Introduction

n first hearing the violin played in the South Indian classical (Carnatic) style, listeners often remark how well instrument and music suit each other. The violin's unfretted fingerboard and player's relaxed left-hand hold seem ideal for executing the various gliding and wavering gamakas (ornaments) which characterize Carnatic raga . Investigation reveals a specific reason for this good fit: each type of gamaka matches a distinctive violin technique.

This article is based on material drawn from the author's doctoral dissertation (1989), which explores the thesis that types of melodic ornamentation shared by South Indian and other musics can be matched with shared principles of violin fingering. This correspondence helps to explain why the violin appeals to the various peoples who have adopted it. And it accounts, at least in part, for the instrument's power as a vehicle of communication and influence between musical traditions.

In particular, the three broad classes of modern South Indian gamaka --slides, deflections, and fingered stresses--correspond to the three types of left-hand movement which are intrinsic to the violin: shift, oscillation, and fingerfall. This parallel was key to the author's dissertation, and the present article describes it in detail.

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