Well known musical systems of the world are the Classical system, the Modal system, the Harmonic system and the Melodic system. Individually, they make use of distinct properties of sound. But, there had been no consciously organized continuous movement of music in the form of development of sound relations. Two categories are noticeable namely creativity from memory and consciously organized continuous movement of music in the form of development of sound co-relation. Creativity from memory is primitive since the kind of sound combination is limited and accidental. The music of the Tamils is a standing example of the modal system.
All music (organization of sound) is a tool for the creation or consolidation of a community, of a totality. Music runs parallel to society, is structural and changes when society changes. Music is art, a document, the material to be used to illustrate social changes or vice versa. Tamil tradition accepts oli (sound) as the primordial energy of the universe. Sangam anthologies (Pattu and Tokai of the earliest known epoch of the Tamils) accept tinais, a tradition set by Tolkappiyam. Tinai signifies (i) the fivefold physiographic division of the land. (Kurinchi: hilly country; Palai: the dry desert region; Mullai: the forest land; Marutam the fertile low lying plains; Neital: littoral tract along the coastline), (ii) the distinctive modes of behaviour social or moral of the people of each physiographical region persons living in different regions developed certain patterns of conduct which became conventionalized into stereotyped codes, (iii) the reflection of the geographical and social characteristics on arts and literature. Tinai includes features of plant life as well as human beings, tribes and clans, gods and religious ideas all distinctive of each region. Each region is conceived as a total web of life in itself, wherein a particular type of people and their deity flourished each one of the factors influencing the others of the same region. Tinai denoted something wider than a topographical unit.
Velan Veriyatal had been performed by men as well as women. The music of the Veriyatal constitutes a communication - a prayer. It has the explicit function of reassuring; controls panic and anxiety is transformed into joy. Music fulfils a very precise function in social organization a function often termed as sacrificial. Music gains a meaning, operational beyond its own syntax. Veriyatal thus acquires special meaning at the time of the origin of Tamil society.
Music's mode of insertion into cultural activity is different. Economic wealth is not the result of the pursuit of music. As evidenced by Sangam anthologies, there is accumulation of cultural wealth. Performers and people create this wealth and we have reference to makers of instruments too. The cultural value generated is carried forward and tagged to religious observances. Cultural activity plays a major role in the transition from one social network to another. The anthologies of the age of Sangam make a favourite theme of music. Cilappatikaram gives a comprehensive picture.