Profile Karnatic Rhythm in Western Music

Introduction
The master's degree programme at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam prepares you for a varied professional practice in which you can function as a musician at the highest level. Against the background of this versatile professional practice, CvA's personal master profile or PMP gives you plenty of opportunity to give your studies a personal direction, and to create a tailor-made package of courses.

If you are accepted for your principal subject and admitted to a master profile, when you set out on your master’s study programme you will meet with a study advisor with whom you can discuss your personal profile; on this basis, working agreements are made for the courses you will follow and further facilities for your study.

A Personal Master Profile (PMP) can be given shape in many ways. In consultation with the head of your department, a wide range of well-reasoned choices can be made and set down in the plan of study, such as choosing to work with a historic version of your instrument, improvisation, the romantic lieder repertoire, or a teaching profile, for example. If you choose, you may also focus your studies exclusively on your principal subject and instrument, without any further delineation. 
 
The Conservatory has worked out several examples of specific content for your Personal Master Profile that you can choose to follow in your principal subject. These profiles are composed of a number of elective subjects and modules. Admission requirements apply for some of them. They can be followed separately, as part of your own individual PMP, but when taken in a particular combination and relationship, they lead to a specialisation in a specific field of study. The CvA offers the following specific profiles for this: Chamber Music, New Music, Orchestral Performance, Creative Performance Lab and Karnatic Rhythm in Western Music. A limited number of places are available for such profiles and specific admission requirements may apply. In such cases, a supplementary audition or selection is part of the procedure. A supplementary audition or selection is sometimes held after you have been accepted and admitted, often before the summer (May/June) or in the first month of the new academic year (September). On this point, see the admission requirements for each profile.

If you have chosen a specific profile, this is shown by an addendum to your master’s degree stating all subjects and modules you have completed and the associated credits. If desired, on the basis of your approved plan of study and the study track you have completed, the CvA can append an additional statement about your personal master profile to your diploma (Master of Music) and to your diploma addendum. If you have any questions about this, please contact the student secretariat (cva-studadmin@ahk.nl). If necessary, they will refer you to the coordinator of the master profile, the study advisor or to one of the heads of programmes.

Profile Karnatic Rhythm in Western Music
The expansion of rhythmical possibilities has been one of the cornerstones of musical development in the last hundred years, whether through western developments or through the borrowing from non-western traditions. Most classical performers, whether in orchestral or ensemble situations, will have to face a piece by Stravinsky, Bela-Bartok, Ligeti, Messiaen, Varèse or Xenakis, to mention just a few well-known composers, while improvisers face music influenced by Dave Holland, Steve Coleman, Aka Moon, Vijay Iyer, Miles Okazaki or elements from the Balkans, India, Africa or Cuba. Furthermore, many creators, whether they belong to the classical or jazz worlds, are currently organising their music not only in terms of pitch content but with rhythmical structures and are eager to obtain information that would structure and classify rhythmical possibilities in a coherent and practicable way.

20th and 21st centuries music demand a new approach to rhythmical training, a training that will provide musicians with the necessary tools to face with accuracy more varied and complex rhythmical concepts, while keeping the emotional content. The profile ‘Karnatic Rhythm in Western music’ addresses ways in which the Karnatic rhythmical system can enhance, improve or even radically change the creation (be it written or improvised) and interpretation of (complex) contemporary classical and jazz music.

The incredible wealth of rhythmical techniques, devices and concepts, the various types of tala construction, the use of rhythm as a structural and developmental element and, last but not least, the use of mathematics to sometimes very sophisticated levels in South India enable western musicians to improve and enhance their accuracy and/or their creative process, making the study of Karnatic rhythm a fascinating adventure with far-reaching consequences. The large variety of rhythmical devices used in Karnatic music is, in the West, one of the elements most unknown, yet potentially most universal.

This profile is based on the four-year programme Contemporary music through non-western techniques, taught at the Conservatory but deepening and providing many more elements than the regular lessons. It is organised and catered for students from both classical and jazz departments, and structured differently for:

1) Performers (both classical and improvisers)
2) Composers

The main differences to the regular group lessons that can be followed as master's degree electives are:
* Weekly individual coaching is provided to prepare pieces (the individual coaching is offered exclusively to students who choose this profile).
* Regular sessions are held in which the roots of the material, as well as what other creators do or have done with Karnatic rhythmical concepts, are listened to and analysed within a musical context.
* Students have the option of following regular lessons of either composition or ensemble lessons of CMNTWT different to the student's background.

All students will start where they left it off at the end of their bachelor's studies (i.e., if a student has finished the 1st year of the Reading, Improvisation or Composition approach, he/she will start with the material of the 2nd year, regardless the chosen option).

Coordinator, Michiel Schuijer

Classical performers
In an interview in August 2000, Pierre Boulez has said: 'If the rhythms and phrasing that are peculiar to contemporary music would be taught in the best conservatories in an intensive way, the future of contemporary music would certainly change and performers and general public would really start enjoying pieces by Berio, Xenakis or myself. The lack of accuracy in orchestras is the biggest obstacle for communication between composers and public.'

As mentioned in the introduction, the programme for classical performers addresses the problems that may arise in many contemporary music pieces from Stravinsky, Béla Bartók or Varèse to Xenakis, Boulez, Elliot Carter, Ferneyhough or Ligeti, as well as more recent composers. The main objective is to provide rhythmic tools that will help the student achieve a higher degree of accuracy and confidence. South Indian classical music not only makes use of one of the most complex rhythmical systems but, in addition, has very clear and practical teaching and exercise methods.

The profile will be comprised of the following elements:

* Following the so-called ‘Reading Ensemble’ each year.

* Individual coaching in order to prepare three pieces of contemporary music (between October and March) and for the performance in mid-June of pieces with a duration of, at least, 20 minutes. How to use Karnatic techniques to perform contemporary pieces and to work out a general methodology for the student to apply to a wide variety of pieces are the ultimate goals of this coaching.

* Attendance to bi-weekly sessions where the ‘roots’ of the material, as well as what other creators have done or are doing with Karnatic rhythmical concepts, will be listened to and analysed within a musical context.

* Alternatively, the student could also choose to follow an Improvisation ensemble. In this case, a smaller number of contemporary pieces could be worked out, and some coaching time could be used to work on improvisational aspects.

The student will be awarded with 30 credits as part of the principal subject (15 credits per year). All pieces prepared in these two years can be used for the MA1 exam as well as the graduation recital.

During the second year, students can choose to go to India via the Jahnavi Jayaprakash Foundation (Bangalore) under the guidance of B.C. Manjunath, or the University of Mysore, under the guidance of Dr. Mysore Manjunath, for a maximum of six weeks, in order to attain the ‘Indian’ view on the elements of the programme. Students should choose a period of the year in which they would miss a maximum of three weeks of lessons in Amsterdam (sometime before and after Christmas seems to be the most appropriate; also this is the time of the Madras Festival with over 4.000 concerts in one month). This could be one of the possibilities of the individual credits.
The students need to find their own financial resources if they would like to travel to India and take lessons.

Improvisers
Please click here to access the description for improvisers.

Karnatic rhythmical system offers paths to create music using rhythmical complexities in a very organic fashion, getting away from the ‘highly-charged’ intellectual approach that has possibly characterised much of the ‘new complexity’ approach to using rhythm. An important aspect of karnatic rhythm is that it is a system in which the practice methodology and the developmental possibilities of the same concept are inextricably linked. The notion of common denominator impregnates the structural architecture of each technique and its developmental possibilities.

This profile revolves around rhythmical devices/complexities derived from the theory of South Indian classical music (Karnatic music) in order to use them within a western contemporary context. The final goal for the student is to achieve a higher degree of understanding of these concepts and its subsequent utilization in today's music and never to merely copy the Karnatic tradition. Combining the below mentioned Karnatic concepts with western concepts of orchestration, counterpoint and  polyphony is a must within the programme.

The material focuses on the following points:

1) Theory of South Indian classical  music:
* Rhythmical complexities: Different types of tala (cycles) construction, all sort of polyrhythms, polypulses, irregular groupings, inner amalgamation, structural metrical modulations, polytalas and mathematical/rhythmical calculations and their relationship to structural development.
* Formal and structural concepts: Developmental techniques, different types of forms. Usage of South-Indian geometrical concepts to apply on macro and micro structures.

2) Practical exercises and homework based on the theory.

3) Extensive listening and analysis of recorded material.

The profile will be comprised of the following elements:

* Following a CMtNWT composition class each year.

* Following the so-called ‘Reading ensemble’ class each year, working on the most important techniques in order to internalise the concepts seen in the composition class, but using only ‘solkattu’ (rhythmical syllables). No instrument is needed unless the student so desires.

* Attendance to bi-weekly sessions where the ‘roots’ of the material, as well as what other creators have done or are doing with Karnatic rhythmical concepts, will be listened to and analysed within a musical context.

* Individual coaching in order to help the student in the process of:
a) Composing two pieces (6-8 min), to be prepared during beginning October-beginning December and mid-December-third week of February
b) Composing a larger piece (ca 10-12 min) for a larger ensemble, to be prepared during beginning March-mid June.

The student could present his/her own idea or project, provided that the amount of work will at least equal the amount of work foreseen for the pieces.

These pieces are not meant to be a workload added to what the student has to create throughout the year but simply a shift on focus on the material to be used for those pieces.

Students will be awarded with 30 credits as part of the principal subject (15 credits per year). All pieces prepared in these two years can be used for the MA1 exam as well as the graduation recital.

During the second year, students can choose to go to India via the Jahnavi Jayaprakash Foundation (Bangalore) under the guidance of B.C. Manjunath, or the University of Mysore, under the guidance of Dr. Mysore Manjunath, for a maximum of six weeks, in order to attain the ‘Indian’ view on the elements of the programme. Students should choose a period of the year in which they would miss a maximum of three weeks of lessons in Amsterdam (sometime before and after Christmas seems to be the most appropriate; also this is the time of the Madras Festival with over 4.000 concerts in one month). This could be one of the possibilities of the individual credits.
The students need to find their own financial resources if they would like to travel to India and take lessons.

Principal subject: 50
Composition class/Reading Ensemble & individual coaching: 30
Research: 10
Electives: 20
Individual credits: 10

 

 

 

* In order to enrol, you must have been accepted in a master’s degree programme in your principal subject (instrumental, vocal or composition).
* Performers must have completed the Advanced Rhythm introductory course. Students who have finished their bachelor's programme elsewhere must take the online version of this course after they have been admitted to the conservatory and before the start of the academic year in September, or they must demonstrate an equivalent level of rhythmical knowledge and skills. Composers are exempted from fulfilling this requirement.

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