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Carnatic Glossary M - listed here are terms beginning with M. If you find a Carnatic term that isn't listed, just send a note.


ma (1) - an abbreviation for madhyamam

ma (2) - the 5th combination in a cakra, corresponding to the 5th raaga within a cakra, which has D2 and N3 (dinu)

maargam - meaning path, there are 6 ways to render taaLa correctly (the shanmaargams): dakshina, vartika and citra maargams, used only in pallavi, and citratara, citratama and aticitratama maargams used in kritis. One of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga

maataa - meaning mother. Shruti is often called the Maataa, the mother of music

maattirai - a unit for reckoning musical time. The anudrutam is 1/4 maattirai, laghu is 1 maattirai, and kaakapaadam is 4 maattirais

madhyaadi - a taaLa originally composed of 3 beats and a wave, but which has become aadi taaLa that begins after 1/2 beat (1/2 eDuppu)

madhya laya - medium speed or tempo

madhyamaantya - raagas that range only up to madhya staayi madhyamam, not going up to pa, da, ni or taara sa

madhyama kaala - the 1st speed or kaala, with 4 swaras per beat

madhyama shruti - singing without the pa, so that the tambura or shruti box is set to play only sa, ma, and Sa (instead of s P S). This can be done with raagas that have no pa but which have a ma in their scales. In singing, ma is taken instead of sa as the basic note (rare)

madhyamam - ma, the 4th note, equivalent to fa in the Western do re mi system. There are two types of ma, shuddha madhyamam and prati madhyamam.

madhya staayi - the middle octave (as opposed to the lower or higher ones), also known as sama mandilam. This is the octave in which most of a performance will take place. Madhya staayi swaras usually have no dots accompanying them, and are often lowercase

maguDa saahitya - words for the maguDa swara

maguDa swara - swara that comes after every part of a raagamaalika, sometimes with saahitya

major diatonic scale - the predominant scale used in Western music, with approximately the notes of shankaraabharaNam. It can begin at any pitch, but for example, a starting pitch (sa) that begins with the note F (shruti of 4) is F major. Thus C major, F major, D major etc. will all be in the same raaga

major scale - the major diatonic scale

MalayaaLam - a South Indian language, spoken especially in the Indian state Kerala. Some compositions are written in MalayaaLam

mandilam - an ancient Tamil word from Silappadigaaram for staayi

mandram - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga

mandra staayi - the lower octave, below the main octave (madhya staayi). It is indicated by a dot below the note (or to the right of the note here, n.)

mangaLa - a raaga suitable for singing invocations and benedictory verses (aarati, mangaLam), such as sowraashTram, shuruTTi, madyamaavati, or yadukula kaambhOji

mangaLam - a song that is an invocation to the gods thanking them for a good concert and to remove the evil eye and any bad karma caused by improper singing of raagas (for example, singing a morning raaga at an evening concert, etc.). It is sung at the end of a concert

MaNipravaaLam - a language that uses a combination of other languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu, KannaDa, or other ancient languages, used almost exclusively in compositions and not in actual conversation

manOdharma sangeetam - literally creative music (also kalpana sangeetam), as opposed to created (kalpita) music. It is created by the artist instantaneously on stage without precise preparation beforehand. There are 5 types of this creative, improvisational music (usually improvised during the performance, requiring great skill): aalaapanai, taanam, pallavi, neraval, and kalpanaa swara. Known in ancient Tamil as karpanai isai

matya - one of the sapta taaLas, with the form laghu, drutam, laghu (symbol |0|). It can be made into 7 forms by varying the counts of the laghu. For example, tishra jaati matya taaLa will be laghu(3), drutam(2), and laghu(3), for a total of 8 beats

mEla - (or mElam) abbreviation for mElakarta

mElakarta - a main raaga, consisting of all seven notes in order in both the descending and ascending scales. There are 72 such raagas. To qualify as a mElakarta, a raaga must have all 7 swaras ascending and descending, they must be in the regular order, they must be of the same type (swarastaana) ascending and descending, they must be used only once up and only once down, and both ascending and descending scales must contain the high sa

mela mnemonic - a useful set of phrases to remember the order of the raagas within a cakra. The combinations are pa (dana, 1), sri (dani, 2), go (danu, 3), bhu (dini, 4), ma (dinu, 5), and sha (dunu, 6). Their numbers are according to the katapayaadi formula

melivu mandilam - ancient Tamil for mandra staayi

melivu mandila varisai - same as takku staayi varisai, varisais to get to the mandra staayi pa

melodic minor - in Western music, the minor scale with the 6th and 7th notes shifted upwards by a half-step (one swarastaana) in the ascending scale only. This gives a scale with the aarOha of the mela varuNapriyaa and the avarOha of kharaharapriyaa

melody - the singing of a tune, without harmony or part singing, where all voices and instruments perform the same relative pitch (a pitch or its octave)

mElstaayi varisai - same as hecu staayi varisai

men's shruti - usually a man's shruti is at a pitch of 1 to 1 1/2 (equivalent to C or C# in Western notation)

mi - in the Western do re mi system, the 3rd note, equivalent to ga

midday raaga - a raaga suitable for performing in the middle of the day (around noon to 1 pm), such as madyamaavati, maNirangu, or shree raaga

minor third - in Western music, the interval between 4 notes or swarastaanas. This would be, for example, the jump from s to g2

minor scale - the second most common scale in Western music, it is the equivalent of kharaharapriyaa raaga. It corresponds to the major scale by shift of sa downwards by 2 notes (4 swarastaanas, sa to d2), or a minor third. It is also called the Aeolian mode of the major scale

mishra - meaning 7, it is used in mishra jaati (3 + 7) in the laghu or as mishra caapu (a taaLa of 7 beats)

mishra caapu - a taaLa of 7 beats, 3 plus 4, with the sound taka takiTa, formed by two quick beats (2) with the back of the hand, a pause (1) and then two slow beats (2 + 2)

mishritam - using a mixture of different types of gamakas

mode - a Western classical concept, in which at least one of the 7 notes of the major scale is changed (raised or lowered) to create a new scale. In this way, different scales can be formed, creating a subset of scales similar to raagas. There are many modes. The Aeolian mode of the major scale gives the minor scale. Modes are very similar to raagas and were originally used in Gregorian chants

moorcanaakaaraka - such a raagam's tonic note (sa) can be shifted to another note (such as ri, ga, ma, pa, da, or ni) to give a different raaga. For example, dhanyaasi is a moorcanaakaaraka raaga, because its ni can be taken as sa, and if its sa is taken as ri, ri taken as ga, etc. it becomes salagabhairavi (a janya of kharaharapriyaa, 22). There are also moorcanaakaaraka mElas

moorcanai - a gamaka that involves using the proper shaking required in the raaga that is being performed

morning raaga - a raaga suitable for performing in the morning (6-9 am) after sunrise (after the early morning raagas), such as bilahari, kEdaaram, or dhanyaasi

mridanga yati - opposite of Damaru yati, this is a rhythmic pattern of swaras or words which is narrow at the ends and wide in the middle (a combination of srotovaaha and gOpucca yatis). ex: pdn-mpdn-gmpdn-mpdn-pdn

mudal naDai - one of the 4 musical forms of isai-tamil (see tEvaram)

mudra - the signature(s) a composer may use in compositions, woven into the song. It may or may not have anything to do with the composer's name. Not all composers have mudras. For example, Dikshitar's mudra is "Guruguha"

mudritam - a gamaka which involves humming, as in mmmm...

muktaanga kampita raagas - raagas in which all swaras can be sung with kampita gamaka, also known as sarva swara gamaka vaarika raagas. These include kalyaaNi, mOhanam, and tODi

muktaayi swara - a section of swaras sung after the pallavi and anupallavi of a varnam

munnar baagam - from Silappadigaaram, an ancient Tamil word for poorvaangam

Murugan - also known as Lord Subramanya or Shanmuga, he is a son of Lord Shiva (destroyer of the Universe), famous for his quick quips as a young boy and for his perseverance and love for music. He emerged from the forehead (fire from the third eye) of Shiva and was raised by 6 young women Shiva created. He is famous for bringing the tribal groups of rural India into Hinduism by having married one of the tribal women

music - English, from the Greek word MOUSA, for Muses, music was thought to be inspired by 3 Muses. However, music is thought to originate in India because the Greek Strabo says that the famous scientist and mathematician Pythagoras learned music from Indians

musical force - a force which uses breath and sound to add emphasis to a note, for example to the second note of an identical pair (ss') or to a note in a string of notes (ni in pdn'd)

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updated on 06/01/2012