Perspective Music

Rich musical experience

Philharmonic orchestra

Philharmonic orchestra  

It was the result of an experiment by musicians from across the world

This newspaper carried an article (June 23) on the recent Zubin Mehta-Anoushka Shankar Berlin Philharmonic repeat (digital) by the Chennai Goethe Institut. I was also present. It emphasised the fusion aspect with a Raga Mala of Hamsadhwani, Vasantha, Mukhari, Yaman Kalyan, etc. The equivalent names in German and many other languages were given for these ragas. It was a unique experience because a Carnatic music lover listened to these ragas in a different milieu with different instruments and notations and with a conductor (unlike in Carnatic concerts). Is this pure or fusion?

I am no expert in Carnatic music, nor in Jazz. But I have read in many books on Carnatic music that, of all Western music systems, Jazz is the only one somewhat akin to Carnatic music, where there is no prior consultation or understanding among the performing musicians and it is impromptu on the stage.

The Economist of London had carried a review of a book, How to listen to Jazz. I had felt that the first para of the review largely applied to Carnatic music too: “Jazz is not a popular art-form. To its many detractors, it amounts to little more than pretentious noodling, based as it is largely on improvisation. To others, it is simply mystifying. How can an entire genre be made up of playing, again and again, variants of show tunes that were mostly composed in the 1930s and 1940s?” (much earlier in Carnatic music though).

Ted Giola, author of the book, understands why people find Jazz so esoteric. The problem, as he sees it, is that no one has ever bothered to explain what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Jazz really is. Critics hold strong opinions on whether Charlie Parker or John Coltrane is the better saxophonist, but rarely do they explain what ‘they (are) listening for.’ Mr Giola’s job is to teach jazz-lovers how to assess the music and persuade sceptics to give Jazz a go.

Chinese take

In a subsequent issue of the same newspaper, a reader wrote: “I have always enjoyed Jazz but did not know it!” Will this apply to Carnatic music too?

Our people have taken our music to the West in a big way. However, I thought that I would bring to the attention of readers a piece, again, in The Economist on November 19, 2016, that the Chinese are making a mark in the homelands of Western Classical Music i.e., having a Chinese Philharmonic!

So purity alone does not dictate the modern music world; there is fusion too. May be to fulfil this need, there was a unique concert format at the Goethe-Institut. It was an offering of a wide range of musical creations inspired by Indian and Western classical forms with a fusion of contemporary, thematic and improvisational music that blend offering a rich and veritable musical experience. It was a musical experiment by musicians from India, Germany and other parts of the world.

(Link for the review:





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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:51:48 AM |

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