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Ragas and Emotions: Music-psychological aspects of Hindustani Ragas

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Tomáš Reindl – Marek Frič – Viktor Hruška

Indian classical music uses a highly sophisticated system of melodic structures (rāga), which relate with particular states of mind (rāsa). In this relation, there is significant importance of tiny micro-intervallic nuances in the tuning of ragas. This article brings results of research called Ragas and emotions realized by Musical Acoustics Research Centre (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague). The goal of the project was to prove if emotional states rāsa, traditionally connected with certain ragas, can be perceived by Western listeners too, either familiar with listening to Indian music or totally inexperienced. The basis of this study is an online listening test which was prepared with a collaboration of significant Indian musician Amit Chatterjee (NYC/ Calcutta). The processing of results employs various statistical methods (factor analysis, Cronbach alpha, Pearson’s correlation) that show different levels of sensitivity between respondents for specific emotions. Various listening strategies among the respondents and their subgroups were revealed. The results of respondents are also put into comparison with an evaluation of emotional content done by the performer himself. In the next step, there was a research of correspondence between particular emotional states and specific micro-intervals (śruti), which shows some interesting connections between an occurrence rate of certain characteristic intervals in a given raga and particular emotions. For example, the interval of a major seventh (15/8) corresponds here with the emotions of joy and love, and partially with solemnity and compassion, which confirms the traditional Indian approach. Specific relation came out between emotion of fear and the interval of the low minor second (25/24, which is 29 cents lower than the tempered minor second), which is a characteristic interval of raga Marwa, traditionally connected with the aspect of death.

Keywords: Indian classical music; Hindustani music; raga; rasa; shruti; svara; music psychology; Natyashastra; Sangīta Ratnākara