Difference between Western and Asian Music Theory

Difference between Western and Asian Music Theory

Plato once said, “Music is a moral law”. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Good music not only delights you but also promotes good health.

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There is theory behind music. It comprises the rules that make music delightful. The music theory enables music to be written and played by musicians.

There are some distinct differences between Western classical music theory and Asian music theory. The Western music theory divides the octave into a series of 12 tones, known as chromatic scale, within which the interval between adjacent tones is known as a semitone.

In equal temperament, each semitone is equidistant from the next, but other tuning systems are also used. Scales are created by selecting tones from the 12 tones and arranging them in patterns of whole tones and semitones.

Asian music encompasses many musical styles originating from different Asian countries. There are 48 countries in Asia, the largest continent in the world.

When people speak about eastern music, they usually mean Indian classical music. Indian classical music has two genres: Hindustani music and Carnatic music. In the Hindustani music, the melodic foundations are known as ragas and the rhythmic organization is based on rhythmic patterns known as tala.

The Carnatic music theory is also based on a complex system of raga and tala. Raga is basically the scale, which has seven notes. Tala is the rhythmic foundation to the system. Ragas are categorized into various modes.

Western classical music does not use beat cycles, Indian classical music uses tala, a cycle of beats. Works in western classical music have roots in factors like historical events in human history and individual experiences. Indian classical music has an intimate association with nature.

The magic of Western classical music lies in polyphonic composition. The harmony, texture and counterpoint are created using many voices. Melody is not the singular focus of most of Western classical music works. Indian classical music is primarily homophonic. Its focus is on creating melodies using a sequence of notes. Different melodies are constructed within the framework of ragas.

Western classical music is composed, Indian classical music is improvised. In Western classical music, when vocals are used, the instrumentation still carries a lot of weight in the composition. In the Indian classical music, when vocals are used the instruments are mere accompaniments.

There are many great compositions in both Western music and Asian music. Which genre of music do you prefer to listen?

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