Chennai Mathematical Institute


2.00 p.m.
The Ancient Indian Tone System in Mathematics and Music Practice

Dr. Emmie te Nijenhuis



In this lecture Dr. Emmie te Nijenhuis will discuss mathematical concepts of intonation and their application in ancient Indian music practice, basing herself upon relevant texts from Sanskrit and Tamil literature. The famous experiment with the two harps (vina) which Bharata describes in the Natyasastra to prove the existence of the sruti as micro-interval and unit of tone measurement has in cause of time fascinated many Indian as well as Western scholars. The enigma can only be solved, if we compare the ancient theoretical concepts of the Sanskrit sources with the actual tuning devices of the harp as given in Tamil literature.

Dr. Nijenhuis hopes that discussions with the scholars will lead to new research experiments with the ancient Indian tuning system.

Emmie te Nijenhuis, born on the 11th of Nov. 1931 at Bussum, The Netherlands, studied Western Musicology, Classical Piano and Sanskrit. After teaching Western music for several years she specialized in Indian Musicology (PhD 1970 Utrecht Univ.) and worked for 25 years as Associate Prof. of Indian Musicology at the Utrecht University (1964-1988).

She gave guest lectures at the Universities of Amsterdam (1975), Oxford (1978), Basel (1984), Groningen (1988), Leiden (1995) and Chennai (1999). Since 1978 she is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

Her publications include historical works such as Indian Music: History and Structure (1974) and Musicological Literature (1977), editions and English translations of Sanskrit texts on Sangitasastra (Dattilam 1970; Sangitasiromani 1992), as well as analytical studies of South Indian music practice with transcriptions in staff notation showing gamaka details (The Ragas of Somanatha 1976; Sacred Songs of India 1987; Varnam 2001).

Recently she started a film and video project on traditional South Indian Bhajana and Harikatha. For more information see: