Questionnaire Aneesh Pradhan
The conventional wisdom is that Indian classical music and Western classical music are worlds apart and that any attempt to come together in anyway would lessen the strength of one or the other. In our short time together have you found any points of reference or points of departure for further exploration which contradict this idea?
I think musical systems evolve, adapting various influences both from within the same cultural milieu and from without. Indian music has experienced this over centuries and there have been conscious and unconscious attempts on the Indian and Western sides to incorporate aspects from each other's musical systems. Consequently, I do not quite agree even with the conventional idea of both being separated by a great divide.
I have always been intrigued by the Western method of harmony and of multi-layering different textures, notes, timbres. In fact, I was so drawn to this particular aspect that I wanted to add this dimension to traditional Indian renditions. Needless to say, this was not a new step and there were several attempts made in the past by others in this direction. But, for me, this was a new challenge, and my brief work with the Ensemble Modern has brought this aspect into sharp focus for me. Before my interaction with the Ensemble, I had the opportunity of listening to Western instruments being stretched beyond their conventional limits on recordings. But the Ensemble's musicianship and ability to produce various textures from their instruments also opened many doors. Indian instruments have also undergone several structural changes and physical structure and stylistic evolution have constantly influenced each other. However, it is seldom that Indian instruments have been used in a manner that would not be considered within the parameters of conventional musical perspective. And to this extent, the interface with the Ensemble was a revelation. Only time will tell whether or not I would use this device in the Indian context, as I still need to make it an integral part of my musical worldview, but I cannot ignore the possibility of experimenting.
From the instruments presented by the EM have you found any instrument that is really far away from the Indian musical sensibility? Or put another way, is there an instrument that you will definitely not be usind - and why?
The Indian musical sensibility has grown to be quite composite with strains of various musical systems floating in from all sides. These may have been peripheral to Indian music, but most Western instruments have been heard in India in performance or on recordings. I, therefore, did not feel any instrument was far removed from my own sensibility and I was open to using any instrument. Naturally, I have chosen instruments, which would lend themselves aptly to my compositions and was advised in this regard by composer Sandeep Bhagwati.
In Indian music the composer and performer are the same person. In writing music for the EM with the inevitable separation are there any striking limits and freedoms that arise?
While the combination of the two roles can be seen in traditional Indian forms, it not always true of popular music or other forms of music. Consequently, the concept of separate roles for composer and performer is not altogether alien to India. Even so, it gives a different perspective when listening to one's composition without being a part of the performing ensemble. It gives one a more objective view of the composition and enables the composer to make changes in the composition. Unfortunately, the lack of time and opportunity to have full-length rehearsals with the Ensemble Modern, did not allow me to take advantage of this possibility. But I am sure the few rehearsals that we will have in Frankfurt leading up to the performances, will help me in this respect.