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Besides compiling information about Karnatak compositions, Nagarajan loves reading the papers and sipping coffee, "that delightful beverage of any true connoisseur of music" 






Listener's list 

A music lover has put together an impressive database of classical compositions, giving details about their ragas, talas, words and composers 


Nagarajan: exploring the list frontier You attend a concert, enjoy the music, and then go back home. You are seized by a desire to relive the experience, maybe buy a tape or CD of the raga or composition you liked so much. And then you realise you don't know the details.

Well, turns out it's enough if you remember the first line of the composition, or just the name of the singer, and you can find out whether a cassette or CD is available, or if it is available at all!

A software program developed by Nagarajan, a Bangalore music lover, is an almost encyclopedic resource for music lovers, music students, artistes experimenting or creating new music, and researchers.

Nagarajan, 72, was head of the regional office of the Indian National Scientific Documentaion Centre, which primarily helps scientists in research and information gathering. Seven years ago, he started putting together information on different aspects of Karnatak music, and has now packaged it all into a program that can sit on the window of your computer.

There are three main areas in Nagarajan's program. The first contains a list of over 15,000 compositions, arranged in alphabetical order. Against each song you find information about its raga, tala and composer.

The second section is devoted to composers. The third section is more elaborate; it gives you leads to where you can find the words. Like a library catalogue, it lists useful books in various languages that offer words, notations, and theory.

Nagarajan started out on this passion after he retired. "It's absorbing, stimulating work," he says. The scale of his work stuns you. Did one man actually sit and compile all this? But that's love of music for you. Of course he also spends happy hours reading the papers and sipping coffee, "that delightful beverage of any true connoisseur of music".

The compilation requires him to travel, read and listen. He has also compiled songs according to their themes. To do this he listens carefully to the words of each song, something he is only too happy to do.

"Artistes are very helpful and give me useful first-hand information," says he. A sub-category, which is a recent addition, lists recordings. Which means if you wonder on which tape or CD you can get a particular song, this file comes in handy.

The sources of Nagarajan's information include musicians, musicologists, librarians, and recording company representatives.

So will the outside world get to see his efforts? "Can't say when it will come out as a product," he says. In the meantime, he is determined to keep his database constantly updated. As he puts it, "New information about the past comes to light, and new events happen that deserve to be recorded in history".

Nagarajan is not too keen on publishing his work in book form. He prefers the digital database, where the juggling and sifting of information -- the hard part -- is done by the computer. His objective is to make information more easily accessible than before. Researchers till recently had to sit leafing through huge tomes, and reading reams of matter that did not interest them or have any relevance to what they were seeking. Nagarajan's software is a dream come true for them.

Gayatri Kumaraswamy

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