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Student Scribe

BY Akshara Ramki

What does Carnatic Music Do to the Brain?

What Is Carnatic Music?

History

Carnatic music, also known as Karnataka Sangeetham, is a type of Indian classical music with origins in southern India. Particularly in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala. It is one of the oldest traditions in the world. It is deeply rooted in ancient Indian culture and spirituality. The origins of this amazing music can be traced back to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of Hinduism. They are known to date back over 3000 years. The Vedas have hymns and chants known as "sama gana", which laid the foundation for Indian classical music, including Carnatic music. Today, Carnatic music remains as a vibrant art form, cherished for its spiritual and cultural significance, continuing to thrive across the globe.

Basics of Carnatic Music

In the style of music, the main elements are the sruti (the musical pitch), the swara (the sound of each note), the ragas (the melodic scales), the talam (the rhythmic beats), and (kriti) compositions. Sruti is all about staying in tune with precise pitch levels. Ragas are like the musical scales or patterns that create different moods and feelings. Thalam is the rhythm or beat organized into cycles. Lastly, compositions feature kritis and simple lessons. When learning Carnatic music, students usually learn under a teacher's guidance. Carnatic Music is a cherished part of Indian culture, loved for its soulful tunes and spiritual depth.

Composers and Singers

Composers  Sri Thyagraja Swami, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Syama Sastri are teh trinity(trimurti) of Carnatic Music. Sri Thygaraja is revered as one of the greatest composers in Carnatic music history. His compositions have devotion and emotion. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a genius and composed highly informative compositions. He had intricate melodies and lyrical beauty. Syama Sastri had a unique style that included lyrical beauty, emotion, beautiful melodies, and more.

 

Singers like M.S. Subbalakshmi, M. Balamuralikrishna, and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer are well known in the Carnatic music world. M.S. Subbhalakshmi is a legendary vocalist who had mesmerizing voice technique. She excelled in this art form. Bharat Ratna M. Balamuralikrishna, who was a composer himself mastered many musical instruments.He was very experimental.

 

Then there is Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer; his rich voice and impeccable rendition of compositions were so beautiful. He inspired generations and had a great understanding of ragas, improvisations, and expression.

How does Carnatic Music Benefit Us?

Makes Us Feel Good

When we listen to Carnatic music, it can make us feel happy or relaxed. It's like how your favorite song can lift your mood. The melodies are so beautiful and calming. When we listen to Carnatic music, it activates parts of our brains that make us happy and relax. Scientific studies show that listening to this music have positive effects on our mood. The melodies and patterns trigger the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in our brains. These chemicals are associated with feelings of happiness, relaxation, joy, and calmness. For example, imagine listening to a soothing composition after a long, stressful day. As the serene melodies wash over you, you feel the tension melt away. The tension is replaced by peace and contentment. Listening to Carnatic music is not only pleasurable but also contributes to our overall well-being.

Helps Us Think Better

The patterns and rhythms in Carnatic music can make our brains work harder. It's like a workout for our brains, making us better at things like paying attention and memory. When we listen to Carnatic music, the intricate melodies and rhythmic patterns require our brains to actively process and interpret the sounds. This engagement stimulates neural pathways associated with auditory processing and memory. Over time, listening to Carnatic music can lead to improvements in our ability to focus, remember information, and analyze complex patterns. Students who regularly listen to Carnatic music while studying may find it easier. to understand complx math and science. For example, imagine trying to follow the complex beats of a Carnatic percussion piece. You focus on deciphering the patterns and anticipating the beat. During this, your brain actively exercises its cognitive abilities, concentration and ability to retain the information, ultimately enhancing their academic performance.

Can Change Our Brains

Listening to Carnatic music regularly can change our brains for the better. It's like exercising regularly to get stronger muscles. As we immerse ourselves in enchanting melodies and patterns, our brains become more active and engaged. This strengthens neural connections and heightens our senses. Over time, this regular stimulation can lead to improvements in our cognitive skills, as stated before. Our emotional intelligence and concentration are enhanced when listening to Carnatic music. Music gives you a mental book and uplifts your spirits.

Calms Us Down

Just like how listening to peaceful music can help us relax, Carnatic music can also reduce stress and make us feel calm. When you listen to Carnatic music, it stimulates pathways, resulting in a positive state of mind. Doing this over and over again can make it easier to stay calm in different situations where things don't always go according to plan. Staying calm can change the way you think of life and your perspective. And a cool thing is that staying calm and happy can also make you live longer!

Connects Us to Culture

Carnatic music is often connected to Indian culture and spirituality. It's like feeling a special connection to your heritage or traditions. Carnatic music (Kritis) usually has a story or description of something related to Hindu culture. It may explain the joy the composer feels when praying to God, how God helps/protects  us, the surrounding nature, and so much more. People bond over Carnatic music and get together to listen and sing.

Conclusion

Carnatic music is an art form that is so beautiful and so helpful at the same time. It makes us feel good, helps us think better, changes our brains, calms us down, and this music can also connect us to culture. There are so many more benefits to Carnatic music, as each one experiences it in a different way.  To be a better person, or, let's say, a better self, all you need to do is listen to Carnatic music! So, next time you need a mental boost, consider tuning in to the soothing sounds of Carnatic music!

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