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Friday, July 27, 2007

Towards Quantification of Emotions

Art experience, which is subjective by nature, however doesn’t prohibit objective approaches to the ‘raga-rasa’ relation in Indian Music. The thought that the ‘rasa’ (the aesthetic taste) is inherent to a “Raga” is the main premise on which raga-s are termed emotive and in the sense that they evoke a definite ‘rasa’. This very premise needs to be revalidated scientifically. The autonomy of ‘musical stimulus’ evoking ‘desired’ responses in human subjects is often accepted by consensus.

The impact and the resultant response to music by human subjects are broadly categorized into two types namely, Affective Response and Aesthetic Response (Lundin, 1967). Of the two, affective response to music is objective by nature, for ‘the musical stimulus creates a definite change in the organism’ (Lundin, 1967). The convenience of having sufficient scientific equipments for the measurement of the affective responses is the main motivation to take up the scientific study of the nature of response to music.

Notwithstanding the traditional claims about the ‘raga-rasa’ relation in Indian Music, sufficient objective studies have not been carried out till date to prove this fact experimentally. However, drawing analogies from the studies done in western music, we may, for the present, make a beginning in this direction. My primary area of inquiry is the objective study of emotions in pure music only there by avoiding the influence of ‘text’ in eliciting the ‘context’ and in turn the ‘rasa’.
Indian Classical Music, which boasts of employing the concept of ‘raga-rasa’ relation and exploiting it ‘effectively’ during performance, has failed to stand up to this claim (more so in the south Indian musical tradition) as the ‘text’ always has gained prominence over the ‘melody’. The failure is as a result of lack of standardized connotation for the ‘melodic’ part that could be realized practically during performances. Scholars put forth differing views regarding a sort of (organic?) relation between melody and text. The affective component of the aesthetic taste, by default, is measurable. A serious and well-structured research is going on in the west in this area. One Basic problem is to model the affect.

‘There is no definitive model of emotions. Psychologists have been debating for years how to define them. The pattern recognition problem consists of sorting observed data into a set of states (classes or categories), which correspond to several distinct (but possibly overlapping, or "fuzzy") emotional states. Which tools are most suitable to accomplish this depends on the nature of the signals observed’. This almost is in agreement with Bharatha’s dictum that ‘Rasa is the cumulative effect of Vibhāva (stimulus), Anubhāva (involuntary action) and Vyabhichāri bhāva (Voluntary reaction) ’. Researchers have observed that the involuntary actions during the affected state are definitely measurable and those measurements represent the emotional correlates.

With this, we need to question ourselves after every repeated listening of a particular musical item as to whether the listening was the same? Or, was it different? Why so? What was the new dimension that we got to relish? If so, why we didn’t get to that dimension earlier? The answers to these questions would explain why live concerts are said to be more relishable than listening to cassettes.

The effect of impact of a stone hitting a person depends on its inherent mass and the force with which it hits him. The concept of Rasamsha was developed analogous to this thought. It is reinforced by means of GSR Studies. The next step is to develop a structured research plan based on ‘Raga profile’, which further would lead to evolution of design techniques in music therapy.

The ‘Raga-rasa’ relation needs to be revalidated as to make sense and more practicable in the present context of Indian Music.


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