This is a four-year programme that revolves around rhythmical devices/complexities and microtonal concepts (the latter are optional) derived from the theory of South Indian classical music (Karnatic music) in order to use them within a western contemporary context.

The final goal for the student is to achieve a higher degree of understanding of these concepts and its subsequent utilization in today's music and never to merely copy the Karnatic tradition. Combining the Karnatic concepts detailed below with western concepts of orchestration, counterpoint and polyphony is a must within the programme.

The Karnatic rhythmical system offers paths to create music using rhythmical complexities in a very organic fashion, getting away from the highly-charged ‘intellectual approach’ that has possibly characterised much of the ‘new complexity’ approach to using rhythm. An important aspect of Karnatic rhythm is that it is a system in which the practice methodology and the developmental possibilities of the same concept are inextricably linked. The notion of common denominator impregnates the structural architecture of each technique and its developmental possibilities.

Course focus:

1) Theory of South Indian classical  music:

  • Rhythmical complexities: Different types of Tala (cycles) construction, all sort of polyrhythms, polypulses, irregular groupings, inner amalgamation, structural metrical modulations, polytalas and mathematical/rhythmical calculations and their relationship to structural development.
  • The study of rhythm, not only as an ‘isolated’ phenomenon of more or less complexity, but as a source for development, creation of structures and forms, feeling for proportionalities and a number of related concepts.
  • Formal and structural concepts: Developmental techniques, different types of forms. Usage of South-Indian geometrical concepts to apply  on macro and micro structures.
  • Microtonality (optional from the 2nd year on): 22 srutis (pitches) system, different types of Raga construction, 39 srutis system, different types of modulation, use of pitches outside the raga and gamakas (South Indian ornaments).

2) Practical exercises and homework based on the theory.

3) Extensive listening and analysis of recorded material.

Course structure:

The whole year is divided as follows:

  • Theory: 14 lessons before Christmas and 7 lessons after Christmas
  • 10-12 weeks to compose an ensemble piece (see below)

Between December and January the student must write a short 'etude-like' duo. From March on the student has to compose an ensemble piece (trio to quintet), and meetings to work on that piece will occur on a weekly basis.

Jahnavi Jayaprakash, singer, 
composer and teacher of Karnatic music

The student can contact students who follow the performers program to put the piece together, and be coached in a number of the rehearsals by of one of the teachers of the CMtNWT program. The piece can be  premiered  within one of the final concerts of the program or in any of the  New Music Arena (NMA) concerts. The student can also simply choose to write a piece without any specific premiere date in mind if he/she so wishes or for a commission or event he/she may be involved in.

The program is divided into two parts, each consisting of two years. In the first part, two or three students will share weekly lesson of 2 hours. The second part will be structured in individual lessons of 1 hour, with each student devising his/her own program based on a preference for further microtonal possibilities, modulatory techniques, form/structures  or different options of rhythmical devices. The student decides every year whether he/she wants to continue into the following one.

The final grade will be based on the homework, composition and a theory exam at the end of the year.


- Bachelors students: 10 per year from the elective package.

- Masters students: 10 per year; the first 10 are taken from the master electives and 10 of a second year from the 'individual credits'.