Masters Profile: Composers

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.

This specialisation revolves around rhythmical devices/complexities 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 below mentioned Karnatic concepts with western concepts of orchestration, counterpoint and  polyphony is a must within the program.

The material focuses on the following:

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.
  • Formal and structural concepts: Developmental techniques, different types of forms. Usage of South-Indian geometrical concepts to apply on macro and micro structures.

2) Practical exercises and homework based on the theory.

3) Extensive listening and analysis of recorded material.


The masters profile comprises the following elements:

  • Following a CMtNWT composition class each year
  • Following the so-called ‘Reading ensemble’ class each year, working on the most important techniques in order to internalise the concepts seen in the composition class, but using only ‘solkattu’ (rhythmical syllables). No instrument is needed unless the student so desires.
  • Attendance to bi-weekly sessions where the ‘roots’ of the material, as well as what other creators have done or are doing with Karnatic rhythmical concepts, will be listened to and analysed within a musical context.
  • Individual coaching in order to help the student in the process of
    a) Composing 2 pieces  (6-8 min), to be prepared during beginning October-beginning December and mid-December-3rd week of February
    b) Composing a larger piece (ca 10-12 min) for a larger ensemble, to be prepared during beginning March-mid June.

The student can present his/her own idea or project, provided that the amount of work will at least equal the amount of work foreseen for the pieces.
These pieces are not meant to be a workload added to what the student has to create throughout the year but simply a shift on focus on the material to be used for those pieces.

Students will be awarded 30 credits as part of the main subject (15 credits per year).

Structure of credits distribution in the classical department:
-Main subject                 50 credits
-Masters profile              30 credits
-Masters elective           20 credits
-Research/thesis           10 credits
-Individual credits          10 credits

Therefore, students specialising in ‘Karnatic rhythm in western music’ are not exclusively  taking courses on this subject, but they are quite free to also choose other subjects of their liking.

All pieces prepared in these two years can be used for the MA1 exam as well as the graduation recital.