From the Archives

Sounds of Music

The Krishnaswamy collection on musical instruments is yet another illustration of how an individual’s passion renders a treasure to the world. In over four decades Mr. Krishnaswamy meticulously collected, compiled and documented information on musical instruments and acquired as many specimens as possible. His rich collection consists of, among other things, photographs, slides, sketches and reprographic material.

His vast collection in IGNCA’s possession has 162 mounted photo prints of musical instruments, 392 photographs in various sizes, 1304 negatives, several of them never printed, 784 slides for projection and 30 audio spools with sound effects of 120 musical instruments. 

The musical instruments from within India have been collected from Ladakh to Kanyakumari and from Nagaland to Kutch and Bhuj. Musical instruments depicted in sculptures in India and outside, musical instruments in the countries surrounding India are all part of this visual document.

Other than these, Shri Krishnaswamy has collected material on the evolution and development of musical instruments from the early period. He has arranged them chronologically as Vedic period, Buddhist period, Gupta period, Muslim period and the modern period. Yet another compilation gives information on musical instruments in sculptures, monuments, temples, cave paintings, mural paintings, Ragatanagini paintings etc. It shows the evolution of the instruments – the various stages of the string, wind and percussion instruments during various eras from second Century B.C to 18th C A.D. This file is in a ready to publish state. 

Shri Krishnaswamy has created an encyclopaedia of musical instruments, classified as ancient, modern, classical, devotional, folk and tribal. Each entry has a caption. There are 1200 entries in it. Five registers of detailed information on musical instruments, arranged in alphabetical order contains 600 instrument in the list. 

Some of the countries from where information comes are Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Poland, Czechoslavakia and several republics of the former Soviet Union. In India, the instruments have come from 120 places, which are alphabetically arranged for quick reference. 

Shri Krishnamswamy has pointed out that several musical instruments from foreign countries bear striking resemblance to Indian instruments and some even bear Indian names. For instance, the instrument ‘yazhi’ from Tamil Nadu is strikingly similar to an instrument in Egypt and Assyria. Krishnaswamy, who worked in All India Radio for several years and retired from it, had held an exhibition of his collection of photographs. It received such acclaim, which is proof of the worth of the lifetime work done by him. 

– Mangalam Swaminathan


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