Questionnaire Ganesh Anandan
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 the two classical musics of the west and India have evolved very differently and consequently they are worlds apart. In general the Indian system either solo with tambura or drone instrument and a percussionist or in a small group setting. Whereas its counterpart in the west has developed a highly evolved harmonic system that involves written compositions and arrangements for a multitude of instruments played simultaenously.
Trying to combine the two worlds does take away something from each others universe and this is a fact. So in order for it to work concessions need to be made by both systems and the question is what kind of concessions and by whom?
Some solutions could be: I think melody and rhythm exist around the world and this is common link that can be used as a starting point to work together to build a bridger between the two systems and create something in common. I also consider sound as a raw material or inspiration with which to compose such as the melody and rhythm of birds, animals, nature, city sounds.
For example, in my my piece AutoRikshaw ride I will be using environmental sounds that I recorded in my neighbourhood in Bangalore city. There are three sections where ther are temple bells, mosque prayers, birds, a train and traffic sounds that are used Apart from melody and rhythm the Ensemble will play some written material and improvise within these ambient sections.
I am excited about the piece and am really looking forward to rehearsing it with the Ensemble and finally to see if it works.
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?
I had made some choices during our workshops but couldn't get certain instrumentist that I wanted like contra Bass because he couldnt be at two places at the same time so consequently the musicians that were chosen for me was a curious mixture of 3 Brass players, one cello, a pianist and one percussionist. I tried a few things with them - somethings worked and somethings didn't.
On comming back home I decided to work with what I had and also requested Sandeep Baghwati to have the addition of a contra Bass player as part of my piece. I started composing accordingly and forced myself to find ways to use these instruments. It is a turning out to be a great learning experience in discovering what types of combinations sound good and what dont among other things.
Right now I am half way into the composition and I'm working in a studio with sampled sounds so I am able to re-create the actual piece and make changes as I go along. This process allows me to work aurally and since I was trained in an oral tradition it feels good to hear the parts being played as I go along with the composition. I am starting to get bit anxious but excited about the whole thing comming together and really eager to hear the piece being played by the Ensemble.
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?
Western composers who write parts for many people have obviously spent a lot of time studying arrangement and learning the art of doing so. The Indian musician / composer in a soloist tradition puts emphasis on micro tonal slides, melody, rhythm and improvisation when he or she composes.
So an Indian musician composing for the EM is a daunting task considering the foreign language and instruments and he or she will probably resort to working with familiar elements as mentioned above.
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?
There has been surprises both pleasant and unpleasant but generally for me the whole experience has been very positive. In the end I dont think we are going to play Indian music or western contemporary music either but maybe a little bit of both and somehow during this process bridge gaps and try to find common ground to explore and develop.
I have been living in Canada and over the years I have become familiar with the reality of writing down parts for musicians. In terms of communicating Indian concepts and ideas it is still not obvious or easy to do so on a written score. Although some elements are common to both systems like themes, rhythm cycles , coda and cadential material, the improvisatory nature of Indian music is one of the keys to the development of a composition infact it is like "Comprovisation" if I can use that word!
So in my composition there are written parts and three ambient sections with recorded environmental sounds in which there will be improvisation. In the improvised sections there will be notation such play bird calls and buzzing of cicattas. Certain instrumentists will also be asked to listen to the environmental sounds and react to it in his or her own way. While this is going on there will be short composed cells of material that two musicians would be asked to be play in unison whenever they choose to.
The music of Autorikshaw ride (a three wheeled rikshaw / taxi ), could be compared to a short film that takes you on a journey and tells you a story about the different soundscapes in my neighbourhood in Bangalore city. In the music the Autorikshaw as an entity that is recognisable by an ostinato that weaves in and out through the piece that takes you to different types of soundscapes.