Questionnaire Dhruba Ghosh
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?
There are certain borders which have to be respected mutually. But there are doorways through which either side may walk through, enjoy, react, enrich the other's music or at the least oneself.
I shall restrict myself only from the Indian standpoint: In the dimension of melody, fairly common grounds exist so far as the twelve tones are concerned.
However, the striking difference begins with the micro-tonal system used in India. This is known as the shruti system. These are microtones actually performed after years of practice and special listening. These give rise to a special energy and therefore an emotion or an artistic / poetic experience when performed. This can also be understood as a feeling of elevatedness directly influenced by the use of shruti and the moves between notes. These moves are the most sensitive activity in Indian classical music. They are broadly called gamakas encompassing MEEND (glissando or slur), ANDOLAN (subtle oscillation, etc). The concept of development of a Raga performance is the next point of difference.
Then comes the domain of Rhythm, the cyclic nature of the Indian concept known as Tala. This creates its own energy field wherein one can very easily see the flowing in and flowing out of energy. The compositions resting on these time-cycles, using their abstract phono-syllables are works of poetry in sonic art.There is not any literal language and therefore cannot be used to convey any messages or communications. They exist for their own poetic beauty and can be felt and experienced by a listener from any world Indian or Western.
The Ensemble Modern performs sounds from any dimension and that is what makes them prepared to access any kind of material. Both sides only stand to gain and enrich themselves. This is possible purely because of the philosophy of the Ensemble Modern.
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?
Except for the string instruments (bowed), and wind (non-key) instruments and drums (capturing rhythmic concepts), all the other instruments are not adept at including the glissando or the Ocscillation. So theoretically speaking these are not into the Indian sensibility. But if one transcends these fundamental techniques and reaches out for the essence or the effect caused by these techniques, then it more or less leads to the same goal. Therefore it depends on the sensibility of the musician to use his instrument to a different kind of musical purpose. Music like Magic uses manipulations, illusion, camouflage, power of volume ranging from the loud to the whisper. Therefore in the hands of a highly skilled musician, virtually a vast range of musical depiction can be handled.
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?
The writing of music has never been more successful than in the Western Music. Since the fundamental diference exists in actually using the shruti or the gamakas, the Staff Notation can and should be modified by individual musicians to incorporate these elements. These modifications can remain personal to each musician or can be universalised. However the notating shruti can be quite difficult, if not near-impossible.
For this project we have had "scribes" who have listened to your musical ideas and transcribed them to Western notation. Has this process brought up any surprises, pleasant and unpleasant?
Since the purpose of the first meeting was limited in so far as acquainting with each other, the notation system has not been found to be a difficulty. But once we get closer to working the actual Shruti system and the gamakas, some serious surprises can come. But invention cannot be stopped. So a solution will be found.
Any comment is welcome!