K S Nagarajan

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Two years

For setting up a multi-indexed and computerised database of Carnatic music compositions, lyricists and composers.

This grant enables Mr K S Nagarajan to complete his ongoing documentation and cataloguing of Carnatic music. For the last decade, he has been working sporadically on creating a multi-indexed and computerised database of the latter. The database has two main sections. Section One primarily has entries under three categories — compositions (CARMUCOM), biographical information on composers and lyricists (VAGYEKAR), and bibliographic data on books and manuscripts relating to Carnatic music (MUSBOOKS). Mr Nagarajan has documented 70 per cent of the documentation pertaining to these aforementioned categories.

Additionally, the first section has four ancillary files. The first, TUNINGS, will have information on lyrics composed by one person but set to music by someone else. The second, ALTVERS, will document alternate versions of the same lyrics. The third file will deal with PALLAVIS — ‘special type of creative composition, designed by either past masters or improvised by the contemporary musician to exhibit the singer’s or player’s virtuosity and control over gait and rhythmic measure or tala’. The fourth and final file, RAGAMALLIK, will document Raagamallikas — ragas related to each other as in a ‘garland’ of ragas, and ranging from three of a kind to thirty or forty.

Section Two of the project contains five parts in Mr Nagarajan‘s initial proposal. Part I concerns the creation of a digital audiography of all known commercially published audio recordings of Carnatic music. Part II is concerned with data on musical compositions created or meant for South Indian classical dance forms. Part of the information for this already exists in the CARMUCOM file, but needs to be supplemented. Part Ill is meant to be a digitisation of unpublished Carnatic music compositions as well as a selective digitisation of those published more than 50 years ago. This documentation would be made possible using a transliteration software which would enable data entered in one or more Indian languages to be transliterated into the Roman script.

Part IV of Section Two is meant to enable students of Carnatic music to produce synthesised sounds or musical notes. Part V is meant to be a Union Catalogue of bibliographies of music-related books and an audiogiraphy of audio recordings existing in different institutional holdings across south India.

The evaluators of Mr Nagarajan's proposal drew attention to the unrealistically ambitious scale of the project, particularly the documentation involved in Section Two. In response to their comments, Mr Nagarajan agreed to retain Section One and drop all but Part II of Section Two of his project. Evaluators also raised questions about the kind of expertise Mr Nagarajan would be drawing on, the nature of the transliteration system to be employed, the software to be used for creating the database, the methodology for documentation under each of the specified categories, and the source for each entry in the database.

Mr Nagarajan sent in a detailed response to these questions. With regard to the question of expertise, he gave the impression of wishing to provide overall direction to the project himself, though he will draw on Carnatic musicians for help in the transliteration and on young volunteers as well as senior musicians for the process of data collection. IFA has decided to seek the help of an expert in monitoring the project. Additionally, it is likely that Mr Nagarajan will need to be encouraged to discuss his project with other musicologists/musicians and even set up a consultative panel.

With regard to the transliteration system to be used, Mr Nagarajan pointed out that he has developed his own ‘standardised’ code, and the entries of researchers assisting him will be checked to conform to this code. As for the software to be used, Mr Nagarajan said that he has been in touch with systems experts through the course of the project. On the issue of sources, he displayed a familiarity with those mentioned by the evaluators, and drew attention to others that were important.

Mr Nagarjan has, at lFA’s suggestion, been in touch with music institutions that can house the database once complete. Ananya, Bangalore, has agreed to make the database available to users at a nominal cost or none at all. The Bangalore Gayana Samaja has made a similar assurance. Mr Nagarajan is also in touch with other organisations like Sampradaya, Chennai, and the Bangalore Kendra of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.