Look behind the Book

 Ome Swarlipi mein Misrabani vol. 1

By Rajiv Trivedi

Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi was published for non-Hindi speaking enthusiasts who were interested in Indian classical music and were looking for different levels of string compositions in major Raga-s. In the past decade, readers have occasionally voiced their reactions to the book. One thing that was stressed by many was the next volume with different Raga-s and compositions. Since 2010 when this volume was published, mobile phones have made internet accessible across India and teaching has begun to incorporate healthy use of resources available online – an objective with which Omenad, Online Music Education for Novitiates, Academics and Demonstrators was started in 1999.

Several universities and institutions in India have invited experts to initiate students in using Ome digital notation system and a number of performers and academics now routinely use Ome Swarlipi in documentation and teaching. While the notations in Bhatkhande system or even Ome Swarlipi come easy to students of music, the language of instructions on host website – omescribe.com – posed a challenge. I remember when a young student sent a proposal to the ministry to prepare learning material for computer languages in Hindi, it was summarily rejected. The student, an acclaimed professional developer today, had noticed that intelligent students, his classmates, suffered solely because they were unable to understand primary instructions in English; once he helped out, they progressed competitively.

We received feedback from several teachers that students today are prone to study using digital means; they need primary instructions in language they understand to move ahead full steam. Once summers were over and institutions were unable to invite students back to campus, it was clear that the whole academic session of 2020-21 would prove a dent in learning. By August we realized that we can not stay involved in other projects and shelved them all so we could bring out an instructional volume in Hindi, which has become a dire necessity in the pandemic directed home learning. Raga-s that students begin their Indian music instructions with – Yaman, Des, Khamaja, Bihaga, Kafi, Bhupali etc. were already in the 2010 volume – so readers are offered some other Raga-s, institutionally taught at varying levels. The selection covers common ones from each year of undergraduate courses in different universities and we are grateful to teachers for their suggestions. We also received queries and pointers from them, which are the strength of this book. Head of the music department at Bombay University, Dr. Chetna requested us to explain how to incorporate poetry with notations. Prof. Velankar of BHU drew attention to writing of Kan Swar-s. Prof. Ravi Sharma and Prof Vedprakash from Delhi wanted us to include accessibility features for the visually impaired in Ome Swarlipi. We have begun discussions on working on this aspect; the current focus however was the book.

Altered life-style during the pandemic have forced everyone to rethink. The 2010 book was published through Lulu, a company specializing in online printing and distribution. So, it was settled that the Hindi volume would also be published online. We had already tried Bangalore based service for a conference report some years back, and music notations had been printed flawlessly. So, after formulating an outline of content, we got in touch with them. They had affirmative response on choice of paper, but could not assure us on some design query. We therefore dropped the idea of thumb-tacks that clearly indicate various Raga chapters in the previous volume. Preparatory discussions had already cost us six weeks; it was time to start dealing with content. Apart from two text-heavy chapters, eight remaining ones dealt with Raga-s.

Despite several iterations of contemporary modernity, the manner of imparting information about Raga has remained a constant since firstbook of Pt. Bhatkhande. Interestingly, all major music-academics in India have created, innovated or modified notation-system and often owned or controlled a printingpress. Apart from Bhatkhande, Pt. Paluskar, Pt. Narayan Rao Patwardhan, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur have all contributed to possible structures and symbols for writing Indian music notations. In their books, these stalwarts start introduction of Raga with structure, notes; historic, contemporary, and logicalpractice of Raga. This is followed by compositions and Tan-s. For string compositions Toda-s follow Vilambit and Madhya/Drut Tan-s.

Dr. Lalmani Misra had also created various symbols and the Mizrab-Bol patterns that required accurate representation. His compositions were published in Tantrinad, first of his planned four volumes in September 1979, months after he passed away. The composing errors could not be removed as there were no further reprints. First step was to select compositions from his published and unpublished works for each Raga. As a teacher he had written several simple compositions in each Raga. Definition of ‘simple’ had changed in five decades, so selecting them was little less than simple.

Once compositions were identified, they were typed in Ome Swarlipi and grouped under Raga headings in a text file named Composition. Next was selection of Tan and Toda-s, grouped after being typed in Ome Swarlipi font in a text file named Tan. It was time to create chapters and so text files after Raga names were created. Each file – Bilawal, Bihag, Durga… -- started first with introduction of Raga. This information was gleaned from recognized masters and specialists. Before deeper discussion a chart with basic information was created. This was followed by two Ragang Tan-s for practice.

Before proceeding any further, it was necessary to match layout of the file to specification obtained from the Printers. In this case, we were using a 6x9 inch paper size with 0.6 inch margin on three sides and 0.7 inch on top. We selected to place header at 0.35 inches from top cutting a bit fine but where printing is automated, such chance can be taken. It was decided to keep title headings on header on the inside and page numbers on the outside. Although, for ease of searching, it is preferable to keep headings on the outside, but pushing them in allowed freer head space to actual compositions. The design expert recommended using 10.5 font size for main text fonts and 9.5 for Ome Swarlipi notations. Text would be justified with 0.2 inch indent for first line in paragraph. Based on these and other considerations, styles were created for composition notations, composition titles, and text in body, paragraph and note sections. Armed with styles the information within chapters – mainly, Raga introduction – was formatted. At the top of starting page, all choices under header/footer were selected, Different First page, Different Odd & Even page, and Show Document text. Page number was enabled on outside at bottom. This was of great help when finally all chapters were stitched in a single file.

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