> As I expected, my Indian friend chimed in privately to > my blind-copy and similar remarks to those here would > appear to apply: > > The percussion instrument I learned, Mrudangam, > consists of a barrel made of Jackwood like a hollowed > out cylinder, about 30" or so long, the two ends > covered with various membranes of animal skin. In the > hands of an expert it produces the most wonderful > sound. I was crazy about this instrument right from > early age (ten?). South Indian music relies on both > musical scales (and a concert is easily 60% or more > improvised) as well as rhythm. There are very many time > scales including one having 81 per cycle. In Mrudangam > playing there are very many strokes per cycle; the > important thing is to be with the singer at several > points. Permutations and combinations play an important > part. Facility with numbers is almost a must. There is > also the issue of speed. Some experts can play at > double or even triple speeds. You have to see and > listen to believe it.
> So I came under the tutelage of a great Guru and > learned much. Unfortunately mathematics has stayed with > me for life but mrudangam has not. I still enjoy a > great concert and am jealous of some 8 or 9 year old > punks who have taken to it like fish to water!
> The common thread is numbers or rather the facility > with them. Without it I really doubt if you can succeed > either in math or music.
> Here is link to a foremost exponent, a child > prodigy, who gave his first public performance when he > was eight. He came to the attention of one of the > greatest players ever, Palani Subramania Pillai. The > rest is history. The artist Sankaran is a professor of > Indian music in Canada. If you watch the clip, you will > notice he keeps time with his foot! This is common.
> Indian percussion instruments are far more > complicated than the local stuff. Professor Robert > Brown of Michigan once said that if the Indian > Mrudangam can be considered to be the learned discourse > of an erudite scholar, the American drum would be the > pattering of a child!
> Speaking from complete ignorance, my guess is that the > last deprecating statement would NOT be appropriate for > the intricate African origin percussion stuff under > consideration here. > > Wayne > Thank you, Professor Bishop. Your friend's comments are not inaccurate (except perhaps for the 'deprecatory comments' from Professor Brown of Michigan. Also, it is difficult to believe even when one actually hears and sees such a performance).
Trichy Sankaran, who is featured in the performance linked, is a VERY accomplished mridangam player indeed - though (IMHO) he is not the very best any means. I recall I had heard his guru, Palani Subramaniam way back in the '50s or 60s it must have been (live, several times)- he was a legend in his time.
Properly to appreciate the astonishing virtuosity and complexities that a good mridangam player can conjure up, a 'new listener' should listen to a 'duet' between a mridangam and another instrument (plenty are available for download). THEN one *starts understanding* the 'art of the mridangam'! (And linking the rhythm in the music to the mathematics underlying it: ALL of that math is done 'intuitively in the mind' as it were, by the mridangam player. South Indian music ['Carnatic music'] is not played from written scores - all needed calculations are done in the mind of the musician!!)
Here, for interest, is Scott Robinson's "SOUTH INDIAN PERCUSSIONIST PAGE", which provides some insights into various South Indian percussion instruments and some of their great players, http://www.nscottrobinson.com/southindiaperc.php. If you can get hold of a recording of Palghat T.A.S. Mani Iyer's - performing in duet - you will hear something worth listening to (and watching!)
However, all said and done, I don't believe this thread has as yet approached even an adequate beginning to an answer to the question in its title - we're still thinking only at a rather superficial level, I'm afraid.
If it weren't for Robert Hansen (who has remained relentlessly superficial right along this thread), I'd strongly suggest that real answers would readily become available - and could be applied even nationwide! - through a couple of exercises to develop a few 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) models on the 'Mission' "To overcome the 'fear and loathing' that most students feel for math (or for 'math lessons' as Robert Hansen would have it) by the time they graduate from school". One needs to think a little deeper, into the 'heart of the system', so to speak. This cannot happen in the 'conventional prose' that we're using here.