Dr. N. RamanathanDr. N. Ramanathan answers questions that may be asked by the serious rasika.

Every musical piece is said to belong to a form. Thus the primary aspect of music is the musical form. In south Indian art music, the musical forms are of two kinds — kalpita (composed) and manodharma (improvised or creative).

Kalpita sangitam refers to forms already composed or music whose shape is pre-determined and is learnt and rendered aesthetically. Manodharma, on the other hand, refers to the forms for which the manner or method of shaping is pre-determined but the actual shaping gets done only during the performance. However both manodharma and kalpita require a very high level of training in music requiring deep knowledge of the sancharas or the characteristic phrases in ragas, their proper rendering of laya and tala.

Manodharma is denoted by the term, ‘improvisation’. Some people refer to it as spontaneous or as extempore music. Whether the music is manodharma or kalpita, the presentation must be primarily musical, a pleasing concordance of sound. Whether it is an alapana or a keertana, it must be music first. Thus manodharma need not be considered superior to kalpita. Both require as much training and practice and should be equally beautiful when rendered… read more