A musical composition, by its general definition, is a pre-composed musical form which integrates melodic, rhythmic and poetic elements. This definition would fit a song in any category of music, including folk, devotional, and popular. It will not, however, satisfy a composition in Hindustani music. The Hindustani tradition does not, as a rule, deploy a composition as a stand-alone piece of performed music. Instead, the composition is required to function as the nucleus of the performance, and hold the entire performance together as a seamless piece of well organized music.
The composition can perform this function only if it conforms to the grammar of a particular Raga, and facilitates the insertion and integration of the various improvised movements appropriate to the genre. In the context of vocal music, ideally, the literary element should also support the emotional values (Rasa) of the Raga with appropriate poetic expression.
Though rarely performed in isolation, and normally used as a melodic-rhythmic-poetic frame for the improvisatory movements, a composition of merit commands respect as an exemplary specimen of the composer’s art and craft.
Each genre of music provides the musician with a bank of such compositions, which are composed in different Raga-s and set to rhythmic cycles appropriate to the genre, along with their prescribed tempo. Having chosen his Raga, a musician can perform either a composition from this bank, or decide to compose his own. Most musicians accept their own limitations as composers, and find it convenient to draw upon familiar and time-tested musical material in the public domain.