MORSING



This tiny instrument is held in the left hand, the 'prongs' against the upper and lower front teeth! Some players hold the instrument between their teeth. It must make firm contact, but do not press too hard or you will give yourself toothache and potentially damage your teeth — lightly but firmly



The tongue, which protrudes from the mouth, is made of spring steel. This is plucked with the Index finger of the right hand (backwards, not forwards) while the tone and timbre are adjusted by changing the shape of the mouth cavity and moving the tongue — kind of speaking silently, effectively.
Further control of the sound can be achieved with the breath, but extensive use of this technique for fast, staccato effect quickly results in hyperventilation; it is better not to pass out on stage! Unusually for a percussion instrument, you can produce a very long duration note on the morsing by sucking air through it, sometimes (depending on the instrument) without even plucking it first.



Like the mridangam, the morsing is tuned to the tonic, which means you have to have one for each sruti. Fine tuning is achieved by placing small amounts of bee's wax on the end of the tongue.

Although a tiny and relatively quiet instrument, the morsing unmistakably adds to the music, reinforcing the sruti and providing a kind of textural as much as rhythmic accompaniment



When it come to the thani it is as necessary to know your lessons as it is for any of the other instruments. Be glad if you grew up speaking Tamil, or one of the worlds faster languages; it is not at all easy for a native English speaker to master konokol and, even when you have made some progress saying it it is so much harder as soon as you put the morsing to your lips!



Time was when life was unhurried and sedate. People had the time and the inclination to savour four-hour concerts. Concerts of Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer, Naina Pillai and Chitoor Subramania Pillai were often `full bench' concerts, with konnakkol and morsing artistes sharing the honours with the mridangists. Even in the 78-rpm records, upa pakkavadyams were used. Toraiyur Rajagopala Sharma had, apart from Venu Naicker on the mridangam, Seetharama Iyer playing the morsing and Parthasarathy on the kanjira. In later years, Chembai often had full bench concerts. The duration of concerts these days has shrunk to two-and-a-half hours, keeping in mind the needs of a generation that always seems to be in a hurry. Upa pakkavadyams therefore do not find a place in most concerts. The author caught up with some exponents of these instruments that are not heard as often as they used to be in the past.

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