Amit Chaudhuri: Finding the Raga

A note that aches to resolve on the semitone next to it is called a leading-tone in Western music theory. While it comes closest to what a shruti is in Indian classical music, they are not equals; and although shruti literally translates to “what is heard” in Sanskrit, it has another meaning in Hindu sacred literature. Shruti in Indian classical music is the smallest gradation of pitch discernible by a human ear and the tiniest interval of pitch that a singer or musical instrument can produce.

But it is not my intention to bore non-musician friends with more of that. Finding the Raga is a poetic and accessible introduction to Indian classical music. It imparts an ample amount of artistic insight to share in future discussions. Aside from suggesting that our understanding of music enhances our appreciation of literature, language, and the world, it is an enlightening reminder that there are other lenses in which to view the world and other modes of music through which we can listen to the world aside from the Western.

It was, however, the idea of shruti that made itself heard to me more resoundingly, and exactly what I needed to read and learn on the first day of the year; because while leading-tones in music to which I am accustomed communicate a certain unease and a longing to resolve, in the raga, “Shruti has to do with the note’s anticipation of the next note, as well as its refusal to be immediately transformed into it. It’s to do with sometimes preferring a state of becoming, of being transformed…”

Once again, this in-betweenness. The last book I read in 2022 was Olivia Manning’s School for Love, a coming-of-age novel set in Jerusalem after the Second World War that seemed to me about the state of in-betweenness. It made me ponder on the truth that life itself is an entire in-betweenness and that, perhaps, the true test of our lives is in how we navigate through the uncertainty.

And now, this whole concept of shruti, a coming to terms with, and even a relishing of, this in-betweenness.

Finding the Raga has set the tone for my year. Here’s to making the in-betweenness both the journey and the home, the way sadhana does not differentiate between labour and its fruit or between preparation and performance, the way a khayal does not demand the listener to distinguish between process and finished product; and here’s to fine-tuning life for this interval of in-betweenness that can be made beautiful.

5 thoughts on “Amit Chaudhuri: Finding the Raga”

  1. While I will most likely never read this book as I don’t have a musical bone in my body (lol!) I do appreciate your words on in between-ness. Beautifully worded thoughts as always Mira! X

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The book buying is out of control Mira! I ordered on the 1st of Jan-
        Sex and lies by Leila Slimani
        Sarajevo Marlboro
        Destiny Disrupted
        Stone Dreams by Akram Aylisli
        Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree
        The Devils Dance
        Madonna in a Fur Coat

        Meanwhile while waiting i went to a bookshop yesterday, and with Actual MONEY i bought the Island of missing trees and My Name is Red. You can see your influences in purchases huh! 🤣🤣🤣

        Btw my dear booklover friend here in Perth gifted me a most wonderful book for the New Year… A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. Such a beautiful story, such exquisite writing. It bought me so much joy for the start of a new year! X

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I almost missed seeing this reply!!! Ahhhh!!! You soooo deserve it!!! Haha ❤

        Thank you for putting Stone Dreams in my radar! What an intriguing book!
        And Winman, she has been recommended to me but this reinforced me to check her books out sooner. The influencing is mutual. Hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m looking forward to Stone Dreams… cannot remember when I read about it but it intrigued me a I wrote the title down. I think I’ve been waiting 8 months to order it 🤣🤣🤣

        Liked by 1 person

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