About the Author:
S. C. Malik with a teaching background in Palaeoanthropology at M. S. University of Baroda, was also a Fulbright Smit-Mundt scholar at the University of Chicago. From 1966 until 1988 he was associated with the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, in various capacities. From 1988 to 1997 he was a Professorial UGC Research Scientist in Anthropology
His major contribution is in developing multidisciplinary research methodologies and formulating theoretical models for the study of Indian Civilisation, lately within the framework of philosophical anthropology. Some of his major books are: Indian Civilisation - The Formative Period (A Study of Archaeology as Anthropology); Understanding Indian Civilisation - A Framework of Enquiry; Modern Civilisation A Crisis of Fragmentation; Dissent, Protest and Reform Movements in Indian Civilisation; Determinants of Social Status in India; Intercultural Dialogue and the Human Image; and Reconceptualising the Sciences and the Humanities - An Integral Approach.
About the Book:
Dhvani(Sound/Nada) is a profound experience that envelopes us from birth to death. Yet it is not easily fathomed. Its description by an acoustic engineer is very different from that of a musician, a linguist, a city planner, or a neurologist.
The IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts), New Delhi, organized a 2-day International seminar: 24-25 October 1994, not only to understand the experiential, cross-cultural perceptions of sound, or not just to discourse about its definitional subtleties as are encountered in the ancient texts of the East and the West; but also to bring together its perceptions in tradition, modern acoustics, and even in the ongoing environmental studies. In today's living conditions, the Dhvani-theme is specially crucial - for sound has become a major pollutant both in terms of resonances and accoustics.
Assembled in this volume are the presentations of the IGNCA seminar, exploring the various complex conceptual dimensions of sound: ranging from its mystical and traditionally metaphysical to its present-day developments, from its perceptions in indigenous musical theory to its futuristic applications. With focus around five thematic areas of the seminar: (a) Sound as the source of Creation and Sources of Sound, (b) Sound and the Senses, (c) Sound and Space, (d) Sound and Time, and (e) Symbols of Sound and Sonic Designs, the authors open up the possibilities of interaction among different disciplines involved in the study of Dhvani-phenomenon.
How often do we forget that the most essential is the most ordinary and extraordinary.
We live in space, breathe air, receive sustainance from the earth and sky, each
moment, and yet the self-awareness of this perennial rhythm is only in heightened
moments of consciousness. Space, time, primal elements are the essentials as are
the primary faculties of sense perceptions. A moments reflection reveals the micro,
macro, gross and subtle dimensions of these essentials. The human experiences
these within and without. The inner and outer, the implicit and explicit levels are
in a reciprocal relationship. Each of the essentials opens up a vast universe of inter-
related elements and faculties.
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has been investigating the
many dimensions of these fundamental concepts during the last decade. Through
a series of seminars, conferences, exhibitions, multi-media presentations and
films it has sought to place the perennial and the temporal, the physical and the
metaphysical, the micro-macro, inner, outer dimensions of space, time, primal
elements, within a framework of multidisciplinary and cross-cultural studies.
The consequent publications and films have been the result of intensive and
extensive dialogue between and amongst disciplines ranging from astro-physics,
micro-biology to archaeology, history, anthropology, sociology and the arts, as also
a large variety of cultures.
Logically it was time to focus attention on the primary faculties of sight and
sound amongst others. Sound and silence is all permeating and pervasive. The
unstruck (anahata) and the struck (ahata) sound of the Indian tradition allude to
its profound significance. This seminar on Dhvani like others brought together
specialists of many domains and cultures. Prof. Subhash C. Malik's introduction
compresses the complex discussion into a meaningful whole. Through the essays,
we discover the intricate sound systems of plants, animals and birds, the structural
sound systems which constitute diverse musical traditions. We delve deeper into
ancient systems of intonation which demonstrate an incredible continuity as in
some chants, and come face to face with the philosophic interpretations of sound in
systems of Indian philosophy. Soundscapes and acoustic ecology is the.concern of
many, both in its aspect of cohesive communities, such as the Santhals, as also
urban megacities. Sound as symbol and sonic design is yet another field of
exploration. There may have been others like the systems of establishing
correspondences and co-relation between sound wave and, pitch and human emotion.
Altogether, the volume encompasses many if not all dimensions of this single
concept. It will, I hope, stimulate further reflection on an aspect of our life which
effects the quality of life. Pertinently many writers draw attention to the growing
menace of sound pollution and insensitivity of the human. Urgent correctives are
necessary for re-instituting an integral vision which will enable the fractured
sensibilities 'of our being to restore their intrinsic wholeness and sensitivity.
On behalf of the IGNCA, I would like to sincerely thank all the distinguished
participants, the editor, and the co-publisher.
THE theme in this volume of Dhvani (Sound) incorporates the papers presented at an
International Seminar organised by IGNCA on the 24 and 25 October 1994. It represents
another ongoing programme of the conceptual plan of GNCA w hereby some fundamental
- perennial- ideas are discussed within the overall holistic approach of the institution.
For example, the earlier themes before this seminar were: akasa (Space), kala (Time),
akara (Form, Calligraphy), the panca mahabhutas - the five Primal Elements. It
therefore logically seemed correct to next discuss the theme of dhuani - Sound or nada,
linked to the source of creation, to space and time, to the senses, to other symbols and
structures (rhythm of music, etc.), and to sonic design in terms of resonances and
In addition, the interlocking of sound relates both to hearing and listening, as also
to sight and seeing. However the context is not only of the senses but also of the primal
-eternal- aspects. The latter allow us to gain access to certain universal and cross-
cultural experiential categories. The theme is especially crucial since in modern urban
living conditions sound has become a major pollutant both in terms of decibels and
disharmonies. On the other hand sound as anahata nada is also linked to silence, both
externally and internally.
Then there is the scientific study of sound; namely, that it is a compressional wave
in a medium which is essential for it to vibrate and send sound signals which may be
ultra-sounds - subsonic or supersonic, and are communicated in all living beings at
the level of various frequencies, of ten indicating levels of rhythms within and without
the biological entity. Many of these dimensions of sound are far from being understood,
including its relationship to light, time and space and so on. The dictionary meaning of
sound states that it is the sensation produced by stimulation of the organ of hearing by
vibrations transmitted through air or another medium. Any auditory effect or audible
vibrational disturbance is sound - all kinds of sound. Beyond this prosaic definition,
sound is a profound experience which envelopes us from birth to death and not easily
fathomed. Of course. the description by an acoustic engineer is very different from that
of a musician, a mguist, a city planner or a neurologist. On the other other hand, the
definition given in the Vakya-Padiya 0,124) is most comprehensive in its description:
In this Universe, there is no form of knowledge which is not perceived
through sound; all this Universe is but the result of sound.
Thus the concept of sound is a very complex one. This is why the Dhvani Seminar was
an a ttempt to understand Sound, not only as structured music - notrestricting it to the
definitions found in the ancient texts of both the East and West, but also to bring together
the perceptions and the perspective of the scientist, physicist and others who are
working in the field of modern acoustic and sound pollution - a major phenomenon of
To illustrate further, in the context of the creation of the universe, from the Indian
viewpoint the universe is itself a product of sound. Manu proclaims
Utterance (vak) brought forth of the Universe. He (God) pronounced
'Bhu' and the earth was born. From the sound of Vedas that Supreme
made all things.
The Big-Bang theory of today suggests something similar, as it says in the beginning
there was a single point and the universe was created with a gigantic explosion.
Again, in the Indian musical theory, the concept of sound is explained in terms of
two kinds of sound: (1) Sound as a vibration of ether; and, (2) Sound as a vibration of
air. However, since the vibration of ether cannot be perceived in the physical sense, it
is considered the principle of all manifestations, i.e., it is the basis of all substances
corresponding to what the neo-Pythagoreans have called the 'music of the spheres'.
This kind of sound forms a permanent numerical pattern which is the basis of world's
existence. This kind of vibration is not caused by a physical shock as are audible
sounds. It is, therefore, called anahata or 'unstruck' sound. The second kind of sound
is because of certain vibrations in the air, reflecting an image of the ether vibration;
and this is audible and always produced by a shock. It is therefore called ahata or
The findings of astronomy suggests that no longer are heavenly bodies revolving
around silently because radio telescopy has shown a whole new dimension of the
universe; i.e., the edge of the galaxy reveals a noisy hissing cacophony of sounds, which
are being produced by quick shifts in molecular and atomic energy levels is gases made
hot by the newly born stars.
According to ancient metaphysics, the five elements are perceived separately by
the five senses e.g., ether = taste, fire = sight, water and air = touch and ether = sound.
The latter can be perceived through reaction upon other elements, i.e., air, which
equals touch and therefore, by touching the ear forces it to vibrate. Sound by itself
cannot be perceived but under the shape of dhvani (Sound) it is only the materialised
idea of sphota which is perceived as sound. Words in this manner-gain meaning
because of sound which is the external characteristic through which the meaning is
grasped. Similarly, the sounds used in music have mutual relationship arising from an
image of the basic laws
Sound is perceived by all living beings, suggesting that it underlies an inter-
wovenness with nature, i.e., sound is the principle means of communication and
expression and the pulse of all. Until recently it was widely believed that plant life
grew silently but today it has been proved that sound is also an integral part of
vegetation. Using photo-acoustic spectroscopy, it has been discovered that rose plants,
for example, make sound quite audible when the bud bursts into blossoms. In short,
all biological beings are surrounded with sound, be it wind, water, fire, cries and
chirpings of other animals/birds/humans.
Modern physiologists tell us that sound has an integral relationship with man's
hearing sense; that the ear is the "first organ which is formed In the womb and within
the womb the ear is the most important organ because it is with the ear that the
consciousness of the child begins to be aroused. The child in the womb, for instance,
hears its mother's heart-beat, and later of course sound from the outside world. This
means that man perceives the world first with his ears and then with the other senses.
Gradually man-made sounds are perceived and these get correlated to the source of
sound and actions.
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