Raag Malhar!

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Raag Malhar!

Postby Ganesh H Shankar » Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:55 pm

I guess music of monsoon can be heard everywhere now. What a beautiful theme, "Raag Malhar", we have for this month! Thanks to Covid-19 some of us are stuck at home. For some of us opportunities to make an image conforming to 'Raag Malhar' is limited now. That did not prevent me from searching my thousands of unprocessed raw files to find a few images. In fact it has become ritual for a few of us to visit Adithya's place to make images of rain during every monsoon. Here after probably we should call this trip, "Megh Malhar" trip. Thanks, Nevil for the idea.

Not sure how many of you have clicked the link Nevil shared as part of the Raag Malhar post.
If you have not, please take a few minutes to read the Wiki link Nevil shared on Raag Malhar, a classical Raag of Hindustani music depicting clouds and rains. As you can see there in the Wiki link there are many flavours of the Raag Malhar.

About 8 years ago I posted a thread on music and photography trying to draw some parallels between different ragas in Hindustani classical music and the mood we wanted to generate in some of the images we create by carefully managing the tonal ranges/curves/levels. I take this opportunity to revisit this again, this time with the focus on the monthly theme Raag Malhar. Fortunately I found an amazing video where musician Ms. Saswani beautifully characterised Raag Megh Malhar and nicely articulated very subtle differences it has with another Rag called Madhmad Sarang, interestingly having same musical notes. But the difference is in how these same notes move with other notes in these two ragas creating a very different expression.

Now, is there anything we can learn as a photographers from this? I think, a lot. To me the answer lies in tonal treatment that we care about in our images, more so when we intend to print them. This month's theme, "Raag Malhar" is a perfect example to illustrate this I guess. Let me make an attempt. However, before that I kindly request you to spend 1/2 hour of your quality time on this below video. If not half an hour, just a few minutes, in particular between, 3:16s to 7:47s. I thoroughly enjoyed it, hats off to the musician and her fine articulation of nuances of the raaga.



You may carefully listen to her wonderful articulations between, 3:16s to 7:47s and also observe the personifications!

"Ri..Ma.Pa.Ni....Ni..." This indicates gathering of clouds which happens gradually, that is depicted by 'komal nishadh'.
"Nishad is not alone in Meg Malhar, unlike it is in Madmadh Sarang"
"It is quite up right in its appearance"
"In hindustani we call this andolan.."
"and number of oscillations we try for singing nishad.."
"Ni comes with its companion shadaj"
"Mega Malhar is a raga which finds its beauty in mandra saptak also"


Carefully listen to the movement of notes in her rendition that follows. I see this in monsoon clouds.

"Distinctive feature of Malhar, any type of Malhar is...this is again matched by...Ma.Ri..Ni.Ni.Sa..."


Excellent, listen to her! For me this part of the rendition clearly depicts the slowly gathered cloud. Hats off to her for the fine articulation.

The summary is, I think, all the wonderful and subtle points she made about temporal arrangements and repetition of notes is very much applicable to us as photographers. The only difference I see here is the arrangement of notes is temporal in music. Being a visual medium for us it is spatial distribution of tonal ranges that we intend to manage. If we reduce space and time to space-time then there is no difference! That is a different discussion. One of the recent image that Raj posted here comes to my mind. Just watch how he has sung his mid-tone notes in this below post! I can ensure you, this is not an arbitrary processing of pulling a few levers in curves and levels. Ansel Adams was very good at meticulously rendering these tones.

image_id: 17390

Back to our monthly theme, Raag Malhar, I made this short video clip to draw some parallel between what musician said and the "Raag Malhar" that we want to explore as an image. Please see whether you can go through this below video clip with some embedded commentary and see if some of those makes any sense. Yes, there is a subjectivity in these discussions which I hope we can live with.


4 July 2020 - Updated - I have created another video to explain what I meant better. Probably I could have cut it short by a few minutes. I don't know video editing. This is about 14+ min. This may help some of our young members. If you have time to watch this one below you may skip the shorter version below (3 min), if not you may watch a shorter version of 3 mins video below this one. An important submission, please note this is not a scientific study by any stretch of imagination. This is how I tried to relate music with photography and possibly learn a few things from musicians that I can use in my own photography. If any of you have better explanations I would love to learn from you. In the video I also refer to a small image file showing musical scale and tonal ranges. Larger version of the same is attached below.

musical_notes.jpg
musical_notes.jpg (105.93 KiB) Viewed 1426 times


Latest updated (5 July) video (14+ min)



Earlier video (3+ min)



Which one of these below appears like "Megh Malhar" to your senses?

ever_green_forest.jpg
ever_green_forest.jpg (287.35 KiB) Viewed 1630 times


kaas_scape_sky.jpg
kaas_scape_sky.jpg (1.71 MiB) Viewed 1630 times


For me it is the latter. It seem to have a smaller gamut/notes compared to the first one. Further, more importantly, "Ni" and "Sa" appears to be together in the sky (recalling what she said, “Ni comes with its companion Shadaj”) and tones are clustered in "mandra saptak" flowers too!!

Just wondering, in music with far fewer notes a musician can create such an emotional impact (and as she mentioned, Megh Malhar has only 5 notes). It is a shame that we have a huge gamut to play with and can't effectively manage the mood? Is this a problem of plenty (of notes/tones)? Or, does the problem lies in targeted receptor, ears vs. eyes? Or with us as photographers? I don't hesitate to conclude it is the last one. If sound/music can convey monsoon mood an image should be able to do it more easily? Or, is it?

If any of you are interested a slightly more detailed blog is here in my site.

#CNPMalhar
Ganesh H. Shankar
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Madhav Jois » Fri Jul 03, 2020 9:38 pm

Thank you Ganesh for this post. Really really wonderful. The way you mapped the tonal range of an image to different swaras of a raga is an eye opener for me. I will read this many more times to be sure i did not miss anything.

Which one of these below appears like "Megh Malhar" to your senses?

Definitely the later. First one, although a very nice image does not convey the mood of the monsoon.
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Vageesha AR » Sat Jul 04, 2020 7:23 am

Thanks Ganesh for this post. This gives me sufficient fodder for my thoughts and a push to try to inculcate some of the parallels between these two formats during my own photography. Thanks again for generously exemplifying your point with curves on that tree and flower carpet image, it drove the point so efficiently to a novice like me. The older post ( Music and Images ) on tonal range and ragas being analogous was very helpful too.

It is well known how the memories in our brain are triggered at encountering a specific experience. The smell is said to be strongest of such triggers ( famous literary instance of involuntary memory of childhood through the taste of a certain biscuit by Proust ) but it is easy to expand the connection to image and sound and exploit the same during one's photography.

The current monthly theme challenge will surely expand our horizon and ask a fundamentally new treatment of composition and post-process. This will bring out some interesting results, looking eagerly for the same.

The phenomenon of synesthesia is an interesting one in the context of the sound and image parallels. The below links might interest you.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618987/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

https://synesthesia.com/blog/sound-synesthesia/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Thanks
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Ganesh H Shankar » Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:12 am

Thanks, Vageesha.

Thanks for the links on synesthesia. In fact many years ago we had a short discussion on synesthesia here.
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby dinesh.ramarao » Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:25 am

While making this
gallery/image_page.php?album_id=20&image_id=17438
image, i had not thought of any Raagas,

However, when I saw the theme this month i thought of

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YUO34WHNcc

from Pt.Venkatesh Kumar and found the image from my vault.
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Adithya Biloor » Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:55 am

Hi Ganesh,

Thanks for the post. Not sure I will be able to produce even a single image, but has opened up my horizons.

Thanks again,
Adithya
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby dinesh.ramarao » Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:00 pm

Well, one of my close friends, Mr.Venkatesh, who is not a member of CNP, but an avid follower, has a goal of his life to depict 10 Carnatic raagas thru photography.
So, Adithya, you may not have one now, but I am sure, the place you live will give you opportunities to create in future.

-RD
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Ganesh H Shankar » Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:46 pm

Nice video, RD. Love the rendition of the line "nani nani boondan...nani nani boondan", beautiful. You may want to embed it here using the 'youtube' '/youtube' BBCode if you want.
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Ganesh H Shankar » Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:48 pm

Friends, I have updated the video I made and uploaded the slightly longer version. This might help some of our young CNPians here.
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Re: Raag Malhar!

Postby Vikas T R » Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:17 pm

A wonderful theme for the month and also a superb discussion happening here.

Till this discussion started i was just mapping malhar with rain. But after reading through the discussion here and listening to variations of malhar, I believe it is not that simple. I had posted an image for this theme today, I feel it does not belong to the monthly gallery :)

Thanks to all for broadening my vision and understanding of the theme. 

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