Comic Verse About Indian Music, part 2

“Oral Tradition: Some Hidden Aspects — or, The Ustad’s Advice.”

When I was in my early days,
I fell in love with raags,
Though my mother said the singers
Sounded more like frogs.

I learned to sing the alap,
I learned to sing the cheez,
My taan became proficient,
But still it failed to please.

I asked an ancient ustad,
how to make a lovely note.
“My son,” he said, “it just requires
a clearing of the throat.”

“You start down in the glottis,
and gargle up some phlegm,
then bring it through your larynx
for a truly great ACC-HEM!”

“My son,” he then continued,
“Your music won’t be great, ’till
You can make a wad of mucus,
Stained red from years of betel.”

I listened to the records
Of the pandits and ustads;
’twas true, I found: the greatest singers
Made the biggest wads.

When Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
Throws all his weight around,
His taans, alaps, and gamaks
Produce a stirring sound.

But he’s got something else, my friends,
Which modern singers lack:
A wonderfully resonating way
of going “Aaaaaaak!”

I heard the maestro Faiyaaz Khan,
who sang in days of yore:
He’d scrape his learned larynx,
and bring up more…and more.

Paluskar’s hack was beautiful,
And likewise Amir Khan…
But now this great tradition,
it seems cannot go on.

The modern crowd of singers
Will stay forever small,
For though they may sing sweetly,
They cannot cough at all.

An Obscure Genre: Comic Verse About Indian Classical Music, part 1.

“Intonational Variation in Oral Tradition — or, Tutti Shruti”

In bygone days in India, the emperor Akbar
Had in his court a singer who was known both near and far.

He had a wondrous repertoire, there was no doubt of that —
But every note in every raga came out slightly flat.

Because his voice was out of tune, they called him Besur Khan,
He founded a tradition, so his gayaki lives on.

For he had some disciples, and they disciples too —
And all of them sing ragas in a loud, discordant moo.

And if you ask them nowadays, “why do you sing so flat?”
They’ll say, “it’s our gharana.”
That’s all there is to that.

Making It Happen!

The Beauty of Khyal — A Recital of Night Ragas

I’m as happy with this recording as I’ve ever been. The recording session we did on August 16 of this year was wonderfully productive, and this CD represents the first installment of the raga performances Milind Pote, Chaitanya Kunte, and I laid down that night.

Please pitch in. You’ll love this music.

Bandra Concert, August 21, 2013

The music this evening was just gorgeous. Mukta Raste’s beautiful theka was inspiring and supportive, and Ravindra Lomate played excellent sangat on harmonium. The Bandra Base is a once-in-a-lifetime room: small, sympathetic, filled with excellent resonance and history. Dee Wood, proprietor of the Base, made the farmaish for Malkauns. I’m glad he did; this performance came out with lots of bhaav.

Mora bolere – vilambit teentaal
Banwari mori manata nahin – drut teentaal
Tarana – drut teentaal

Warren Senders – voice
Mukta Raste – tabla
Ravindra Lomate – harmonium

August 21, 2013
The Bandra Base, Bandra, Mumbai, India

Peer na jaanire – vilambit ektaal
Man man ab to man – drut ektaal
tarana – drut teentaal

Warren Senders – voice
Mukta Raste – tabla
Ravindra Lomate – harmonium

August 21, 2013
The Bandra Base, Bandra, Mumbai, India

Horn Gamelan (1990)

Back in my college days, I began working on a piece which would employ my very rudimentary understanding of gamelan structure to a brass ensemble. I worked on “Horn Gamelan” for a long time, filling in hundreds of teeny-tiny notes on a big folder of score paper, then copying out all the parts by hand. There were five sections, all timbrally more or less identical. The piece was performed in 1981 at a concert I produced at Boston’s Studio Red Top, a performance space run by Cathy Lee. That evening was a sort of “graduation recital” for my final year at Campus-Free-College (Beacon College).

For a long time after that the score lay dormant. In 1990 I was awarded a little grant from Meet The Composer, and part of it allowed me to resurrect Horn Gamelan. I picked the two best movements, wrote a fanfare/introduction (which included a sitar improvisation by my wife Vijaya) and an interlude which evoked some of the timbres of Sundanese music, and had a nice performance that evening. Somewhere I have a videotape of it…wish I could find it!

Here is the recording of my revised “Horn Gamelan” from its 1990 performance. Hope you enjoy it!

Interstices – String Quartet (composed 1984, performed 1993)

“Interstices” had its origin in a chart I wrote for the first incarnation of Antigravity, which included all the basic ingredients: a seven-beat vamp, a twisted melody in a Phrygian Maj7 scale, and the superimposition of 6-beat groups on the 7-beat structure to create a 42-beat cross-rhythm. But I feel that the full realization of these ideas was only made possible by the quartet format.

I composed the string quartet score of “Interstices” in 1984 on a visit to New Paltz, NY. The project was originally undertaken as a project for Mimi Rabson’s R.E.S.Q. (Really Eclectic String Quartet), which played it in a recording session before I left for India the first time in 1985.

The version for RESQ was through-composed for their unusual orchestration of 3 violins and bass. Their version sounded great and was the only recorded rendition for many years. In 1990 I assembled a “New Ensemble Music” concert and prepared the piece for performance by 2 violins, viola, and bass — but the woman who was to play 2nd violin disappeared 10 days before the concert and never returned, and it wound up being performed as a trio.

In 1993 I put together another “New Ensemble Music” concert, and this time I got lucky. John Styklunas was playing bass, and he brought his colleague Steve Garrett in on ‘cello; I rewrote the viola part for ‘cello, and I think it sounds great that way. Teresa Marrin and Tomoko Iwamoto did a great job on both violins. There is no distinction between first and second fiddles in terms of the complexity or ranking of the parts.

Antigravity: Boogie For Hanuman

The second Antigravity CD, “Boogie For Hanuman,” was recorded during our year in India in 1994. Caroline Dillon added her ‘cello on some of the tracks. Finding Nikhil Sohoni as our drummer was an extraordinary piece of luck; he threw himself into learning the material with incredible focus. Ensemble morale was very high throughout…and because I’d taken the precaution of loading my suitcases with 1/2″ 8-track AMPEX tape, I was able to bring back the recordings and mix them later (which didn’t stop me from screwing up the mix as it went on the CD…not enough bass!).

Anyway, here are the pieces…hope you enjoy them. We loved making this CD.

Boogie For Hanuman

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Dadar Concert, August 13, 2013

Ragas Purvi, Nayaki Kanada, Khamaj (Tappa-ang thumri), and a Sindhi lok-geet — all performed in what appeared to be the world’s largest shower stall. With Mukta Raste – tabla, and Ravindra Lomate – harmonium. Thanks to Nandu Dhaneshwar and Neela Bhagwat for arranging this program at Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh.

Music videos are below the fold:

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Toronto Concert, July 20, 2013

Toronto, June 20, 2013. Ragas Kamod, Nayaki Kanada, Pahadi, Bhairavi. With Ravi Naimpally on tabla and Raya Bidaye on harmonium, performing under the auspices of Toronto’s Raga Mala society.

Music videos below the fold:

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Pune Concert, August 11, 2013

A mehfil at a private residence in Pune, with Chaitanya Kunte on harmonium and Milind Pote on tabla. A dream team of accompanists, and made more special by the presence in the audience of Rajeev, Medha, and Eeshan Devasthali. A lovely evening.

Here are ragas Chhayanat, Bihagada, Jayant Kanada, Khamaj, Gorakh Kalyan and Bhairavi. There are some other short items which I haven’t posted yet.

Music videos below the fold:

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