The Rhythmic Function of Tala/Decitalas

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JG95
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Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:37 pm

The Rhythmic Function of Tala/Decitalas

Post by JG95 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:41 pm

Hi there everybody,

I'm sorry if this is being posted in the wrong place. I'm a university student studying Popular Music at Masters level looking to learn more about the Rhythmic Functionality of Tala/Decitala within Indian Music. What I've learned so far is that Tala/Decitala are the rhythmic building blocks for Indian Music? (Please feel free to correct me, I'd much rather you do!) Whereas in the west, rhythm isn't really used as a building block in the same sense as it is through the use of Tala in Indian music am I correct? We in the west have our Paradiddles and other rudiments like that but they wouldn't be used as the rhythmic fundamentals for a song now would they? I'd love to learn more about the Tala and how it makes Indian music unique from any other genre of music. Thank you.

Benarsidass
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:17 am

Re: The Rhythmic Function of Tala/Decitalas

Post by Benarsidass » Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:55 am

Tal is a huge subject but essentially, tal is a rhythmic framework within which the music is performed. But tals are not at all "building blocks" of the music in terms of rhythm. Tals themselves do not determine what kinds of rhythms you hear in the music.

Tals provide a non-stop cycle that is always there beneath the music. The surface music is composed and improvised within a tal, but that music will only sometimes reflect the structure of the tal itself. This can vary depending on the genre of classical Indian music, but in most North Indian classical music, the connection between tal and surface rhythms can vary greatly in a single performance.

Western meter is more clearly reflected in the music itself. A piece, or section, in 3/4 feels like 3/4. If you want to change to 4/4 then you change the meter. But tals remain constant until the end of that particular performance with only changes in tempo. And yet a performance in tintal (the common 16 beat cycle) will often have sections in all kinds of different rhythmic divisions (2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 7:1, etc.).

This is essentially the difference between tal and lay. Lay is the surface division, or rhythms, that you hear. Tal is the stable structure beneath. So it's better to think of a tal as containing the music, not defining it.

It can be tough to get your head around without guided listening examples or studying the music. This single best book I know of on the subject is Martin Clayton's Time in Indian Music. There are also some basic definitions of tal and its parts on this website: http://chandrakantha.com/articles/india ... /tala.html
Last edited by Benarsidass on Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

Benarsidass
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:17 am

Re: The Rhythmic Function of Tala/Decitalas

Post by Benarsidass » Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:00 am

profpandit wrote: This is a rather complex explanation.
Taal does specify rhythm, fundamentally using 2 contructs, taali and khaali...
The original post suggests that tal somehow provides "the rhythmic fundamentals of a song." I was trying to explain that that is not the case. Getting into vibhags, tali, and khali etc. is actually more complicated of an answer because now you have to explain how tali and khali often have no connection to what's being played on top, especially in terms of rhythm. It's a huge can of worms.

You can listen to 4 or 5 minutes of continuous sitar soloing (between returning to the gat) and find little to no connection to the surface music being played on top and the structure of the tal beneath, other than the pulse of the matra, the occasional tihai, or emphasis on sam. So the beat, or pulse of the tal is there, but it does not determine surface rhythm. Players are free to go just about anywhere rhythmically, regardless of where they are in the tal. Same for much of tabla soloing in both accompaniment and tabla solo.

So tal most certainly does not "specify rhythm", as profpandit put it. It merely contains it, gives is a metrical bounds.

If it did specify rhythm, them I'm sure profpandit can tell us how tali or khali are specifying the rhythm of the following uthan, which has multiple lays (divisions of the beat) and an asymmetrical structure (hint: they don't):

dha tete kradha tete
x
gheranaga tirakita nagatira kitataka
2
dha–gheranaga dha–gheranaga tirakitataka tirakitataka
0
dha–gheranaga dha–gheranaga tirakitataka tirakitataka
3
dheradherakitataka takkran dha–kata dha,dheradhera
x
kitatakatak– krandha katadha– dheradherakitataka
2
takkran dha–kata dha dha
0
tete kradha tete gheranaga
3
tirakita nagatira kitataka dha–gheranaga
x
dha–gheranaga tirakitataka tirakitataka dha–gheranaga
2
dha–gheranaga tirakitataka tirakitataka dheradherakitataka
0
takkran dha–kata dha,dheradhera kitatakatak–
3
krandha katadha– dheradherakitataka takkran
x
dha–kata dha dha tete
2
kradha tete gheranaga tirakita
0
nagatira kitataka dha–gheranaga dha–gheranaga
3
tirakitataka tirakitataka dha–gheranaga dha–gheranaga
x
tirakitataka tirakitataka dheradherakitataka takkran
2
dha–kata dha,dheradhera kitatakatak– krandha
0
katadha– dheradherakitataka takkran dha–kata
3
dha
x

Benarsidass
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:17 am

Re: The Rhythmic Function of Tala/Decitalas

Post by Benarsidass » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:08 am

profpandit wrote: Why would you take a really comlicated example to explain something for the first time to a newbie.
Here we go again.

The original post did not ask for a simple definition of tal, but was asking specifically asking about the "rhythmic functionality" of tal in the music, and had the impression that tal itself determines the rhythms heard in the music. My post was a response to that.

You (profpandit/kitchdee), as always, take the rebel-without-a-cause approach and disrupt any helpful conversation by either mis-reading the original post, or ignoring it and trying to redirect the conversation to suit your own ends (you still haven't shown us how tali and khali determine rhythm).

JG95 is probably already sorry he asked the question, just as I am starting to feel sorry for trying to be of any help because I spend more time responding to your B.S. than I do answering the original question. I suspect others feel the same about contributing to any thread that you're a part of, and so they just don't bother.

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