Thursday, March 25, 2010


The Origin of Music

In this post, I will examine what exactly music is and how it might have evolved. Then I will proceed to explain why we find music enjoyable. This will naturally lead to the explanation of why most of us (if not all of us) find the major pentatonic scale and its derivatives to be naturally "happy". I will also be able to explain why, for instance, most of the popular chart-busters have simple rhythm patterns.


Men (and animals) have developed the capacity to hear for various purposes, one of the most important of them is to sense danger. For example, a hiding animal about to pounce and attack is detected by the man, who might be out of sight, using his ears -- the sound produced by the pouncing animal being the auditory cue. Likewise, rocks eroding and caving in (after perhaps some kind of land-slide) onto a man's house produces a series of sounds, which the man has to quickly perceive and react. Thus sound is mainly a cue for danger to which men have to react quickly to prolong their lives -- which is why men are highly receptive to sound. Let us examine the characteristics of sound that signifies danger. It is either a sudden short sound, as it is when an animal pounces or can be a series of sounds at random intervals and of random volume as it is when rocks are caving in.

First music -Rhythm

Now let us imagine that man A suddenly uses his hands and starts producing a periodic repeating sound. Man B (out of sight) upon hearing the first few sounds would sense danger initially and his body would ready itself to react to it (by producing appropriate hormones etc.). However, as man B continues to listen to it, he senses that there is something strange to this sound, in that, it is of uniform volume and is periodic; and it does not match any of the patterns of the sounds that indicate danger. Curious, he goes towards the source of the sound slowly and finds that it is actually man A generating it. Suddenly, the curiosity changes to relief and joy as he realises the safety in the situation. In other words, he experiences a series of emotions, namely fear-->curiosity-->joy, for what essentially constitutes the simple rhythm.

Music : Ratios in Time and Frequency

Why is it that the man B found the rhythm to be safe? Just because of the fact that the rhythm played consisted of sound at non-random times...In other words the pauses between the sounds bore simple ratios. This makes it highly unlikely that the sounds could have been produced by a natural cause; which in turn leads the man to a sense of safety and joy. Thus I claim that the simple periodic rhythm might have been the earliest music.

The different notes of music can be analyzed in a similar fashion. The different notes in music constitutes a simple ratios of the frequencies. For example if C (Sa) is 256 Hz, then G (P) is 3/2 of the original frequency which is 384 Hz. These simple ratios are those that make the probable source of the music non-random, which in turn causes emotions of safety and joy.

Applying this theory:

With this theory we are now in a position to explain several things which are empirically observed:

1. Sometimes it takes time, in terms of repeated listening, to fully appreciate a new tune.

This is a commonly observed phenomenon. For e.g. it is alleged that Rahman's songs take multiple listening to get used to it. I had called this as the attack time in my previous post. This can be explained by the fact that the listener initally does not understand the patterns involved in the new tune, which means the emotion stays in the curiosity part while he is still getting used to the pattern. Once, the listener finally understands the non-randomness involved in the tune, joy is finally caused. Now, this time is clearly the function of the musical experience of the listener. The listener who has already been exposed to a large volume of tunes, is able to quickly decipher the non-randomness involved in the new tune and hence appreciate it faster.

2. People get bored of songs on repeated listening.

I had called this decay in my previous post. Once the listener has listened to the song sufficient number of times, he becomes so used to the progression that the patterns do not anymore lead to the necessary uncertainty and curiosity into the listener to lead to joy.

3. Most popular music consists of the simple rhythm

The large majority of population has a brain which is hardwired to react to noise; the simple rhythm is the simplest kind of sound that introduces non-randomness into the noise and can therefore be easily understood and appreciated by the large majority and is thus popular.

4. The pentatonic scale is common across most musical forms.

The pentatonic scale (or its variants) is common across various types of music -- for e.g. chinese music, Greek , Celtic, classical, Hungarian, and Indian music etc. I claim that it is common across most musical traditions because of the simplicity of the ratios of the notes in this scale. For e.g let us examine the notes of the major pentatonic scale (known as Mohanam or Bhupali in Indian music). The notes in this scale are:
  • C (Sa) : Ratio 1
  • D (Ri) : Ratio 9/8
  • E (Ga) : Ratio 5/4
  • G (Pa) : Ratio 3/2
  • A (Da) : Ratio 5/3
As we can see the notes involved in the scale involve simple ratios. This enables the listener to infer the patterns and the relations between the notes relatively easily. Remember, that the easier it is for the listener to understand the relationship between notes (the ratios), easier it is for the listener to understand the non-randomness and thus easier it is to appreciate the music.
To extend this idea one step further: the easier it is for the listener to understand the relationship between notes, the "happier" the feeling aroused. This may also explain why the pentatonic scale and its variants are generally perceived as "happy" sounding.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Le fantôme de la liberté

Bunuel at his surreal best...Sample this scene, for example!

Friday, March 19, 2010



"There is no individual thing in nature, which is more useful to man, than a man who lives in obedience to reason." -Spinoza

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Cricket and Friends

Arun and Balaji have been friends for an year...

Arun: Hey, I heard that you are a good bowler...I simply enjoy batting...we should play cricket!

Balaji: Yes, bowling is what I was born to do...but if we play cricket that would make us cricketers and not friends.

That was the last time Arun and Balaji spoke to each other.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010



"...I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by "instinct." Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil...." -- Nietzsche

Ethics : A tough read, but definitely worth it.

Intro to spinoza's philosophy.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The Blue Bus

I clearly remember, there were two kinds of PTC busses in Madras then. The old, rickety, blue bus and the relatively newer, more aesthetic green bus.

Every Saturday, my mother would take me to Nungambakkam in a PTC bus, to my maternal grandmother's house. Back then, green was my favorite color -- maybe it was due the better looking green bus...I don't know. Naturally, I preferred travelling in the green bus. Luckily, since the blue busses where being phased out, there were more green busses than blue busses and it was rare that one gets to travel in a blue bus.

One such Saturday, when I was eagerly awaiting to travel in a green bus, the blue bus arrived. Despite my strong objection, my mother insisted that we get on to the bus as it was getting late. Once I got on to the bus, something happenned...I could not tolerate the fact that I was travelling on a blue bus and I cried for an hour, continuously!

Over the course of my life, I have recollected this incident with amusement. The source of amusement being, how 'naive' I was in my younger days.

Wrong! Nothing has changed over the years. I still have fixed notions of happiness. I would be the same person, until I realise that happiness is just an intinisic quality, not contingent upon the "travelling in a green bus".

Friday, May 29, 2009


Psychoanalysis of Leonardo da Vinci by Sigmund Freud

Are the ways of Science different from the ways of Art?

If there is a person who is both an artist and a scientist, will life be a constant turmoil because these two forces (art and science) oppose each other?

I get the feeling that Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalysis of Leonardo da Vinci seems to implicitly assume the above. Here is a link to this fascinating short book.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Honey Honey (Ayan) <-- Give it to me (Nelly Furtado)

It is a clear lift by Harris.

Monday, March 09, 2009


On Left handed Batsmen

I have always thought that "left handed batsmen" in cricket is a misnomer -- since the right hand (top hand) does most of the work.

David Gower concurs:

"both (the right-handers and the left-handers) have been horribly misnamed because the left-hander is really a right-hander and the right-hander is really a left-hander, if you work out which hand is doing most of the work. So from my point of view, my right arm is my strongest and therefore it's the right hand, right eye and generally the right side which is doing all the work. So if there is anything about this, then the left-handers, as such, should be called right-handers...It's the top hand which is doing all the work..." 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009



The Navarasas are supposed to be nine principal emotions. They are love, comedy, pathos, fury, valour, horror, disgust, wonder, peace.   

Red, blue and green are prinicipal colors which means any color can be expressed as a combination of each of them.

(a) Likewise can any human emotion be expressed as a combination of 9 prinicipal emotions?

(b) Red, blue and green are necessary and sufficient to represent all colors. Likewise, are the 9 prinicipal emotions necessary and sufficient?

Some notes:

1. It is worth noting that the minimum value (0 intensity) of red, green and blue corresponds to "black"
2. Lisewise what does the minmum value (0 intensity) of all the emotions correspond to?
Intuitively, I think it should be the emotion "peace". Then, it means "peace" should not be a principal emotion? (Interestingly, there were only 8 prinicipal emotions earlier and "peace" was added later; Maybe it is redundant).
3. I tried some tough emotions and was able to qualitatively describe them. For example:
 a. jealosy = fear + pathos?
 b. nostalgia = pathos +  comedy?

Monday, January 19, 2009


Why is "evil" sexy?

This is because it is a signal of intelligence and/or power. Evil cannot be sustained without intelligence and/or power. A person cannot be consistently evil without possessing power and/or intelligence.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Why does Sachin do well at Chepauk?

I think it is because of the pitch. 

a. New ball always skids on to the bat -- even on the 5th day. 

Corollary: One can always  drive 'on-the-up' if the ball is newish.

b. Bounce is consistent, even if the pitch gets slower as the ball becomes older.

Corollary:  One can employ the horizontal bat shots with confidence even if driving becomes harder as the ball becomes older.  

c. Eventhough the ball turns a lot, it also bounces nicely and evenly.

Corollary:  One can employ the pull , cut or slog-sweep, even if the ball is fractionally shot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Surrealist Music

Yesterday, google's homepage showed a surrealist painting of Rene Magritte. This made me wonder why the surrealist movement was geared mainly towards visual arts (Eg. painting , movies).

More specifically I was wondering if there existed corresponding surrealist works on music.

A wiki search led me to this page on surrealist music. However, from that wiki entry it seemed that surrealist movement for music was hardly popoular; In fact, IMO, the article may very well have concluded "To summarize, the idea of surrealist music did not catch on".

So, why didn't the surrealist movement apply for music?

I think this is simply because music, from its conception has always been divorced from reality.

A painting or a film can be realistic, since it depicts something the eye sees in the real world. By the same logic, realistic music should be something consisting of sounds mimicing the natural sounds that a human hears in his/her everyday life.

Clearly, that is not what we refer as music. Music, from the very begining has been something which is imagined with little connection to realistic sounds -- In other words, it is already surreal, I claim.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Flow, Laya and the Highest Good

If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is. (I.1094a18) -- Aristotle


1. From Wiki: Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

2. Csíkszentmihályi (the person who proposed this) described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost"

3. From 'Finding Flow' by the same author "It could be singing in a choir, programming a computer, dancing, playing bridge, reading a good book. Or this complete immersion in the activity may occur in a social interaction, as when good friends talk with each other, or when a mother plays with her baby. What is common to such moments is that consciousness is full of experiences, and these experiences are in harmony with each other. Contrary to what happens all too often in everyday life, in moments such as these what we feel, what we wish, and what we think are in harmony"


1. Laya according to hindy philosophy "is a state of mental quietude".

2. " Laya is a stillness brought about by the application of an external force. This `force' may be the sudden upsurge of emotion of which one is unaware or the planned breath regulation of which one is aware. In either case there is an external agency causing the thought vacuum. When the application of this force is withdrawn, the mind returns to its original state"

3. "Whether unconsciously in the act of something as simple as tying your shoe lace, or in a moment of deep joy or sorrow, to a conscious fusion of the mind in the wonder of nature, music, dance, creativity, or through breath-regulation or concentration on an object, laya may occur".

Highest Good

Quoting from my prior post, "I think those actions that let one person forget about himself/herself are inherently good. When a musician performs passionately; when a tennis player gets ready to return a serve; when a scientist discusses the veracity of a theory with his colleague; possibly even when the cashier is in the midst of counting cash -- there is a possibility of the doer of the above actions losing track of themselves.It is possible that they forget their identity and in that instant, whatever they are doing is not for themselves. If that possibility manifests, then I think the action is of highest good"


I am quite delighted that what I currently consider to be the "Highest good" is very similar to the idea of "Flow" in Western philosophy ( a very recent idea, as late as 1990) and the idea of "Laya" from Indian Philosophy. It has reinforced what I consider to be the 'purpose' of life. I now strongly think that I should try and maximize experiences that "flow", according to the above definition of flow.

P.S: Apparently, The guy who proposed flow, Csíkszentmihályi's name is pronounced ('Chick-sent-me-high' :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Great Tamil Film Scenes - Sabapathy (or) The Evolution of Tamil Language in Films in the last 6 decades

The above video illustrates how connotations associated with some Tamil words have changed over 6 decades. 

In Sabapathy (1941),  words like 'thevidiyal' and 'machi' were considered perfectly normal and used by the elite. In fact, the former was also considered auspicious!

It is startling to observe how the connotations have changed! One would think, as times passes, a word that may have had negative connotation would slowly become acceptable in society. One wonders, why this reverse trend in Tamil -- influence of "Tamil-Kalacharam" politics??

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Great Tamil Film Scenes - Guna and 81/2

I have always wanted  to write about two of my favorite films: Guna (Tamil) and 8 1/2 (Otto e Mezzo, Italian). It is even better that I can largely express what I wanted to write as a video.

Although the subject matter of the two films are by-and-large different, I have felt there are some striking similarities in the symbolism employed in each of the above films. To appreciate (or criticize), one has to watch both films. 

I will come back to this in greater detail, later.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008


Great Tamil Scenes - Kutty

In this scene from Kutty directed by Janaki Vishwanathan, Kannamma a.k.a. Kutty (Shweta), who is brought from village into the household of Ramesh Arvind, receives a dress as a gift;  in return she gives them the toy horse that she had made herself. 

Great acting, excellent camera work by Thangar Batchan  (edited by Sreekar Prasad) and a brilliant BGM (back ground music) score from Ilayaraja makes this scene a truly memorable one.

In particular, the way in which Ilayaraja transitions into the song with 'thavil' beats is remarkable. It is as though the beats are reflecting the flutter in the heart beats of Kutti. This scene is a prime example of the importance of BGM in films -- Film, like novels, are trying to tell a story; however, in lieu of words to express emotions of people involved, films use other cues such as BGM.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Aasai Nooruvagai --> Naughty Girl

Several of 70's/80's tamil songs are now being remixed.

I wonder why they have not yet remixed Aasai nooruvagai.
Correction: It has been remixed; ironically one of the earlier songs to be remixed! (Thanks Arun) -- Although, it is a kind of simple effort, which retains the original soundtrack.

One of the several "remix solutions" is Naughty girl by Beyonce.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Sun Sign Astrology

Summary: Here is a link to a simple survey, to determine for myself the validity of sun sign astrology. It consists of 17 questions.

1. Sun sign astrology is highly popular and is still published in main stream newspapers all around the world.

2. The basic premise of sun sign astrology is that people's characteristics are correlated with their birthdays.

3. I know several people (some of them scientists) who believe in sun sign astrology. They typically study the characteristics associated with each sun, and claim to have observed a strong correlation between the sun signs of the people they know and their characteristics.

4. However this kind of reasoning may suffer from the flaw that people typically remember the hits and forget to correctly account for the misses -- similar to why people seem to agree with Murphy's law from their daily experiences.

5. An another reason why astrology is popular may be explained with the Forer effect. It is "the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people". (Read Forer's demonstration is the above wiki is quite funny)

5. I have read the characteristics associated with sun signs myself, and when I try to see people around me, I have to concede, it does seem like there is some correlation. Am I falling a prey to phsycological factors or is there really a correlation? Tons of research conducted, as archived here, all conclude that there is no truth whatsoever in astrology. Yet, it would be nice to verify it myself with an objective test...

6. I am requesting people to take this survey of 17 questions (Thanks to my friend for creating the applet). The survey first asks you your birthdate and then gives 12 sets of characteristics. For each of the set of characteristics, the responder should give a score ranging from 0 to 10; a score of 10 meaning that he thinks his personality fits perfectly with the current set, while a score of 0 means that the current set does not describe the responder at all. Each of the sets of characteristics are those that are associated with various sun signs. The purpose of the experiments is to see empirically, what ratings does the "correct" sun sign obtain. Does it get a relatively high or low score. A high rating would suggest some correlation and vice versa. Of course, the survey would work the best with people who have no exposure to sun sign astrology!

Here is the link.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


On Carribean Names

Caribbean countries like Trinidad and Tobago have significant Indian migrant population.

This explains why Gangadaran became Darren Ganga and Jagannath became Jaggernauth ??

Friday, May 09, 2008



It is depressing to realise one's "ordinariness"
which in itself is "ordinary"
And cause for more depression...

Things get into realms of the comical
when one writes to "escape ordinariness"

But it "works".

Wednesday, April 09, 2008



- a convenience for the "powerful"??

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The highest Good

The intoxication of self-feeling is the most intense, and the height of this intoxication is most admired
-- Soren Kiekergaard

A: Can you tell me, what is the highest 'good'?

B: Yes, actions that are 'selfless' are of highest good.

A: Are just saying philanthropic actions are good.
B: By selfless actions I don't mean just the so called 'philanthropic' actions. I consider, any action performed for its own sake, as good.

A: What you are saying seems to resemble Aristotle?? What do you exactly mean?
B: I think those actions that let one person forget about himself/herself are inherently good. When a musician performs passionately; when a tennis player gets ready to return a serve; when a scientist discusses the veracity of a theory with his colleague; possibly even when the cashier is in the midst of counting cash -- there is a possibility of the doer of the above actions losing track of themselves.It is possible that they forget their identity and in that instant, whatever they are doing is not for themselves. If that possibility manifests, then I think the action is of highest good.

A: What about "inaction"?
B: Inaction means that the person is not even thinking. When a person does not even think, then by definition he forgets about himself/herself and so inaction would be of highest good. As Ramana maharishi would say, "Of all thoughts that arise in the mind the "I" thought is the first".

A: Then would "suicide" would be of highest good?
B: No it would not. You are probably saying that since it leads to "inaction" and I had earlier considered "inaction" a part of highest good. But note that this is an action done to yourself because you think it will lead to "good". So it is an action where the doer is aware of himself and will not be a part of the "highest good".

A: Any practical significance??
B: One may have different kinds of acquaintances with different people. With some interactions, it seems the focus is more on the self, than others. I would say those kind of interactions, will not lead to "progress".

A: Are you saying that one should limit such kinds of interactions? At a more general level, are you saying one should limit actions that are not part of the "highest good"?
B: I am not sure.

A: Your theory doesn't seem to be very useful. OK, what about this conversation, is this a part of "highest good"?
B: I have been aware of myself in this discussion -- in other words, there seems to be slight pride when I am proposing this theory -- this is like "MY" theory. No, this would not be a part of highest good.

Monday, February 04, 2008


A real fast track

The brisbane pitch for the India v Srilanka one dayer is a real fast track. In fact it is so fast that is giving an illusion of lesser bounce.

With no seam movement, it is a battiing beauty.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Introspection or Narcissism?

The following may be an interesting (entertaining?) exercise.

Imagine you are writing screenplay and write the dialogue for the following scenarios:

1. A and B are introduced to each other.
2. A and B have been roomates for a month and enter the house after work and have nothing to do.
3. Same as 2, but A and B have been roomates for 3 years.

In each of the above scenarios, assume both A and B are different instances of yourself. By 'instance' here, I don't mean exact physical replicas -- I just envision the scenario in which A and B have similar mental attributes as yourself. You are ofcourse, free to assume the extent of replication.

Note: The film Prestige explores this idea slightly, coming to think of it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


My Violin Guru's Father

I saw the tamil movie called salangai oli -- it has its share of moments that have aged, but its central theme is quite enduring: that excellence does not necessarily imply popularity.

I remember my violin guru's father, who attempted to teach me the "art of raga aalapana". An extraordinarily talented musician, he spent most of the time contemplating about music, and would make notes in his diary. Equally adept at both carnatic and hindustani music, his music, in some sense, attempted to unify both classical forms -- not unlike the protagonist of salangai oli. A simple, and a straightforward person, he did not have a "successful musical career" and hence was not popular among the masses. It is all easy to become philosophical and question the importance of popularity. But...

I will remember Sri Thirugogarnam Ramabhadran most, for showing me how to be a good "rasigan".

Friday, December 28, 2007


Melbourne Test

The pitch in which the ongoing Melbourne test is played, bears an uncanny resemblance with the pitch of the recently concluded bangalore test against pakistan.

Both venues experienced a lot of rainfall during the lead-up to the match, which affected the pitch preparation. This meant the pitches could not dry out and hence were quite soft. This in turn meant the pace and the bounce of the pitches were lower than what the curator would have ideally wanted.

If you observed the Bangalore test match, experts expected the pitch to play worse in the 4th and 5th days. Eventhough the pitch kept extremely low at times, it did not affect the batsmen greatly since the pace of the pitch was so slow. It was a case of batsmen getting themselves out, and not otherwise.

Likewise, if you observe the 3rd days play of the Melbourne test, only one dismissal (that of Symonds) was caused by the bowler -- in this case reverse swing from zaheer khan. All other dismissals, were due to errors on the part of the batsmen.

Hence, I would say that there is a realistic chance of India surviving 2 days in this melbourne pitch (and hence winning the test). The only real threats are reverse swing and hogg's variation. For all their talk before the match, I am not sure if the Indians actually are picking Hogg's variations.

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Monday, December 03, 2007


No Country for Old Men

/********Mild Spoilers***********/

The protagonist fights hundreds of minions before he meets the big boss in the final battle; In the final battle he may come on top in three out of 4 films (the 'happy' ending ones) and loses out in the other (the 'tragedies').

But what about the case in which he is overcome by the 76th minion???


I am still trying to whether this is a "good" movie...but riveted and entertained I was throughout the isn't it already a good movie?

Sunday, November 25, 2007



I enjoyed watching polladhavan today -- the director has done a great job with the story and the screenplay -- the dialogue also deserves special mention which is teeming with wit, at the same time maintaining the nativity and realism.

The story which is essentially the bond that an youngster forms with his bike is refreshing.

The screenplay is engrossing (minus the songs) and the director employs a nice technique of shifting the narrative when the two protagonists criss-cross with each other.

However, the thing that impressed me the most about the movie is the fact that it is refreshingly non-judgmental -- the director clearly does not thrust his opinions on us, instead, letting us decide if we like the characters. The reason the director is able to achieve this is mainly because of the script -- the script lets most of the people behave in a "reasonable" fashion.

Consider the two gangster chacters 'selvam' and 'out' who are almost portrayed as following the hindu philosophy of 'karmayoga'!! (although some may allege they are glorified) Or consider the police, who sure take bribes from gangsters, but show common-sense throughout the movie, expecially in the scence in which they let dhanush go since he has a proper alibi.

The only character that is clearly 'evil' is the villain -- but one can easily empathize with this character even.
------------------------Digression starts---------------------------------------------------------------
What do you do when you are constantly under the shadow of a more "powerful" (as the villain sees) guy. If you fail to reconcile with this fact, how do you gain your own 'self-respect'? Ofcourse, the answer is
by resorting to "villainous" deeds to regain "control".
-----------------------Digression Ends-------------------------------------------------------------------

Polladhavan is an entertaining movie with an intelligent script, great screenplay, impressive acting and mildly irritating songs.

Thursday, November 15, 2007




I was recently just working on this piece, editing and putting together parts from our different versions.


Guitar and main idea: Don
Violin: Vijay
Mridangam: Sharat
All other instruments: Matt

Wednesday, November 14, 2007



My friend was talking to me about a spoof-super-hero movie called "Mystery Men" in which there is a super hero called "Invisible boy".

He has the 'power' of invisibility, but only when nobody is observing him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


5 favourite ragas...

If I was asked to choose 5 ragas

In alphabetical order,

karaharapriya, ritigowla, saraswati, shanmugapriya, thodi

Saturday, November 03, 2007


"When you hit a cover drive, a straight drive or a cut, the feeling touches your soul.": Sachin

Sachin has hit the ball on the center-of-mass of the bat -- figuratively, that is.

I can totally relate to it.

It is in fact, true for all 'ball-bat' sports for me.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Carnatic Music Theory

I found this nice collection of carnatic music theory.

I need to read these articles thoroughly and these will be the baseline of anything I present in the future regarding carnatic music theory.

This seems to be from a guy from cs Wisconsin, written around 15 years ago.

Interestingly, a lot of problems I (and my friends) have considered earlier have been attacked by this person.

For eg. compare this, which is my attempt to attack the sruti/graha bedham problem, and this., which is his attempt. At first glance, one may find the similarities quite surprising (he has also used the equivalence class approach). More thought leads me to the following conclusion: it is the simplicity of the subject matter that is cause for the similarity.

After my brief stint with research over the past 2-3 years I will make this half-baked statement, which I hope to re-vesit in detail in the future : It is meaningless in the truest sense of the word to "claim ownership of a general idea" -- if something seems "novel", you are just not searching enough.

Endaro Mahanubhavulu Andariki Vandanamulu.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Paris: la féminité

Can there be a city that is more feminine compared to Paris?

Can there be a language/culture more feminine than the french?

Here was a city where I enjoyed being stuck in a traffic jam...gave me a chance to watch closely and admire the city and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


What is Ilayaraja's favourite raga?

He has composed scores of songs in Madyamavati, Kalyani, Natabhairavi etc.

But I think his favourite raga is Shanmugapriya.

It plays an important part in all his non-film albums -- I could see traces of Shanmugapriya in 3 songs in "How to name it". Even in "Thiruvasagam", he ends "Pollavinayen" with a rousing Shanmugapriya.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Love 2

In this post, I am going to follow up Love-1 with a simple definition for love and try to explain some observations with this definition. In hindsight, none of the conclusions of this post seem earth shattering to me -- but it took me some time to arrive at it, and I thought I will log it.

For any A, such that A has the capacity to think and/or feel; and any X,

The love of A towards X, is the measure of how strongly (or how much) A thinks/feels that X and A are one and the same.

In this sense, it is the measure of how much (or how strongly) A identifies with X.



1. Self Love (Love of A towards A itself):

Of all the thoughts that rise in the mind, the thought 'I' is the first thought. -- Ramana Maharishi, from Nan Yaar? (Who am i?)

Typically people identify with one selves -- For example, a person or an animal A thinks that he/she/it is actually A. Subject to this self identification, the love of an object towards itself is obviously the maximum possible value.

I don't think anybody will disagree with me about the fact that people identify with one selves. It is nature's way of making the person associate with his/her/its body so that he/she/it can take care of it and live. It is also easy to see how the personal/anaimal associates with its body ("here is something which gives me some signals about the world and something which I can it is me").

According to hindu philosophy, an "enlightened person" does not identify with himself. The way I look at it, hindu philosophy argues in the following fashion...that there is no real reason for us to associate with our body, on the contrary disassociating with our body can lead us to eternal happiness.
(To get an intuition as to why there is no real reason for us to identify with our body, recall the scenario in the matrix movie.)

Disassociating with one self, will cause the person to lose his self love, but then this will cause the person to then love all entities in the world, equally and maximally, argues hindu philosophy.

2. Parental (esp. maternal) love

Again, nobody will disagree with me, when I say that maternal love is one of the strongest feelings of love. I think the reason for this strong love, the strong identification of the mother with the child, can be explained in the following way...since the mother knows that the child was a part of her body, it makes it easier for the mother to identify with the child. In other words, since the baby is a part of the mother physically, the mother impulsively thinks (to some extent) the the child is really her. This is the cause of the strong love.

3. Love through sexual relationships:

Sex has been accorded high importance in such an extent that relationships often terminate when a person involved in a relationship indulges in sex with a person outside the relationship. In this sense, sex is linked to the loyalty in the relationships.

On the contrary, one can view sex just as yet another pleasurable activity. There are several other pleasurable activities possible, for example two people can derive great pleasure by playing chess together. But relationships seldom end because a person in a relationship plays chess with a person who is not in the get the point.

I think the reason for this high importance given to sex, is because it helps in the process of each one identifying with the other -- when two bodies come into such close contact, each body tends to think that the other body is really itself.

A friend in riverside gave me a Yamaha keyboard -- I have now begun to understand chords better and I am liking it very much.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

All through my life, I have been surrounded by "goodness" of friends and others around me; Sometimes, I wonder whether I "deserve" it.

Monday, September 10, 2007



Today we got the desktops we purchased at UCR -- intel core 2 duo 2.66 GHz with 4 GB Ram and a 22 inch wide screen monitor.

We also got to name our own machines (what a privilege!) and I named it infinitas.

I thought hard between infinity and infinitas ('infinitas' is latin for 'infinity') and settled for the latter.

Afterall, what is in a name without its share of "sophistication"?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Srikanth has created this nice wiki page called Sahityam, that has the lyrics and the meaning of carnatic varnams and krithis.

Using the translipi tool (which he also created), he is able to automatically display the lyrics in several different scripts including roman, devanagiri, tamil, telugu.

Since it is a wiki page, users are free to add their own content to it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.

-- Carl Jung

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Excerpts from Wikipedia:
There is the following ambiguity in the definition of bisexuality. Is it sexual/romantic attraction towards members of both sexes (or) is it sexual/romantic attraction towards both masculine and femine ideals. The definition in wikipedia seems to point to the former.

This distinction is important. For example, a man M can be sexually/romantically attracted to a feminine ideal; but, in practice, some men may exhibit some of the charecterestics that are a part of that feminine ideal, and consequently, in practice he (M) may be attracted to such men. According to wiki's definition this would make this man bisexual. It seems to me that this man is not an exception, but the common case(?)

I know I have not considered the second definition in detail; I have not even defined what I mean by a masculine/feminine sex ideal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Blue clear skies, very low humidity (as low as 5% at times), mount lemmon, roomates and friends, cricket with wildcats -- santa rita park: a belter of a batting track, music with sruti -- matt's recording studio and last but not the least, the distinct manvasanai...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bergman is no more.

I have seen 3 of his films: wild strawberries, persona and seventh seal.

The first film is one of my favourites and had a profound impact in my life. I am still trying to understand persona, but it "clearly is a great film".

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Love, Ordinariness and the Hysteresis loop

Is it an excellence in your love that it can love only the extraordinary, the rare? If it were love’s merit to love the extraordinary, then God would be — if I dare say so — perplexed, for to Him the extraordinary does not exist at all. The merit of being able to love only the extraordinary is therefore more like an accusation, not against the extraordinary, nor against love, but against the love which can love only the extraordinary. Perfection in the object is not perfection in the love. Erotic love is determined by the object; friendship is determined by the object; only love of one’s neighbor is determined by love. Therefore genuine love is recognizable by this, that its object is without any of the more definite qualifications of difference, which means that this love is recognizable only by love-- Søren Kierkegaard

Ideal World

Kierkegaard says that love, in its purest form, should not depend on the excellence of the object in question. To justify this he (who btw is also a theoligian) uses the accepted theological fact that 'god loves all' in his arguments. I agree with Kierkegaard and I also believe that ideally, love should not be a function of the object's charecterestics.

Let me give you another reasoning for this. Suppose a person A claims that he/she 'loves' B because B posesses some quality x. Now I ask, if suddenly B loses this quality x, will A stop 'loving' B?

case 1: No, A does not stop loving B

Then clearly the quality 'x' is not important and A is 'capable' of loving any person even if that person may not posess the quality 'x'.

case 2: Yes, A stops loving B after B loses 'x'

The clearly A does not love B, he/she only loves 'x' in B.


Based on the above I think it is possible to categorize different kinds of love, in decreasing order of the quality of love:

1. Unconditionally loving every person in the world: I think this is what people mean by 'love your neighbour' - i.e loving all people we encounter. Since true love is not a function of the object's charecterestics, true love implies that one should love everybody.

2. Love between child and the Parents, siblings: In all these cases, love just exists due to the relationships; it does not depend on the charecterestics of the people. In other words, we do not pick and choose our parents, yet we love them. If we were to replace our parents with people with a different set of charecterestics, we would still love them.

3. Friendship, Erotic love : In these relationships the 'love' exists because we gain some physical, emotional or intellectual benefit.

Practical World

In the practical world, it is not possible categorize love into clear-cut subdivisions. For example, consider two friends. The driving force of the 'love' between the two friends might be the intellectual pleasure they derive by interacting with each other. Supposing, suddenly one of the friends develops amnesia (or some other mental deficiency), because of which the two friends can no longer interact with each other and gain the same kind of pleasure as before. But this may not prevent them from interacting with each other. In other words, 'love' between them does not terminate as soon as one of them develops amnesia.

I think in the practical world, the charecterestics of the object does play a part in love. So, consider a person A and for the him/her let X be the defining set of charecterestics that love is a function of. In other words, the love of A towards any B is proportional to the amount of X contained in B. But supposing due to the passage of time, B loses some of the charecterectics that made A love B, i.e X in B decreases, the love of A towards B does not exactly follow the curve backwards. This phenomenon is not unlike magnetic hysteresis. It is a phenomenon in which a metal is magnetized when a magnetic field is applied to it and alternatively gets demagnetized when the field is removed. But interestingly, when the magnetic field is reduced, the demagnetization does not follow magnetization curve. In some sense, it resists the process of demagnetization and consequently the magnetization/demagnetization curve is actually a loop.

The analogous resistance exhibited to stop loving, when the apparent 'reason' for love ceases to exist is commonly referred as "commitment". Commitment is one of the situations in which love in the practical world tries to attain the ideal. In my opinion, the area enclosed by this loop is measure of the quality of the love.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Birthday Distribution

How do you think are birthdays distributed over the days of the year? Do you think certain months (days) will have significantly more (less) births than others?

Here is the distribution in the United States. (Source Hallmark)

Note that the expected value for months with 31 days is 8.49% and for months with 30 days is 8.21% and 7.67% for february.

Rank Month Percent
1. August 9.07 (+0.58)
2. July 8.80 (+0.59)
3. September 8.62
4. October 8.60
5. March 8.51
6. May 8.30
7. January 8.25
8. June 8.15
9. April 8.12
10. December 8.07 (-0.42)
11. November 7.96 (-0.25)
12. February 7.55 (-0.12)

Given the data, Do you think this is a random distribution, or is there a bias?

Ok here are two more facts:

October 5 is supposedly the most popular birthday and May 22 is the least popular. (source wikipedia)

I seem to remember this as a joke, but it is worth noting that October 5 - 9 months = approximately New years eve!

Looking at the table again, the birthdays probably are not randomly distributed - seems like there is a bias caused by more conceptions happening in colder months??

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Illusion of free will

I am going to give a very simple inductive argument and claim that 'free will' is an illusion.

The crux of the argument is as follows. Any decision a person takes is a function of the body of knowledge and experience the person posesses (and some random factors). The body of knowledge and the experiences that a person pocesses is the sum total of past decisions the person has already taken. Thus using inductive methods, we can show that a person does not have direct control of any decision he/she takes and thus 'free-will' is really an illusion.

A person's actions can be viewed as a sum total of several decisions he/she takes in his life. (This is somewhat analogous to how in computation theory, one can reframe anygiven problem as a 'yes'/'no' problem).

So what I need to show is that the person 'does not have control' over any of his decisions.

Let P(i) : Man does not have direct control over his ith decision.

Base Case: P(0) is true.
'Proof': First of all, what is P(0), the first decsion that man takes. It is the decsion to manifest as himself/herself ( as such and such a person). Although I can not prove this, I think most of us will agree that the person does not have control over this step.

By the inductive hypothesis, let us assume P(i) is true for 0But his current decision is a function of his previous decisions and random factors.
Thus P(m) which is P(i+1) is true.

Note : I know I have not presented this as well as it could have been, but you get the idea.

Wednesday Jun 20, 6.45 PM

Please refer Free will for a comprehensive account on this topic. Thanks to balaji for indirectly pointing out this. As one can see, there has been a lot of work on this; let me assimilate whatever that has been already done and get back later.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007



Yesterday, I saw a remarkable Iranian movie, Ten by the well known director Abbas Kiarostami. In one of my earlier posts, I had wondered about acting:
Can any given person "act" well...Afterall acting is something that everybody does all the time. For example, if we had an imaginary camera filming the daily lives of people, certainly the "acting" will be realistic!

The movie ten, which came in 2002, has a similar idea. Basically, the whole film shows close-up shots of the driver and the passenger of a car. While the driver of the car, a middle aged iranian lady ( breathtakingly beautiful ) who is also a divorcee, is constant in the movie, there are 4 different passengers (one at a time) including her (real) 10 year old son who argues with her on why she is not a good mother! All the "actors" play their real life roles!! Ofcourse, the 'actors' were aware of the camera. Apparently, the director would set the camera in the car and the 'actors' would just drive across the streets of tehran and play out their real life parts. 23 hours of footage, across 5 days, was collected and edited into a 90 minute movie.

A week or two ago, I saw the french movie Cet obscur objet du désir, by Luis Bunuel. I greatly enjoyed this as well. The interesting thing about this movie is that the director had used two actresses to portray one character.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Hell and Heaven

While the former is eternal suffering, the latter is eternal boredom - a tough choice indeed.



This is a pentatonic raga : S G2 M1 P N3

A very attractive raga, has a very unique emotion. Was used by Ilayaraja in two songs: Oh Vasantha raja and Sindhiya Venmani.

Random notes:

0. I am not aware of any old carnatic krithis is this raga; there are one or two krithis composed by contemporary musicians. This leads to the question: Did Ilayaraja discover this raga with his 1984 song?

1. In both of the songs, ilayaraja mixes another raga -- was this because of lack of posibilities in srotaswini?

2. I first encountered this raga when I was playing Shanmugapriya and tried graha bedham with the notes G2 M2 D1 N2 R2 G2, with G2 as S.


Friday, May 11, 2007


Partitioning Melakarta Ragas into Equivalence Classes based on Sruti Bedham Relation

In this post, I will examine the sruti bedham (aka graha bedham) relationship among ragas. I will show that ragas can be classified into different equivalence classes such that any two ragas belonging to the same class can be transformed into one another using graha bedham. To illustrate this, I have generated the equivalence classes for the melakarta ragas. I have used this classification to draw some conclusions and some interesting hypotheses.

Informal Treatment:
Sruti/Graha Bedham is the technique in which a new raga can be derived from the original raga, by changing the sruti (shadjam) . For example, if a singer is singing the raga mohanam (aro: S R2 G3 P D2) and he/she makes the rishabam (R2) of mohanam as the shadjam, then we get the madhyamavati raga (aro : S R2 M1 P N2 ). This is because (R2 G3 P D2 S) is equivalent to (S R2 M P N2) when R2 is assumed to be s. This is the essence of graha bedham.

Let me define a simple notation. Suppose A and B are two ragas, and it is possible to derive the raga B from A by assuming the swara j of raga A as shadjam, we denote this by A*I --> B. For example Mohanam*R --> Madhyamavati.
This work hinges on three important facts which I will formally prove later. The two important facts are the following:

(1) Graha bedam relationship among ragas is symmetric: If the raga B can be derived from A through graha bedam then raga A can also be derived from B via graha bedham. That is, A*I-->B implies B*J--> A for some swara J. For example, we saw earlier how madhyamavati can be obtained from mohanam. Likewise, we can also obtain mohanam from madhyamavati by letting the nishadam of madhyamavati (N2) as shadjam.

(2) Graha bedam relation among ragas is transitive: If raga B can be derived from A and raga C can be derived from B then raga C can be derived from A. That is, A*I-->B and B*J--> C implies A*K-->C for some swara K. For example, madhyamavati can be derived from mohanam (by letting R of mohanam be the S) and hindolam can be derived from madhyamavati (by letting the R of madhyamavati be the S). This implies that hindolam can be derived from mohanam -- this is true. (by letting G of mohanam be the S).

(3) Graha bedam relation amon ragas is reflexive: This just says that the same raga can be derived from itself - which is trivially true, by not performing any sruti bedam and letting the shadjam be itself.

The above 3 facts imply that the sruti/graha bedham relation is an equivalence relation. This means that ragas can be partitioned into equivalence classes, such that any two ragas within the same equivalence class is related (they can be transformed into each other), but any two ragas from two different equivalence classes are not related. I wrote a program to find the equivalence classes across the melakarta ragas and this is the classification.

Equivalence Classes for Melakarthas:
Equivalence class of 6 ragas: (6x1 = 6)
(8,20,22,28,29,65): Thodi, Natabhairavi, Karaharapriya, Harikambodi, Shankarabharanam, Mechakalyani

Equivalence class of 4 ragas: (4x3) = 12
(9,35,56,66) : Dhenuka, Sulini, Shanmugapriya, Chitrambari
(10,23,26,64): Natakapriya, Gaurimanohari, Charukesi, Vachaspati
(14,21,58,71): Vakulabharanam, Kiravani, Hemavati, Kosalam

Equivalence class of 3 ragas: (3x6 = 18)
(2,19,53) : Ratnangi, Jhankaradvani, Gamanasramam
(3,54,55) : Ganamurthi, Viswambari, Shyamalangi
(7,17,63) : Senavati, Suryakantam, Lathangi
(15,57,72): Mayamalavagowla, Simhendramadyamam, Rasikapriya
(16,27,59): Chakravakam, Sarasangi, Dharmavati
(30,34,44): Naganandhini, Vagadeeshwari, Bavapriya

Equivalence class of 2 ragas: (2x10 = 20)
(1,51) : Kanakangi, Kamavardhini
(4,25) : Vanaspati, Mararanjani
(5,61) : Manavati, Kanthamani
(11,62): Kokilapriya, Rishabapriya
(13,69): Gayakapriya, Dhatuvardini
(18,43): Hatakambari, Gavambodhi
(24,32): Varunapriya, Ragavardhani
(33,60): Gangeyabhushani, Nitimati
(36,45): Chalanata, Subhapantuvarali
(46,70): Shadvidhamargini, Nasikabhushani

Equivalence class of 1 raga: (1x16 = 16)
(6,) : Tanarupi
(12,): Rupavati
(31,): Yagapriya
(37,): Salagam
(38,); Jalarnavam
(39,): Jhalavaraali
(40,): Navaneetam
(41,): Pavani
(42,): Raghupriya
(47,): Suvarnangi
(48,): Divyambari
(49,): Davalambari
(50,): Namanarayani
(52,): Ramapriya
(67,): Sucharitra
(68,): Jothiswaroopini

You can view this larger file, that lists in detail, through what swaras the transformation between the ragas occur. This information will be very useful to a carnatic musician.

Observations and Analysis:
1. Observe that the biggest equivalence class is the the one with the 6 ragas and it includes the widely acknowledged six major ragas in carnatic music. (Actually bhairavi instead of natabharavi and kambodhi instead of harikambodhi are part of the 6. But they are very close janya ragas). This leads me to propose that a raga is more 'stable' if it can be transformed into several additional ragas by performing sruti bedam. Here, the 'stability' refers to how long one can explore the raga. The rationale behind this claim is as follows: For a raga to be explored, one needs to be able to perform alapanai anchoring on several of the ragas swaras. By anchoring on a swara, it can be viewed in some sense as changing the sruti to that note. The fact that a raga arises ('stability') out of this anchoring, as opposed to no raga arising ('instability') means one can anchor on that particular note, while performing the alapanai. I know I am hand waving a little here, but let me explore this is detail in another post.

2. There seems to be a correlation between the how common a raga is and the cardinality of its equivalence class. We arleady saw how the 6 major ragas formed the biggest equivalence class. It is worth noting that relatively major ragas like shanmugapriya, kiravani, charukesi, hemavati are all from the equivalence class of cardinality of 4. Note that several prathi madhyama ragas (ragas with M2) are the ones which are alone and they are not in practical use.

3. Two ragas that are surprisingly alone : jalavaraali (janaka raga of varaali which is in wide use) and jothiswaroopini.

4. These equivalence classes of ragas have an important consequence for an automated raga identifier. If a naive identifier worked by finding the swaras in the composition, supposing it found the notes corresponding to say kharaharapriya, then how can the identifier be sure its is not any of the other 5 ragas from the same class? Thus I claim, any automated raga identifier must first identify the sruti (the shadjamam) of the composition, before it can identify the raga.

Formal Treatment:
In this section, I will prove the 3 facts that have been used in the informal section.
This post is becoming very long and I am also getting bored, let me do this in the next post.

Related Work (2nd Nov 2007):

I came across this work, which is very much related to the above work.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Beauty and Goodness

Is there a correlation between "beauty" and "goodness".

Specifically, there are two obvious questions:
(1) In general, Are Beautiful people good? (More "good" than people who are not perceived beautiful)
(2) Do people, in general, think that beautiful people are good?

It is important to observe the subtle difference between the two questions. While the first question concerns a truism about beauty and goodness, the second question merely asks if people, in fact, have stereotyped
notions of the personality traits possessed by individuals of varying attractiveness. In this sense, the second question is more well defined and seems simpler to find out.

It is precisely the second question that Dion et al. sought to answer in their work titled, What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

I have quoted the abstract of their work. You can get the full paper by doing a google or scholar search. It is short and interesting.

A person's physical appearance, along with his sexual identity, is the personal
characteristic that is most obvious and accessible to others in social interaction.
The present experiment was designed to determine whether physically
attractive stimulus persons, both male and female, are (a) assumed to possess
more socially desirable personality traits than physically unattractive stimulus
persons and (6) expected to lead better lives (e.g., be more competent
husbands and wives, be more successful occupationally, etc.) than unattractive
stimulus persons.
The present results indicate a "what is beautiful is good" stereotype along the physical attractiveness dimension.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Extroversion and I

Wikipedia has a great definition of extroversion - of the 'hit-the-nail-on-the-head' kind.

Extroversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self"

I have been always confused about my levels of extroversion. Recently, I was reading about the 'big 5 personality traits' and took the associated test for fun. I was slightly suprised to find that I was as extroverted as the average person.

Then the definition of extroversion really gave me some clarity. I now realise that I always was, and probably "knew" that I was, as extroverted as the average person. But the problem was , I never wanted to be a person who seeks gratification from the outside - It didn'nt make sense to me to be seeking gratification from the outside (even now it does not make sense).

But ofcourse there is (and has to be, otherwise there is no reason to exist) a gap between what we are and what we want to be.

Anyway, I am currently in a state where I have reconciled myself to my extroversion.

Saturday, March 31, 2007


Musical Bliss

I happenned to hear the krithi "Gaanamuda Paanam' by Sanjay accompanied by karaikudi mani, in rhapsody. For those in USA, rhapsody is a great place to hear high sound quality music for free. They have a great collection of music from around the world.

It is actually a live recording from the december 1999 season. Charsur deserves special praise for the superior audio quality. I suspect they also gave a slight eq boost around the lows (100-200 hz); this causes the 'thopi' of the mridangam to sound better, in my opinion.

Words cannot describe the bliss I experienced listening to this piece - especially in the charanam when he sings ' jyotiswaroopini shakthi vel arulal amayum..'

Sunday, March 11, 2007


StrangeHope: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Continue Producing Rubbish

"A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value."
-- Issac Asimov

P.S: On a rather 'unrelated' note, yes I did watch it the second time, if I may; (The first time, I was on a 'high ' and dozed off after watching just the first 20 minutes.) But this time I found it outrageously funny and the laughter I experienced rivalled that of 'Michael madhana...' 16 years back. I now have a newfound respect for Kubrick (I also watched 'eyes wide shut' ) - maybe movies are like songs or beer, sometime it takes time to appreciate it.

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Monday, February 19, 2007


Are all art-forms algorithms?

It's absolutely impossible to improvise. Making a movie is a mathematical operation. It is like sending a missile to the moon. It isn't improvised. It is too defined to be called improvisational, too mechanical. Art is a scientific operation, so I can say that what we usually call improvisation is in my case just having an ear and eye for things that sometimes occur during the time we are making the picture.
-- Federico Fellini , Italian Director

In Computer science, an algorithm is a set of instructions for accompishing a task. Furthermore, if the instructions are executed correctly the task will be accomplished in finite time.

Is there an algorithm for each and every art form?

I think so. I strongly subscribe to fellini's notion of all art actually being science. I think there are several reasons for art being separated and given a different status.

(1) The general quest of people to experience something incredible, amazing i.e some performance that does not have any apparent "algorithm" for they themselves accomplishing it.
A classic example is magic. People are attracted to magic just because they do not know the "algorithm" behind the trick. But do note that every magic trick has a plausible explanation. If the explanation is known to the public they will not want to pay and watch the show.
I think all art forms are like "magic" in that they have a well defined procedure for accomplishing the art form, which if known to people will diminish their amazement about the art form.

(2) In most art forms the algorithms are complex because of which the performer is not aware that he is merely executing an algorithm; His subconcious self is obviously aware of the algorithm which is why he is able to perform in the first place

(3) The randomized nature of most art forms gives as impression of improvisation. In most cases the actual algorithm may be a randomized algorithm. For example each time a singer executes a raaga aalapana (of the same raaga), it is different. If a batsman faces identical deliveries (pace, length, line, conditions are identical) he may yet play two different shots. Note that a randomized algorithm is still an algorithm.

As a proof of concept, here is a very simple algorithm for music composition.

Inputs: The emotion of the song. (Eg happiness , pathos etc...)
Output: The composition

1. Consult look up table and obtain raaga, tempo.
If there are more entries for the emotion, pick randomly.

Note the look-up table is of the following form:

Mood Raga Tempo
death Subapanthuvaraali 40BPM


happiness Mohanam 120 BPM
happiness shankarabaranam 160 BPM

2. Chose a tala at random.

3. Emit notes from the raga randomly such that it fits the tala.


Thats all...we are done. My intuition says that this ridiculously simple algorithm is enough for composing "good" songs. Ofcourse, the algorithm's caomplexity can easily extended/increased in practice.

I need to try and build this software and get the general public's opinion on the "quality" of music.

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Friday, January 05, 2007



The best batsmen in contemporary cricket as far as batting skill is considered.

Not strong mentally.


23rd march 2007

I am not entirely sure about the above comment. When I made the above comment I was comparing sachin with somebody like warne -- but the comparison may be unfair; warne's family (if he has one) is not threatened if doesent perform well.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


This is A too much

I am as muddled as the sweet ordered by Janakaraj in 'sirippo sirippu'.
This is after watching movies by woody allen, satyajit ray, almodovar etc.

I am in dire need of some ilaya thalapathi movies...

Friday, December 01, 2006


Realism to the core

Had the good fortune of watching "Pather Panchali" by sathyajit ray yesterday. At the same time I ask myself why I hadnt watched it earlier. It really is one of the most realistic films that I have ever watched. Each and every small movement of the "actors" has some meaning. Most of the "actors" were not professionals (only one was a professional)- maybe thats the reason it was so life-like.

At this point, it is interesting to think about the actual skill of acting. I ask myself whether it is conceptually different from other skills such as painting, dance, singing, sculpture. Can any given person "act" well...Afterall acting is something that everybody does all the time. For example, if we had an imaginary camera filming the daily lives of people, certainly the "acting" will be realistic! Ofcourse the skill lies in reacting to situations when the sitautions are imaginary. This is what people like Sivaji, Kamal are good at. But I think this as more of an aptitude rather than skill. If one constantly observes people (or observe ourselves) certainly one can become better at this.
Infact, one does not even need to pocess this aptitude to act well. He/She just needs to be taught exactly what he needs to do. I think this is what Satyajit Ray must have done; he must have explained it to the actors in such a fine grained level.

I am not sure...I need to think more about this...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Every effort under compulsion demands a sacrifice of life-energy.
-- Nikola Tesla

What an appropriate word -- Life energy. I want to lose as little of my life-energy as possible, lets see...

Saw the movie , Prestige. (and hence the tesla quote). Found it a little contrived...not nearly as good as memento. But certainly was not boring. Would give it 6.5/10.


Two Movie recommendations

Dersu Uzala:
A heart rendering story about friendship and nature, by Kurosawa.
This film also greatly helped me appreciate (and believe) a well known theory in history and linguistics.
I am talking about the Aryan Immigration theory - which hypothesizes that the speakers of Indo-Aryan languages (including sanskrit) migrated into India around 1500 BC near the end of (what is now called) the Indus Valley civilization.
But this would mean that a bunch of nomads from central asia spoke a form of proto-sanskrit. This was really hard for me to digest as I thought sansrit to be too "classy" and "sophisticated".
In "Dersu Unzala" , the lead character is a siberian tribal who speaks russian with an accent that I find so similar to sanskrit. This is enough to clear all my "doubts" reagarding the aryan-immigration theory!!

The Decalogue:
The first episode of this movie has got to be one of the most tragic films that I ever saw. I really liked the style of the director (Kieslowski) , especially the camera angles. (Some very intresting postitions and so close to show even the slightest of emotions).

Monday, October 16, 2006


Finnish Tamil Connection - 2

Following is the paper that proposes connection between dravidian (of which tamil is a part) and uralic languages. (of which finnish is a part).

The paper mainly has a list of mappings between a set of uralic and dravidian root words.

If the link does not work, search for "Dravidian and Uralian: The Lexical Evidence" in google or scholar.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


God's Debris

A friend of mine sent me the link of this free ebook God's Debris.

Its a short book of about 140 pages. (Even I was able to read it)

The crux of the book is contained in the first 60 pages.


The book discusses several things that were also discussed in some of the posts of this blog. Thus reading the book was a very exciting and a pleasurable experience for me. Infact, in several places it was as if I was reading my own thoughts.

The crux of the book is based on the following hypothesis: An omnipotent being has only one challenge, the challenge of destroying itself. (What a beautiful hypothesis). Read the book for the discussion of this.

So the author claims that big bang is really 'god destroying itself' and creation was caused because of this. Thus it claims we are all god's debris. Further it hypothesizes that we are all trying to unite and become the omnipotent being again. The books cites human' being's instinct to communicate as an evidence for this.

On the other hand, the book begins to drag after 70 pages and becomes montonous trying to "explain" everything using probability.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


On the fickle nature of "Self-Confidence"

What are the ways in which we typically derive/maintain our "self-confidence"? Some of the avenues are "Good-looks", "Achievements", "talents", "character" etc. The reason I put each of the items in quotations, is to emphasize the fact that each of qualitites are those that the world has bestowed upon the party under consideration.

In each of the following examples consider a person who derives his/her self-confidence based on good-looks, talents, character respectively.

For example consider a person that is considered good-looking. Suppose he/she and her friend 'B' meets another person 'C'. For some reason if the person 'C' only pays attention to B more than A, naturally this would cause some discomfort in A. The extent of this discomfort is related to the emotional stability of A -- but even to the most stable of people, the repetition of such incidents will certainly cause a drop in (what we call) the self-confidence of A.
Actually this idea was illustrated , quite brutally, in the film, American Beauty. (Well, this was not the main theme of the film but one of the things.).

The same idea can be applied to other such qualities. For example, suppose a person is a good violonist ( the world considers him/her). But for some reason, he gives a recital and the audience thinks what he played was crap. Again depending on the stability of the original person, this may or may not cause significant discomfort. But repeated such incidents will cause a drop in self-confidence.

Finally consider a person who is considered a very moral person with good character. Suppose suddenly something happens to the world and rules of the world are changed and now "right" is "wrong" and "wrong" is "right". (Here I am emphasizing the fact that moral are but rules). Again the person will now become "bad" and his confidence will drop.
...I just gave this rather improbable example for variation...A more practical example in line with the first two is still applicable for "character".

So, I wonder, how something called "self-confidence" can be a function of something the world percieves of us.

Thus I conclude in the ideal world, self-confidence is a quantity that should be possessed without a reason. But in such an ideal state, the person may not have any need to posess self-confidence.

The last two statements of the previous paragraph do not contradict each other.

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