This collection of essays is the first treatment of Hindustani Rhythm in the way of modern
aesthetics. It seeks, on the one hand, to fix and distinguish the meaning of such words as
matra, zarab, bol, laya. Tala theka, sama; and on the other hand, to seize the details of
actual rhythm as it appears to contemplation. Nowhere in the book does theory over-shadow
rhythm. But some wider questions have also been taken up. How, if at all, is rhythm an
autonomous art? What are the strands of its winged form; its accent of magic and its prime
evocati veness? Is it proper to speak of rhythm as 'expressive' or 'symbolic'? Does our tala
seem 'embodied' as it swings and soars apace?
Whoever is responsive to rhythm can profit from this book. It is of value to the
Kathak dancer, too; and to all those would see rhythm saturate, and not merely circle. The
fabric of song.
Dr. Sushil Kumar Saxena teaches philosophy at the University of Delhi. Here, his main
areas of interest have been metaphysics and the philosophies of art and religion. Beginning
in 1964, Dr. Saxena has lectured postgraduate students on the philosophy of art from about
fifteen years. His essays on aesthetical anthologies of national importance. And in the
following well-known journals: The British Journal of Aesthetics and Religious Studies
(U.K.); Diogene (France); Kant Studien (Germany); II Velro (Italy); and Philosophy East and
West and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (U.S.A.). His latest article, 'A Reply
to My Gritics', appeared in the April 1979 issue of Philosophy East and West.
Within the country, Dr. Saxena is regarded as perhaps the only person doing
philosophical aesthetics with an emphasis on Hindustani music, rhythm and Kathak Dance. He
has contributed papers to National Seminars on Music, Rhythm and Kathak Dance organized by
the Central and State Akademies; served as 'a music critic' to The Hindustan Time (New
Delhi), and on All India Radio's Informal Consultative Committee for the National Programme
of Music (73, 74), as well as on Government of India's Selection Committees for awarding
cultural scholarships for higher studies in music and dance; and has given 'orientation'
lectures regularly for more than ten years to non-Indian visitors to India on: 'The Music
and Dance of India' and 'The Hindu Way of Life'.
Dr. Saxena's first book : Studies in the Metaphysics of Bradley (published by George
Allen & Unwin Ltd., London and Humanities Press, New York) appeared in the Muirhead Library
series of philosophical works in 1967. His subsequent creative work includes not only
published essays in aesthetics and the philosophy of religion, but music compositions
'recorded' on the occasion of various seminars on Hindustani music and Kathak dance.
Little aesthetical notice has so far been taken of rhythm in Hindustani (or North Indian)
music. The book is a modest attempt to meet this clear need.
The essays that make this book (except nos. IV and X) have all already appeared in
journals devoted to philosophy and the arts. But I have at places re-written some of these
for the present volume; and in doing so I have drawn upon my essays: "Essentials of
Hindustani Music" (Diogene, Paris, 1964), "Kant, Aesthetical Theory and some Indian Art"
(Kant Studien, Germany, 1978); and upon my numerous articles and 'reviews' contributed-the
last, as 'a music critic' to the, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, more than twenty years
Three of the essays here presented are from different issues of 'Sangeet Natak'
(Journal of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi), edited by Mrs. Uma Anand. The fact that
this national body has further agreed to publish the present work is an honour to me, and I
gratefully acknowledge it.
My approach in this book is 'aesthetical' in two dominant senses of the word today:
linguistic-analytic and phenomenological. But, in accordance with the Indian view that the
single word Sangeet covers rhythm, music and dance, I have also taken care to include two
essays on the linkages of rhythm with our singing and Kathak dance. Perhaps, where I speak
of the structure of sthayi from the viewpoint of its approach to the Sama (Essay VIII) some
insight may also be had into the art of making music.
My concern here is not only with individual concepts and problems, but with wider
questions of the status of Hindustani rhythm as an independent art, and of its relevance to
some modern theories of art, both as illustration and as challenge. The book indeed opens
with the paper: "Aesthetic Theory and Hindustani Rhythm" contributed to The British Journal
of Aesthetics; and presented, very differently, to the World Philosophy Conference at the
University of Delhi, on January 2, '76. On the other hand, I have throughout kept in mind
the details of rhythm as practiced. This in fact explains why, along with other ways of
keeping close to fact, the syllables of rhythm have been freely given. Further, at the
instance of Dr. Ranjan K. Ghosh, an old student and now a helpful colleague, I have put each
syllable in both English and Hindi letters, the latter mostly within brackets. He rightly
made me see that here the use of Hindi alone could cause needless confusion to readers
without any knowledge of this language.
So far as I know, the book is the first of its kind; and I am happy I could do it.
It seeks to fix the meaning of such basic concepts as laya, matra, zarab, bol, theka, tala,
sama and layakari in the context of both aesthetic discourse and experience. And where I
speak of the Gestalt laws and Kathak dance, I have tried to discuss the crucial questions of
rhythmic filling and structure; and to determine the individual contribution of footwork and
bodily bearing (ang) to the wholeness of rhythm.
But the very singularity of my concern has in part been a handicap. The book is but
a long furrow, and quite without the weight that comes from references to parallel writings.
I therefore feel deeply indebted to all those who have made it possible for me to publish
this book, and earlier gave me chance to work and think for it, by inviting me to
participate in National Seminars on Music and Rhythm, or to directly write on these arts.
These friends are: Mrs. Uma Anand and Dr. B.C. Deva (Akademi's own assistant secretaries for
publications and music respectively) and Professor S.S. Barlingay, Editor of the Indian
Philosophical Quarterly, Poona. I have also felt encouraged, I recall, by the extremely kind
reactions which my essay on Laya elicited from Professor Manfred Junius (sometime with the
Institute of Comparative Music, Venice) who not only knows and practices Hindustani music,
but is deeply devoted to it.
As is commonly known, a good way to diversify ones knowledge of rhythm-and to grow
into the power to outstand passages of intricate layakari-is close and continual attention
to Kathak dance. So I am beholden also to the members of my twenty-two years old Kathak
team, to its key link in particular, comprising Rani Karnaa (the noted Kathak danseuse) and
Ustad Chhamma Khan, the tabla expert of the University of Delhi. I need hardly add that
without this association my acquaintance with rhythm would have been poorer than it it.
But from the viewpoint of the practice of rhythm-and also, at times, in respect of
my understanding of it-my main guide and monitor has been the ablest pupil of the late Ustad
Habeebuddin Khan of Meerut, Mr. Sudhir Kumar Saxena who teaches tabla (at the College of
Indian Music, Dance and Drama, Baroda University) and is himself a drummer of no mean merit.
If the book is no mere speculation, it is due as much to his ready and attentive help as to
my own deep love of rhythm as an art-form.
And if in print the work seems passable I should thank some more friends. Mr. M.M.
Shungloo (of the Akademi) chose the format and checked the proofs, along with Mrs. Uma
Anand; and, after the careful start given by Mr. S. J. Dubey, the Manager of the Press, it
was Mr. A. G. Korde who saw to the printing with patience and seemed ever willing to
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