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date: 15 November 2019

Śruti box (from Sanskrit: ‘that which is heard’)locked

  • Richard Widdess
  • , revised by Laurence Libin


(from Sanskrit: ‘that which is heard’)

Small bellows-pumped Reed organ of India. It provides a drone in popular and, sometimes, classical music, assuming the function of the Tambūrā; nowadays it sometimes also functions melodically. In Indian music theory, śruti (sur in north India) is the smallest audible interval, a microtone; especially a microtone as opposed to a scale degree (svara). According to the Nātyasāstra of Bharata (early centuries ce) there were 22 śruti to the octave and seven svara, spaced at intervals of two, three and four śruti. Bharata’s demonstration of this theory using two vīṇā proves only that the śruti were regarded as equal in size, and that the scales were tuned by ear. The relationship of intervals to string lengths is first discussed in the works of Hṛdaya Nārāyana and Ahobala Paṇḍita (c1660). From the 18th century the relevance of Bharata’s śruti concept to current practice became a matter of contentious debate among both Indian and European scholars, fuelled both by Orientalist interest in parallels with ancient Greek scale theory, and by an indigenous re-evaluation of music as an ancient Hindu tradition....

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