Krishna’s ‘One’ breaks new musical ground

Vocalist T.M. Krishna. Photo: Special Arrangement

Vocalist T.M. Krishna. Photo: Special Arrangement

Carnatic musicians entertain U.S. audiences all the time. But rarely do they bring to the rasikas here an entirely new medium, format and sensory experience that enthrals and challenges their traditional sensibilities in equal measure.

This mission, to break through preconceived notions in musical aesthetics, was the intention of vocalist T.M. Krishna, who this week unveiled across U.S. cities a unique Carnatic music movie titled “One,” a presentation of the artist in a variety of serene woodland settings in India, blending mellifluous ragas with the very voice of nature.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Krishna explained the conceptual process behind “One,” saying, “I do think this is the first time that such a project has been done with any kind of music. The magic is that nothing is artificial in what you hear. The sound is as it was… in the woods and hills at early hours and through the day, [and I was] physically, emotionally and intellectually responding to what is around [me]. To add to that you hear every leaf, the wind, water all being a part of the music itself.”

Mr. Krishna, who has regularly sought to break the mould of format in favour of overall experience, emphasising the spontaneous, improvisational and evolutionary aspects of music as overlaying the traditional dimensions of composition, has continued this practice at a series of concerts that he has performed at in the U.S. over the past month, including in Lanham, Maryland, on October 19.

Yet what the 90-minute film “One” effectively did was to take this to an entirely new plane in terms of Mr. Krishna’s engagement with the art and the music created.

“I have over the years moved to a different space in what music means to me and what the experience of music is,” Mr. Krishna noted, adding that singing in tranquil, lush surroundings such as the foothills and forests of the Nilgiris “allowed me to feel the air and space, actually experience beauty and let the music happen.”

To convey the profound complexity of the sounds in this work, the Dolby Atmos system was used in locations such as San Fracisco and Los Angeles, making it possible for film director P. Jayendra to place or move specific sounds anywhere in the movie theatre, including overhead, and resulting in a multi-dimensional sound experience, which made audiences feel that they were inside the film, not merely watching it.

Outlining the technical aspects of creating this innovative work, Mr. Jayendra said, “On stage or in a studio, an artiste performs to meet certain expectations. Though joyous in sharing his music, the artist is curtailed by environment from exploring his music for the sheer pleasure with no other agenda.”

Yet the aim of the team behind “One,” was to “take the artiste away from the stage [and] find a space where he could let his imagination flow unchecked,” Mr. Jayendra said, and in such an environment, often singing at 5:30 am in the morning from atop a large rock in the middle of a gliding river, Mr. Krishna had “set out on a journey to find joy in his own music,” and was oblivious to even the film crew using three cameras in live sound through seven microphones.

In an interview, Mr. Krishna testified to the transporting nature of this project, saying, “All of us have taken walks in the mountains and the woods, and everything slows down and becomes different, and you are a different person. I think that takes over and that’s what happened with me – nature, the environment, the birds the wind, rustles and the mist – it’s like magic-land.”

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 8:52:14 am |