According to Indian musicology, Sangeet (Devangari: संगीत, Bengali: সঙ্গীত) is a combination of geetang, badyang and nrityang (geet= vocal music, badya=instrumental music and nritya=dance).. So the word “Sangeet” has been included in the article title.
Vishnu, one of three supreme gods of Hinduism, told Narada—Naham tisthami Baikunthe, Yoginam hridaye nacha.
Matbhaktah yatra gayanti, tatra tisthami Naradah.(Translation: I do not reside in the Heavenly abode of Baikuntha, nor in the heart of the Yogis. Where ever my devotees sing in spirit, I reside there, Narada)[Source]
Swami Vivekananda himself was a trained singer (though not professional). He received his classical music training from Beni Ostad (his original name was Beni Gupta). In late 1881 in the first meeting between Ramakrishna and Vivekananda (then known as Narendranath Datta), Narendra sang few devotional songs. His trained voice and his devotion towards music highly impressed Ramakrishna, which was followed by a cordial invitation to visit Dakshineswar.
In Ramakrishna Kathamitra, we find Ramakrishna repeatedly requesting Narendra to sing. The same book also shows us while listening to Narendra’s song Ramakrishna is going into trance.
Vivekananda was undoubtedly an appreciator and a performer of classical music. In 1887, when Vivekananda was only 24 years old, he co-edited and published a Bengali song anthology named Sangeet Kalpataru.
In this page we’ll collect Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes on Music
- All poetry, painting, and music is feeling expressed through words, through colour, through sound.[Source]
- Drama and music are by themselves religion; any song, love song or any song, never mind; if one’s whole soul is in that song, he attains salvation, just by that; nothing else he has to do; if a man’s whole soul is in that, his soul gets salvation. They say it leads to the same goal.[Source]
- High achievements in art, music, etc., are the results of concentration. . . When we hear beautiful music, our minds become fastened upon it, and we cannot take them away. Those who concentrate their minds upon what you call classical music do not like common music, and vice versa. Music in which the notes follow each other in rapid succession holds the mind readily. A child loves lively music, because the rapidity of the notes gives the mind no chance to wander. A man who likes common music dislikes classical music, because it is more complicated and requires a greater degree of concentration to follow it.[Source]
- If there are different musical instruments tuned alike in one room, all of you may have noticed that when one is struck, the others have the tendency to vibrate so as to give the same note. So all minds that have the same tension, so to say, will be equally affected by the same thought.[Source]
- In India all the successive stages of improvement are preserved. However much they may be improved or transformed, there are always found men to occupy the lower stages of evolution, and consequently the whole series is preserved. First of all a musical instrument was formed with a string fixed to a piece of bamboo. Gradually it came to be played by a horsehair bow, and the first violin was made; then it passed through various transformations, with different sorts of strings and guts, and the bow also assumed different forms and names, till at last the highly finished guitar and sarang etc., came into existence.[Source]
- In India, music was developed to the full seven notes, even to half and quarter notes, ages ago. India led in music.[Source]
- In music India gave to the world her system of notation, with the seven cardinal notes and the diatonic scale, all of which we enjoyed as early as 350 B.C., while it came to Europe only in the eleventh century.[Source]
- In music, nobody, not even the sage Bharata, the originator of dramatic performances, could understand whether it was singing, or weeping, or wrangling, and what meaning or purpose it sought to convey! And what an abundance of intricacies in that music! What labyrinths of flourishes — enough to strain all one’s nerves! Over and above that, that music had its birth in the nasal tone uttered through the teeth compressed, in imitation of the Mohammedan musical experts! Nowadays there is an indication of correcting these; now will people gradually understand that a language, or art, or music that expresses no meaning and is lifeless is of no good. Now they will understand that the more strength is infused into the national life, the more will language art, and music, etc. become spontaneously instinct with ideas and life. The volume of meaning that a couple of words of everyday use will convey, you may search in vain in two thousand set epithets. Then every image of the Deity will inspire devotion, every girl decked in ornaments will appear to be a goddess, and every house and room and furniture will be animated with the vibration of life.[Source]
- . . . in music, there is a main note, a central theme, upon which all others turn.[Source]
- Music is the highest art and, to those who understand is the highest worship.[Source]
- . . . On the whole I don’t think there is any cause for anxiety about my body. This sort of nervous body is just the instrument to play great music at times and at times to moan in darkness.[Source]
- Shankaracharya had caught the rhythm of the Vedas, the national cadence. Indeed I always imagine that he had some vision such as mine when he was young, and recovered the ancient music that way. Anyway, his whole life’s work is nothing but that, the throbbing of the beauty of the Vedas and the Upanishads.[Source]
- The book is all in us. Fool, hearest not thou? In thine own heart day and night is singing that Eternal Music — Sachchidânanda, soham, soham — Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, I am He, I am He.[Source]
- There is science in Dhrupad, Kheyal, etc., but it is in Kirtana, i.e. in Mathura and Viraha and other like compositions that there is real music — for there is feeling. Feeling is the soul, the secret of everything. There is more music in common people’s songs, and they should be collected together. The science of Dhrupad etc., applied to the music of Kirtana will produce the perfect music.[Source]
- We find some of this degradation in everything in India, in art, in music, in sciences, in everything. In art, no more was there a broad conception, no more the symmetry of form and sublimity of conception, but the tremendous attempt at the ornate and florid style had arisen. The originality of the race seemed to have been lost. In music no more were there the soul-stirring ideas of the ancient Sanskrit music, no more did each note stand, as it were, on its own feet, and produce the marvellous harmony, but each note had lost its individuality. The whole of modern music is a jumble of notes, a confused mass of curves. That is a sign of degradation in music.[Source]
- Why not give the soul what it wants? We have to have music.[Source]
- Within ourselves is this eternal voice speaking of eternal freedom; its music is eternally going on. Part of this music of the Soul has become the earth, the law, this universe, but it was always ours and always will be.
Music is the greatest aid to keep God in memory
While discussing the preparations one needs to take to practise Bhakti Yoga, Vivekananda told—[Source]The greatest aid to this practice of keeping God in memory is, perhaps, music. The Lord says to Nârada, the great teacher of Bhakti, “I do not live in heaven, nor do I live in the heart of the Yogi, but where My devotees sing My praise, there am I”. Music has such tremendous power over the human mind; it brings it to concentration in a moment. You will find the dull, ignorant, low, brute-like human beings, who never steady their mind for a moment at other times, when they hear attractive music, immediately become charmed and concentrated. Even the minds of animals, such as dogs, lions, cats, and serpents, become charmed with music.[Source]
Indian music and Western Music
- Each nation has a characteristic of its own. In its manners and customs, in its mode of living, in painting and sculpture is found the expression of that characteristic idea. For instance, music and dancing in the West are all pointed in their expression. In dance, they look as if jerking the limbs; in instrumental music, the sounds prick the ear like a sword thrust, as it were; so also in vocal music. In this country, on the other hand, the dance has a rolling wave – like movement, and there is the same rounded movement in the varieties of pitch in vocal song. So also in instrumental music.[Source]
- In the West, actresses and dancing-girls are very thinly covered, to attract men. Their dancing often means exposing their limbs in harmonious movements accompanied by music. In our country, the women of gentle birth are not so particular in covering themselves thoroughly, but the dancing-girls are entirely covered. In the West, women are always completely clothed in the daytime; so attraction is greater in their being thinly covered. Our women remain in the house most of the time, and much dressing themselves is unusual; so with us, attraction is greater in their fully covering themselves. In Malabar, men and women have only a piece of cloth round their loins. With the Bengalis it is about the same, and before men, the women scrupulously draw their veils, and cover their bodies.[Source]
South Indian music
From Notes taken down in Madras in 1892—93:[Source]
In South India, some of the Ragas (tunes) are sung and remembered as independent Ragas, whereas they are derivations of the six primary ones. In their music, there is very little of Murchhana, or oscillating touches of sound.
Even the use of the perfect instrument of music is rare. The Vina of the South is not the real Vina. We have no martial music, no martial poetry either. Bhavabhuti is a little martial.
Music that invokes Mahashakti
From Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume VII—[Source]
In every district and village you may visit, you will find only the sound of the Khol and Kartal! Are not drums made in the country? Are not trumpets and kettle – drums available in India? Make the boys hear the deep – toned sound of these instruments. Hearing from boyhood the sound of these effeminate forms of music and listening to the kirtana, the country is well – nigh converted into a country of women. What more degradation can you expect? Even the poet’s imagination fails to draw this picture! The Damaru and horn have to be sounded, drums are to be beaten so as to raise the deep and martial notes, and with “Mahavira, Mahavira” on your lips and shouting “Hara, Hara, Vyom, Vyom”, the quarters are to be reverberated. The music which awakens only the softer feelings of man is to be stopped now for some time. Stopping the light tunes such as Kheal and Tappa for some time, the people are to be accustomed to hear the Dhrupad music. Through the thunder – roll of the dignified Vedic hymns, life is to be brought back into the country. In everything the austere spirit of heroic manhood is to be revived. In following such an ideal lies the good of the people and the country. If you can build your character after such an ideal, then a thousand others will follow. But take care that you do not swerve an inch from the ideal. Never lose heart. In eating, dressing, or lying, in singing or playing, in enjoyment or disease, always manifest the highest moral courage. Then only will you attain the grace of Mahashakti, the Divine Mother.