Compare and Contrast the Traditional Music of India with that of China
Music, according to Dale Hoiberg and Indu Ramchandani has been an essential part of the Indian life since the Vedic times, and Vedic hymns are chanted at religious functions even today (p. 29). Hoiberg and Ramchandani noted that Indian music comprises a wide variety of instrumental and vocal traditions, which include the classical, religious, popular, and theatrical, and modern (p. 29)
India is divided between the South and the North with the south being dominated by the Hindus and the North by the Muslims.
The classical music tradition of the South is called Carnatic music while the North is Hindustani. Reginald and Jamila Massey said that Indian music is rooted in nature (p. 7). Reginald and Jamila Massey pointed out that Indian music was divided by the Brahmin or the religious gurus, into two categories: Marga Sangeet – or that which pleasing to the gods’ which was religious and sacred music, and Desi Sangeet which was the kind of music pleasing to humans.
This is also a secular or profane music (p. 14).
According to the two Masseys, The Brahmin or the Gurus which are still in South India today, devote their whole lives to the exact and proper chanting of the book, for the purpose of attaining perfection in his rendering of it. Indian traditional music obviously, is highly connected to their religious life as it was often use in the worship of their gods. Reginald and Jemila Massey Indian music has been firmly rooted in the temple. They further noted that when the great temples were built in India, “girls trained in music and dance was attached to them as a matter of fact” (p. 27).
Peter Lavezzole noted that although both the South and the North anchored their classical music in the vocal tradition, “the distinction between the North and South are telling, because both traditions have their own vocal styles, instruments, and attitudes toward the music” (p 3). Lavizzole pointed out that North Indian’s popularized instruments such as the sitar, sarod, and tabla while the South Indian counter part is the much older vina or VEEna, the karnatac drums which the most common in use are the barrel shaped miridangam and the large rounded clay pot known as the ghatam (p.4). In the same way, violin is also a predominant instrument in both South and North India which is used for vocals and as a solo instrument.
According to Peter Lavezzoli, vocal music is the highest form in India; as they have always “based their style of playing on the fluidity and expressiveness of the human voice” (p. 4). Because Indians believed that human voice is the most fundamental instrument. Likewise, dancing, as most Indian women do, is very significant in India’s festivities and religious rituals. Shah has stated in his book that “dancing in India is an attempt to reproduce the various aspects of phases of the cosmic mysteries” (p. 122). It is indeed a symbolic art for them which are important as a pastime, in worship and as part of dramas.
Traditional Music in China
The traditional music in China was shaped by the old agrarian society with influences from Confucianism, Legalism and Taoism ideology. According to Isabel Wong, this old traditional music was reshaped due to challenges of Western commercial penetration and other social problems in the nineteenth century (as cited by Ellingham and Broughton, p. 37). Chinese traditional music did not survive the social and political chaos of the country especially at the advent of communism, leaving it underdeveloped according to Ellingham and Broughton. However, in Stephen Jones reports as cited in the same book, in rural China, this traditional music has survived despite influence from the West (p. 33). According to Ellingham and Broughton, the traditional music which the modern China revives this day, “follows the Confucian ideals of moderation and harmony” (p. 34).
Chinese traditional music is characterized according to different categories as influenced by many factors: Cantonese music of 1920s and 1930s was a bit westernized due to the influence of movie industry fusing the local traditional music with jazz; the revolutionary music of communism was symptomatic and was generally march-like and optimistic; the guoyue or national music is the only Chinese music recorded recently and this was an “artificial attempt to create a pan-Chinese style for the concert hall using Western light music” (Ellingham and Broughton, p. 34).
Generally as the authors stated, in most rural areas traditional music is obstinate which survived the course of time; traditional music distinguishes one region to another region because of its varied styles. Han music which comprises the 93 percent of the population, is divided into four types: the folk music, religious music, court music, and scholar-official or aristocratic music; and, among most minority nationalities, folk music and religious music are prevalent and considered as the basis of all other forms of traditional music (Penyeh and Tachaikov, p. 2). The themes of folk songs vary as they speak about many subjects such as love, labor, customs, stories, mystical religious themes and many others.
Traditionally, Chinese music use string instrument such as qin, pipa or flute, zheng (zither); wind instrument namely sheng, dizi, xiao, suona and guanzi; and percussion (Ellington and Broughton, p. 36).
Dancing in China is also many centuries old as writing and music. According to Chen, Chinese dance is characterized by bended hips, hands and ankles; movements are circular just like the Western dance styles. For Chinese, a choreographic movement of different parts of the body especially the hands and feet are to express their appreciation of spirits, describe everyday life and expression of emotion. Just like music as the author explained, dancing has been a very important part of traditional activities such as festivals, weddings and theatrical works.
Comparison and Contrast
Both India and China have traditional music, musical instrument, and dance styles which are patterned after their cultivated culture. Both of these countries had their traditional music and dance beginning of their existence; and that, music and dancing for these countries are associated with religion and tradition.
However, Indian music is much purer; it is preserved and developed over the years, unlike China in which, social and political disturbances hinder them to grow. Most of the music of China has influences from West while Indian music is purely Indians along with instruments. Also, Indian music is largely spiritual while Chinese music and dance caters not only the religious aspect of the country but also the people’s everyday experiences. Indian music is classified into two regions: the South and the North; while China has much traditional music which varies from one region to another.
Ellingham, M. & Broughton, S. 2000. World Music. London: Rough Guides
Lavezzoli, P. 2006. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Continuum International Publishing Group
Penyeh, T. & Tachaikov, B. 1998. Tradition and Change in the Performance of Chinese Music. London: Routledge
Shah, KT 2003. Splendor That Was India. Kessinger Publishing
Chen, T. 2006. “Custom, Cultures, and Social Forces.” H.T. Dance Company Inc.
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