my post on "Positive Inertia" gave me a very positive feedback on it, motivating me to think further on the subject.  I have shared just highlights here...]

Isaac Newton used 'Inertia’ as a technical term and his law can roughly be paraphrased as “bodies tend to retain a given state of stillness or movement, unless an external force is applied”.   Albert Einstein had to redefine the concept of inertia in terms of geodesic deviation to postulate his General Theory of Relativity.  But this article doesn't deal with either of these gentlemens' concepts.  

Instead, it focuses on the colloquial (esp. philosophical) employment of the term and creates its own set of laws!  The colloquial inertia doesn't necessarily collide with its scientific namesake, since both deal with "how bodies (living or non-living!) tend to resist change in speed or direction".   

Colloquially, inertia is cited more as a mental - usually negative - phenomenon to explain a person’s recalcitrant, indifferent and non-proactive behaviour. 

But closer examination reveals that: 
(i)  inertia is - by itself - neutral & 
(ii) a number of people also function (or can be trained to function) with Positive Inertia (PI). 

In a collective context, whole groups can tend to have Positive or Negative Inertia, based on influential individual's within that group, the organization's leadership skills and other factors. 

Organizational leadership is about: 
(a)    Identifying the general trends within a group,  
(b)    the individuals who influence it,
(c)    building and tapping PI jointly and severally among all bodies within a group and 
(d)    increasing the Total Positive Inertia (TPI) within each group, thereby within the whole organisation.  

This article suggests methods to measure and track Total Positive Inertia (TPI). 

Individual Inertia (II) of an employee (per day) = Average number of Actual Productive Hours (APH) - Average number of Theoretical Work Hours (TWH) that one is contracted to work per day  (calculated using standard man-hours it takes to complete a given job/project for an individual/group). 

Example 1If A, who is contracted to work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week puts in 30 actual hours a week, his Individual Inertia is = (30-40 )/5 = (-10/5), which is a Negative Inertia of -2. 

Ex 2: If B works 55 hours per week, his II score = (55-40)/5 = +3, a Positive Inertia.  

Almost any group can be divided into people with PI or NI. 
Cumulative Positive Inertia (CPI) = Sum of all employees with PI and
Cumulative Negative Inertia (CNI) = Sum of all employees with NI.

Simple Total Inertia of an org is given by the formula: (STI) = CPI + CNI. 

Ex 1: If an org X with 100 employees, had 60 people with a CPI of 150 hrs and 40 with a CNI of  –80 hrs, the STI of the org would be 150+(-80) = 70. 

Ex 2: If org Y had 200 employees with 50 with CPI of 200 and 150 with a CNI of 300, its STI would be 200 + (-300) = -100

Ex 3: If org Z had 300 employees , 200 with a CPI of 400 and 100  with a CNI score of 400, STI would be 400 + (-400) =

It is obvious that: 

Z with an STI = 0, is in a state of Organizational Equilibrium (OE).
X with STI > 0, is enjoying a mild positive performance from its staff while
Y with an  STI < 0, is  burdened by an under-performing team. 

Daily Simple Average Inertia (DSAI):  This is an important tool to get a macro picture of how the whole organization or groups within it are performing.  DSAI is measured in Hours/Person and can be calculated from the formula: 
DSAI = STI / Total employees
From the above examples,  DSAI of Org X would be:  70/100 = 0.7, which means every employee is actually putting the equivalent of 0.7 hrs more than contracted for everyday. It is now easy to derive Weekly, Monthly or Annual Averages as required. 

Again, in the above examples, the Weekly Simple Average Inertia (W=SAI) of X is 0.7 x 5 = 3.5 hrs/person (assuming 5 working days/week). Its Annual-SAI is roughly 182 hrs/person (3.5 per week X 52 weeks).  With its average employee working above expectation, the organization has cause for cheer, in normal circumstances.  

However, the DSAI of Y = -100/200 = - 0.5, WSAI = (-2.5) and ASAI = - 130 hrs/person means the org should take necessary steps to reverse this under-performance.  

In reality, numerous companies may have staff working much higher or lower than the examples given.  An organisation's long term results may tend to be best in a state of Organizational Equilibrium (OE) or mild Positive Inertia. 

Note: There are Weighted Total Inertia (WTI) and Weighted Average Inertia (WAI) formulas which take into consideration other factors such as the level of each employee but that is a much more involved subject.

Staff Inertia Management (SIM) is an essential part of Corporate Leadership, which has to ensure that STI never gets to the Red Column, which is where my Corporate Melharmony comes in.  But I'll reserve it for another post!

11 July, 2013

The C I D Mantra

(This is an article that I planned for my Blog but since Deccan Chronicle has recently commissioned me to write a few, I am merely sharing links to those published.)

The C I D Mantra Deccan Chronicle 1 - July 2013)
A pre-teen disciple of mine asked me recently, "Sir, you have asked me to listen to various great artistes.  But who do you think is the best?"
"That is a tough question," I parried.  "It's like asking which is the best fruit - mango, jackfruit, banana, grape etc.  Each one is fine but what you like depends on your own taste."
"So is it always about 'A' being just different to 'B'? Is there nothing like A is better than B? How would I know if I heard an average artiste or a great artiste?"
In a flash (after many years of rumination!) I got the answer.  "It's all about CID."
"CID, sir? I love mysteries but I thought we were talking music!"
"Oh, it is not that CID like police investigators," I said. "CID stands for Content, Intent and Delivery.  Almost anything in life can boil down to this. You can use this formula to track anyone including yourself!" 
"Sounds cool, but could you please explain more?"
"It's simple, really.  One has to be very strong in intrinsic Content.  If you take music as an example, this includes command over basics like perfect pitch, rhythm, tone, grammar and rules (of various ragas), voice or instrumental technique, quality repertoire, improvisational skills, which you get through consistent focus and hardwork over a few years.  This is what gives a take home value to concerts."
"Wow, that's a lot!  But not enough?"
"Ah, that was just science!  Art begins only where science ends.  One must polish it and package it attractively so that the Delivery has instant appeal to audiences across the world."
"So, Art is all about making Science exciting?"
"Yes, but the science has to be strong for it to be quality art".
"We have covered the tough C and D.  What about the 'I'?"
"Actually, Intent is probably the toughest one.  It is about honesty and integrity, no matter the city, venue, age or level of the listener. You must give 100% in every note you sing or play.  You must never take an audience for granted, dilute music just to get an applause or spread the wrong things carelessly.  I'd put Intent as the tilting factor when assessing two artistes who were otherwise equal in every way."
"So if A's CID is better than B's, A is a superior artiste."

"Bingo! I knew you were sharp!!"

08 August, 2012

Pitch Perfection - a psychological perspective

Adherence to shruti is the greatest truth in music.  Every system of note in the world places extreme importance in tuneful renditions of the basic 12 tones within an octave.  In reality, the yardsticks of what is tuneful varies from system to system.  For instance, certain note values in Just-Intonation system of natural melodic systems in the world like Carnatic Music (CM)/Hindustani (HM) are different to those heard in Equal Tempered-Tuning system, embraced in the West.

Varied yardsticks

In friendly terms, Just intonation is based on laws of physics and aesthetics, but the intervals between any two notes in an octave is not constant.  While this sounds beautiful when notes are heard one after the other, it can create problems when certain note-combinations are rendered simultaneously by orchestras.  Therefore, for reasons of harmony, Western scholars 'averaged out' some note values to create equal intervals between the 12 tones.   Violin-legend Yehudi Menuhin has gone on record arguing that this artificial sharpening or flattening of notes (however minute) has corrupted Western ears (in his book, 'Unfinished Journey').  In fact, that is one of the reasons why certain notes on instruments from the West like Guitar/Piano can sound slightly off to sensitive listeners used to melodic systems like Hindustani/Carnatic. 

Contextual perfection

Nevertheless, artistes are expected to be tuneful within the context of each system.  When they are not, they are dismissed off as 'off-key' (West) or 'besur' (Hindustani).  In both these systems, pitch perfect is almost synonymous with note-perfect. The CM equivalent of this is apaswaram. However, CM also uses the term shruti-shuddham to denote melodic fidelity and refers to a lack of it as apashruti.

Swara, sthana & shruti

Carnatic uses only 7 notes (swara) and 12 tones (sthana) per octave even though it gives 16 names for these, unlike systems like Arabic, (which openly uses 31 notes per octave).  The extra twist in Carnatic is that has multiple subtle values for any given note, called shruti.   It is almost mandatory to sharpen certain notes like major 7th (kakali nishadam, N3) or the sharp 4th (prati madhyamam - M2) and render it almost on Sa and Pa respectively.   Several other notes are rendered lower or higher depending on the raga and at times, within the context of a given raga.  For instance the minor 2nd (shuddha rishabham - R1) in Revati would be rendered normally, while the same will tend to be closer to Sa in Saveri, Gowla etc.  Hindustani would generally tend to render most of these notes on their natural values (exceptions could be there). 


Musicians of even average quality are required to be clearly cognizant of the correct value of the pitch and expected to be able to render them competently.  Yet, artistes can be off key (less or more than the note-value) for a variety of reasons.  At the student level, it could be due to reasons of non-awareness, inexperience, incompetence, insufficient practice or physical factors (like voice limitations).  Over time, most of these can be overcome, with effort and direction under a good guru.  Once a basic stage of competence and comfort is reached with respect to shruti, a musician would be expected to be tuneful. 

...and deviations

Yet, we find only a small percentage of artistes who render tuneful music.  Even here, degrees vary from 'general' and 'acceptable' levels to 'laser beam' levels of intense precision.  Why would this be among musicians of otherwise same standard and substance?  One easy question with tough, multiple answers! 
  1. The reason could be professional - lack of practice, lack of effort on every note, thinking musicianship or commitment to perfection. 
  2. The reasons then get to physiological such as health, which (at least in some cases) are beyond an individual's control.  Or it could simply be aging related weaknesses.
  3. Or it could be scientifically attributable to personal habits.  It would be prudent to point out the non-judgmental view of a person closest to God that the planet has seen in sports, Don Bradman. 'Surely certain habits can impact on the reflexes and efficiency of movement,' is all he said but that is profound indeed. 
Needless to say, some of these could be  due to a combination of interconnected factors.

The elusive factor

However, another key factor, rarely brought to the table openly, is the mental make up of a person.  Probably because, it is the most elusive part to analyse and commit to.  Yet, I am placing certain important but certainly impersonal observations on record here. To summarise a few:
  • An  over-eager, over confident, aggressive, frenzied, agitated mindset with Attitude, may result in music higher than shruti (over the short or long term).
  • A person tends to be below key when tired, deflated, weak or under-motivated, again over short or long term. 
  • A person tends to be both these when sporting a frivolous, happy-go-lucky or take-it-easy style complacent mindset.
  • A person tends to waver, sway or float on plain, sustained notes when the mind is unsteady or afflicted by fear, guilt, lack of confidence or personal esteem. 
  • A person tends to slip a lot on dynamic phrases when the mind is distracted or cluttered with unwanted baggage and unclear thoughts. 
  • A person tends to produce dry music that can be all over the pitch-map while in a frustrated frame of mind. 
Fundamental correlation

Just as the 17th chapter in the Bhagawad Gita classifies various things as sattva, rajas or tamas, a fundamental correlation can be drawn between truth in life and truth in music.  Music higher than shruti is rajasic, music lower is tamasic.  Pure music is sattvic.  

In short, perfect pitch is not merely to do with talent and technique.  At the advanced level, it is more to do with the mental make up.  The tragic part in many cases is that the affected person scarcely notices the dip in musical form till too late.  Since any given artiste could sport a combination of varied mind set listed above at different times, it is tough for a normal person to pin down the exact reason for lack of shruti at any given point in time.


Scary as the above sounds, they can all be overcome by mind-action-control and a person of class can re-discover personal form.  It may take a lot of personal effort, sustained focus, will power to eliminate every unnecessary distraction and channelise thought, counselling from experts, but it can be done, if artistes are keenly aware of their own form at every step of the way.  

In some lucky cases, a visionary guru would be able to take highly dynamic steps early enough to stem the rot, with equally committed students.  However, if timely action is not taken immediately, covering every possible angle, the case could soon get beyond redemption and join a majority of 'may-have-been' successes.  

It ultimately boils down to how intensely desperate one is to pursue musical truths, get back to the top and stay there!  

09 July, 2012

Success through Inertia

Most of us blame inertia for not doing something or for not even feeling up to doing something, I ruminated on the negative spell this Newtonian Law of Physics seems to exert on peoples psyches all around.  

It dawned upon me this morning that inertia is not responsible for only this pathetic apathetic state of mind.  It can as easily be tapped positively so that we end up doing a lot of things beneficial to ourselves or others. 

In fact, millions have done it (and continue to do so) under various garbs.  

What is inertia?  To paraphrase Newton, "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction - unless acted upon by an external force".  

This is as true for human minds and bodies too.  In fact, to a lesser degree, it is true for human  emotions too.  

We see the victims all the time - sedentary people continue to revel in it day in and day out, alcoholics and other addicts continue to be so and so forth.  

To a lesser degree, we also see the opposite - fitness fanatics cannot stop exercising, those who follow strict practice-ethics would often be hard pressed to stop practicing and so forth.  These are the beneficiaries of positive inertia.  

At a slightly macro level, we see teams that have developed a systematic habit of winning over time are unstoppable during their streak and vice-versa.  Same goes for countries that have developed or developing.  The latter tend to stay in their side of the court for decades or even centuries at times...

How to build positive inertia:  The key is to get out of negative inertia first.  This will take us to a neutral zone - if not anything more.  From here on, one can work towards building a momentum in positive things - be it practice or exercise or academic pursuits or something as simple as getting up early in the morning.  After a few days or weeks, positive inertia kicks in and takes over.  From here on it is generally smooth sailing.  For instance, someone who has got into the habit of getting up at 4 am can more often than not do it even if he or she slept in very late on certain days.  Someone who has got used to practicing music for 4 (or 8 or any number of) hours will find ways to do it even if there are other unavoidable engagements on certain days.  

All these are results of inertia - which, at the end of the day is only a neutral thing.  It is entirely we who make it positive or otherwise...

08 March, 2011

The Dot-Connect Theory

A few months ago, I was contemplating on association of ideas that people form and wondering how some are able to remarkably connect seemingly random things and come up with beautiful analogies or examples. This is a phenomenon we see in everyday life but it suddenly struck me that it is all so elegantly connected.

This enabled me to come up with a hypothesis, which can perhaps be one of the models to visualize Information Processing and subsequent stages in the Mind. Doubtless several similar theories/hypothesis may have been put forth by specialists who have devoted much more time & energy on these subjects and also gained academic competence. I would also like to point out that the subject deals not so much with the Information Gathering of the brain, which includes Memory Formation, Pattern Recognition etc (involving such specialized things as pyramidal and stellate neurons of the cerebral cortex and the gating type and nucleus reticularis neurons of the thalamus) but more with what happens in the mind after that.

Brain vs Mind: This article makes the fairly obvious distinction between the visible and divisible (hence quantifiably studiable) brain and the invisible and indivisible mind. The former is being systematically studied at the the level of individual neurons and we are just beginning to appreciate some of its functioning. But the latter is - by all accounts so far - an almost indefinable thing. Yet, it may not be far-fetched to say that it is the mind which seems to be the key for several genetic traits - be it just biological ones or (what some may consider as bio-illogical) re-incarnation related ones. I am willing to stand corrected here but to the best of my knowledge, no species has been yet known to carry neurons cells after death or give neuron cells from itself to its offspring - yet quite a few instincts come pre-programmed. My article may perhaps trigger studies on these and similar lines.

Though neither neurology nor psycho-analysis are my chosen fields, at a very surface level, I have been fascinated by certain highly specialized studies involving how neuron cells activate light up in various parts of the brain based on the subject matter or sheer empathy in a shared experience (for instance, a music concert may see the same kinds of neurons getting activated in different listeners sharing the same experience). Yet, given all these, sometimes it is easier to miss the forest for the trees. So, my venture in sharing my model below!

For want of a better term, I am going to call this subject Dotomatrix for now. Though volumes need to be written to express myself fully on this subject, for now (due to paucity of time and space), I will limit myself to a fairly simple synopsis of my postulate…


  • Every individual picks up bits and pieces of information during the course of life.
  • These are on various fields, subjects and topics (be it mathematical formulae, everyday news, musical facts, philosophical thoughts or literary learning).
  • Each bit of information is stored in various parts of our brain.
  • Each bit of information can be visualized as a discrete dot.
  • To continue the visualization, the brain can be seen as a rectangular canvas or even a multi-dimensional space which houses these dots.
  • The mind monitors this information gathering process and shapes it in various ways.
  • Each person finds some connection between some pieces of information either because of (i) external influence (like reading, learning from or discussing with others), (ii) by introspection and analysis, (iii) personal experiences or (iv) by a mere association of ideas.
  • Normal people may often find connections in an orderly, progressive and predictable manner (for instance, 2+2 could be connected with 2+3 or 200+25000).
  • Creative people, geniuses and highly introspective (or those with weird imagination) may find connections between two seemingly unrelated topics - it could be as much a leap as a simple 2+2 being connected in their brains with an obscure Greek philosophy or a volcanic eruption somewhere(to give extreme examples).
  • Each connection that a person finds represents a connected dot.
  • The connection of any dot can be with one or more dots - like a hub and spoke route map of a major airline (but of course the brain is more than just 2 dimensional). To give a simple illustration: a tiger could be connected to a forest and a zoo in some people; it could be related to a national park & other animals in a few others; in some cases, it could include all the above connections plus connections to strong or scary people that one knows or hears about (and numerous other things).
  • Thus, the discrete bits of information become analogous within the brain as the person evolves and matures.
  • It should however be noted that not every bit of information needs to be connected with one or more bits; many may remain unconnected pieces for lifetimes, depending on the type of individuals and the evolution path of each.
  • Thus, the process of individuation can be defined as the metamorphosis of digital information into analogous flow of ideas.
  • With millions of bits of information picked up in the course of life, every individual may connect the dots differently.

  • These connections made in various ways can broadly be classified as:

  • (a) Assimilated Connections (AC): Most often, our dots are connected faster for us by others who have already made the connections have a knowledge base, which saves us years and decades that we would have spent were we to have figured those connections ourselves. Which ensures that there are certain fairly standard and common connections that is there in most people who attend regular courses in schools and colleges, read the same kind of literature (or newspapers), learn from the same gurus, watch the same movies (or programs) and so forth.
    (b) Genetic Connections (GC): Some of these when assimilated over several generations, can become genetic connections.
    (c) Independent connections (IC): Yet, there are hundreds to millions of unique connections that every individual makes too, during the course of his/her life through analysis or association of ideas.
    Un-connecting Dots (UC): Due to various reasons (non-relevance of connections at a later date, forgetfulness, amnesia, dementia, Alzheimer’s etc) people can also lose connections between various dots over a period of time.
    Total connections (TC) Formula: Thus the Total Connections = Assimilated Connections plus Genetic Connections plus Independent Connections minus unconnected dots. Thus,
    TC = AC+GV+IC-UCUniqueness: This TC is unique for every individual at every point in life and this is what eventually defines and personifies every person and provides a distinct identity to each.
    More than humans: There can be little doubt that almost all animals with reasonable sized brains (to the degree that man can perceive and understand), connect dots in various ways (appropriate season – migration – route maps - mating – change of season – reverse migration chain is a simplistic example of this that is seen in numerous animals and birds).
  • Real life ramifications: Some of the greatest scientific discoveries, most elegant mathematical solutions have been brought about by people like Newton and Ramanujan with an ability to connect what may appear like remote dots to most normal people. Likewise, some of the biggest truths of life have been established by seers and philosophers who could connect seemingly remote observations and cite analogies in an impactful manner.
  • The Dot-Connect model has several other real life applications of which a couple are given below.

    Education: Connecting dots is helps memory develop phenomenally. Current day education is more focused on giving millions of dots by way of tons of information (most of which students hardly apply in day to day life). This creates a tremendous stress on memory, nervous systems and the whole psyche of students, since most of these discrete dots only cater to an exam, a contest or some other short term goal. Were education to be geared to facilitate students to improve their grasp and memory by helping them make connections faster between the various dots (wherever possible), their capabilities would be enhanced exponentially.

    Clinical Treatment: A study of overstressed people will reveal that their brains/minds are over heated with too many connections (most of which are formed unintentionally by people because of traumatic experiences or depressing circumstances). A good psychologist can now consciously approach the treatment from the perspective of analyzing the many unwanted or even malignant dot-connections and help untangling these or even helping the patient erase some of them to reduce stress levels.

    Personality Assessment: A study of how people connect dots would provide at least a very rough insight into their personalities. The simple sample test below illustrates this.

    Ravikiran’s Dot-Connect Test

    This is a simple psychological and personality test which can be given to almost anyone in any situation and age. This is definitely no representation of the complexities of the multi-dimensional dot-connections in the brain (or my Dot-Connect Theory of Information Processing) but only a simplistic, quick view process in office/work-space/school/college kind of environments.

    • A plain paper with a simple rectangle filled with dots can be given to each candidate along with a pen.
    • Each candidate is asked to connect the dots within a fairly short specified time (say 5-7 minutes) in whatever manner that comes naturally to him.
    • With hundreds of dots, the possibilities for connecting them in various permutations and combinations are almost endless. For instance,

    (i) Some people may connect it in the shapes of various animals;
    (ii) Others may find connections like an aeroplane/car and so forth;
    (iii) A few may come up with simple connections;
    (iv) Some may come up with complex and intricate connections;
    (v) A rare few may connect almost all the dots;
    (vi) Most others may only connect a few dots and
    (vii) Some may connect them in a completely shapeless manner

    • The manner in which each connects will be a window to his/her personality.

    Interpreting the results

    The parameters for interpreting their final connections and determining personalities are numerous and the subject is huge. But it needs much more thought and study, which I will hope to find sometime soon.

    Meantime, I will welcome your thoughts and comments on what I have penned thus far...

    11 September, 2010

    Practice - I

    I received numerous email queries from students of music after my earlier blog on Fear Factor, on more specific inputs about how to overcome it. Since this is a huge topic, I may write it in several parts.

    Is there a substitute for practice? Not one that I can think of - not even talent/genius, knowledge/scholarship, luck/even God’s grace. Those will supplement practice but be blunted with lack of practice. Even for God's grace, one must prove worthy of it!

    Anchor: Practice is the anchor of a truly solid artiste that can make him (or her) weather ill-luck, temporary loss of form, public or media fire, personal confidence crisis or similar storms. With perseverance and practice under good direction, one can overcome even lack of talent, genius, knowledge and scholarship. I have seen numerous people with good work ethics doing better than those endowed with the assets above.

    On the other hand, I have seen an umpteen number of talented and brilliant people leading unfulfilled or under-fulfilled lives because they failed to translate their talent into tangible results because of poor work ethics.

    I have also been acquainted with performers who have got to the top more by chance (because some of the other top artistes retired/travelled to other worlds!) than inherent worth. The serious ones among these are forever ravaged by guilt about having something that they don’t deserve. They live feeling insecure all the time about how long their luck would hold. In other words, one who has come up without having worked hard for it seldom feels 'in control'.

    Similarly, there are numerous knowledgeable scholars who cannot even express themselves even in a small phrase of 4 notes, again because they involved their minds more than their bodies in the pursuit of arts.

    Practice definitely involves the heart, mind, body and soul and one has to dedicate one's energies for several years with single-minded focus and ensure that all these are part of the mix.

    There are many types of practices, from an end result point of view.

    Eliminate Flaws: This is the first and foremost reason to practice - to gain fundamental competence. Unless one practises, one will not even be aware of the kind of mistakes one tends to make. Some things are naturally hard for almost everyone and some others could be hard or easy individually. X may find a particular phrase easy that Y has to slog for while it maybe the opposite for another phrase. With practice, they will at least be able to anticipate such potential minefields and tread carefully! Without practice, they will surprise themselves big time when such phrases occur in a given piece of music. This is how even talented artistes end up making numerous 'unforced' errors. In my childhood, I used to equate flaws with cancer - I used to see them creep up even on established and experienced artistes...

    Consistency: While competence is all right for science, it's just the first step in art (and sports too). An artiste has to be fairly consistent. In simple terms, if one renders a phrase or a song 100 times, one has to do it well at least 80-90% of the times. Anything below will be average or under. Practice again is the key to this. Sometimes, consistency is written off as a sign of mediocrity. This does not mean that inconsistency is brilliant. The thumb rule is one has to aim for consistency all the time in order to even get middle level opportunities. Brilliance is a nice contrast to have in order to keep audience interest alive. Concerts of top level brilliant artistes like T N Rajaratnam Pillai (Nadaswaram) were built on a solid foundation of consistency.

    Polish and perfect: It has to be highlighted here that learning a new song or revisiting a forgotten one is not practice. The count-down starts after one has memorised something and is able to render it with a decent flow. A good listener can discern whether an artiste merely has flair or has worked hard to polish the pieces. It is obvious to the cognoscenti that the gems of legends such as M S Subbulakshmi and Lalgudi Jayaraman (to mention only a few) are products of constant polish. Even those reputed to be brilliant artistes such as Umayalpuram Sivaraman and creative such as GNB and Madurai T N Seshagopalan have worked hard thousands of hours in order to present their concepts effectively. I have personally known that even born geniuses such as Flute Mali and Palghat Mani Iyer used to practice lots.

    Passion: Some people practice because they simply love to. True artistes fall under this category. Even in their early days, they will always be thinking about the art and will want to spend time singing, playing or dancing. But for this passion to continue, parents and gurus must ensure that they are constantly inspired by the art of great legends. The doyen, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, my own gurus T Brinda and Chitravina Narasimhan, dance legend Vyjayantimala Bali and others being constantly 'at it' even after decades of experience and accomplishments.

    Confidence: Even competent artistes can sometimes lose confidence due to various reasons. Often, practice is what bails them out at such times.

    I will address a few more issues later!!

    17 August, 2010

    Fear factor in music

    1. Fear is one of the most natural things in music for a lot of people. Some of the greatest artistes (or for that matter, sportsmen or people in other walks of life) face it too. Only two kinds of people are generally fearless – the highly ignorant or the immensely knowledgeable. Great artistes are great not because they are fearless but because they overcome it by dint of hard work in the right direction and mental preparation with the correct attitude.

      Types of fear

      During one’s musical journey, an analytical person will notice several kinds of fear along the path! A few of them are given below:

      • Fear of each note (mostly long sustained plain notes) – some more than the other like Sa, Pa, Ga3, (the major third note) or high notes like S, R, G, M
      • Fear of some phrases
      • Fear of other friends/family members listening or walking in as we practice
      • Fear of other students in class (even those that are not better than us!)
      • Fear of guru
      • Fear of stage and audience
      • Fear of mike (how our own music will sound when amplified!)
      • Fear of peer artistes who may drop in on our concert
      • Fear of legendary artistes or other important people who may attend the concert

      Overcoming fear

      Each one of us can assess for ourselves which stage of fear are we in at a given point in time! However, all these can and must be overcome with quality guidance under great masters as well as more and more practice with lots and lots of patience. Patience does not mean just practicing for many hours each day. I am talking more about patience with respect to every note and phrase.

      A practitioner will see how he is able to eliminate each type of fear mentioned above step by step with the kind of patience I am speaking about.

      The approach has to be to practice until one feels good about the music first. Normally, the stages this would be:

      • After practicing a note/phrase for a few dozen times (it could be more or less based on how comfortable one is with a given phrase) one can get it correctly.
      • After a few more times after the stage of mere correctness, one will stop feeling conscious of it.
      • Only after a few more times will one stop being tense about it and start feeling comfortable with it (since one’s voice or hands start move more naturally).
      • Only after many more times will one feel confident about it when singing alone.
      • Only after several more times will one feel confident to sing it in front of others.
      • After some more time, others will also feel comfortable when they listen to us!

      Developing intimacy with each note/piece of music

      By getting to know the notes one by one and phrases one by one, an artiste will overcome this factor. Getting to know a note/phrase is akin to getting know a person or a family. There are many with whom our relationship is just a ‘Hi’ and a ‘Bye’. We will never know such people much. There are some with whom we spend hours, days, months or years and we get to know them better and better.

      So also with notes and phrases that we don’t spend time on. One will never get to know them well. Then how can one sing/play them well? Only when we spend lots of time on a note or phrase can we start knowing it better.

      With even more time, the note / phrase will also know us better! Sounds, weird? Actually, it is not. I will leave you all to introspect a bit about this to understand what I mean!

    24 April, 2010


    The Background

    I have always been fascinated by the power of sound. Even as a child, I used to wonder how my own stress, depression or even physical head ache etc could vanish when I sang, played my instrument or heard good music. Later, I wondered how some kinds of music makes the opposite happen as well! It took me years to realise that it is not so much the individual who is singing or playing, it is not even so much about the style of music (classical, pop, jazz etc) that is being heard/rendered but much more fundamental laws of physics and nature that are involved in this. The scientific study and development of this area, which I termed as Musopathy (a la allopathy, homeopathy etc), can have an enormous positive impact on humanity. It is distinct from the fairly subjective Music Therapy that is offered by several Universities across the planet today.

    Music Therapy in recent times

    As most of us know, music is increasingly being used by scientists and doctors all over the world as complementary or alternate therapy for dealing with hypertension, depression, physio therapy for paralysis victims and so forth. Leading medical names keen about music include Virginia Apgar, (the obstetrician famous for Apgar score), Rene Leannec, (inventor of the stethoscope), Dr Richard Bing and Dr Eugene Braunwald (renowned cardiologist), to mention a few.

    Music-medicine relationship in earlier times

    Musical associations of medical professionals dates back as far as the Greek era and can be traced to modern times as well. Apollo, the god of healing in the Greek mythology is seen with a lyre and Aesculapius who was Apollo’s son has been associated with flute. Indians have believed that ragas like Amrtavarshini or Meghmalhar could bring rain, Deepakam could light up lamps and those like Neelambari could combat insomnia. We also have stories of composers such as Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi, Tyagaraja and Muttuswami DIkshitar being called upon to cure patients with their music.

    Experiments in modern times

    Studies were conducted on the effect of music on plant growth by leading Universities such as Harvard in 1970s that noted that Indian Classical Music was the best catalyst for plant growth. (For more information on this, read Sidney Sheldon's Stars Shine Down!!). In the late 1990s, a San Diego based University claimed that students performed better in exams after listening to Mozart.

    In the beginning of the new millennium, Jane Hanson, on behalf of BBC, looked at the cutting-edge research and application of music in clinical medicine which included the University of North Texas, USA, Beth Abraham hospital in New York and select doctors and musicians in Mysore, India. An audio of her experiences is available at:
    In Chennai, India, the Raga Research Center led by violinist Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan claimed that cattle that heard the raga Anandabhairavi produced more milk.

    Limitations and scope

    However, all the above examples are subjective approaches by various people or institutions – however distinguished - from different parts of the world. The scientific validity of all these claims is impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt. But their limitations notwithstanding, the fundamental truth cannot be disputed – the power of sound.

    Sound has immense power and potency. But how well has it been tapped in the area of medicine? How well has its power been studied? Has enough been done to take it along scientific lines? How much of organized research has been conducted with systematic exactitude? Mere sentimental or culture-centric musical ideas, with intentions however sound (pun intended), can never replace the rigour os science. That is why, Music Therapy (the way it is approached now) hovers somewhere between quack medicine and quasi-science.


    Ruminating over all these, I came up with Musopathy to de-culturalise and de-regionise music and take it to its fundamental roots, based on laws of physics using standard, measurable and repeatable factors like combination of frequencies and decibel levels. For obvious reasons, I will not bore you with all the details here. I will just give some highlights and advantages below:

    · Musopathy is the first quantifiable approach that combines music and medicine in absolute terms.

    · It eliminates region, religion, culture, language etc and the subjectivity associated with these, which dominate the subject of Music Therapy. In other words, it will convert the quasi-scientific music-therapy into a serious study as sound as bio-chemical medicine.

    · Musopathy promises empirical auro-neuro-solutions and opens up newer areas of studies such as neuro-physics.

    · Musopathy has great potential to offer viable alternatives with far lesser side effects for several ailments where chemical cures dominate today.

    To summarise, this is an area that has not been fully explored but if extensive work is carried out with a combination of vision, experience and scientific precision, it can blaze a trail of its own for the benefit of mankind. I am glad that several leading lights of the scientific and academic world with whom I have discussed this have told me that this is the cutting edge approach to the subject. I have promised myself that I will get to this as soon as time permits!