December 12, 2012

"My brother had a house in Paris....To it came many Western classical musicians. These musicians all made the same point..."

"'Indian music,' they said, 'is beautiful when we hear it with the dancers. On its own it is repetitious and monotonous.' They talked as if Indian music were an ethnic phenomenon, just another museum piece. Even when they were being decent and kind, I was furious. And at the same time sorry for them. Indian music was so rich and varied and deep. These people hadn’t penetrated even the outer skin."

Said Ravi Shankar, who changed all that. He died yesterday, at the age of 92.

16 comments:

Paddy O said...

Is Indian music more than an ethnic phenomenon now?

Mitchell the Bat said...

"If you like our tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more."

I think it was the Mahavishnu Orchestra that demanded a minute of silence before they would play.

Dante said...

Music is such a mystery. What in evolution would make it interesting, and more interestingly, emotional?

The Indian scale contains many more notes than the Western Chromatic scale. The forms have been kept in tact by religion. That is to say, much of it is pretty ancient and hasn't adapted with new musical discoveries.

Part of appreciating music may be in the anticipation. Perhaps if you grew up listening to it, you can develop a sense for the various parts of it, and obtain the good feeling from knowing what's going to come.

I work with a lot of Indians, and I have only run a couple of experiments to see how they enjoy the great Western music that moves me so much (and always has seemed to). The one data point is a person who listened to an amazing chopin piece said it "Was interesting." Next, I want to try out Clair De Lune, which is beautiful beyond belief, to see whether that has an effect.

tiger said...

Music is truly a cultural phenomena. I've listened to some Indian music and to me it *is* monotonous, repetitious and droning.

Heck, listen to foreign rock music - it sounds a little 'off' when done by any culture other than America or England.

Or European pop vs. US pop.

And yeah, it was Mahavishnu Orchestra that asked for the silence.

dbp said...

I wouldn't know one piece of Indian music from the next, so I can't evaluate Shankar's contribution. On the other hand, he is responsible for Nora Jones and I like her music a lot.

William said...

Norah Jones will remain as his most durable contribution to western music....Indian music ranks right up there with Indian food as a source of sensual pleasure.

LordSomber said...

My personal favorite was the music he did for the movie Charly (the film version of Flowers for Algernon with Cliff Robertson).
The music was sometimes jazzy, sometimes trippy -- very impressionistic and went along with the strange cinemetography.

Methadras said...

Indian Sitar music has its rightful place in electronic music. It is so used in that genre that it has become mainstay.

ricpic said...

Ravi Shankar changed nothing. Droning is droning no matter how much cultural cachet is attached to it.

Nini said...

Ravi on utube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXXBfL5lRqE

pm317 said...

Thank you for putting this post up. I have a new found respect for him because I always thought he was a sell out but reading that, it does not look that way. I learnt of his death in the car driving home from work today.

Here is a piece of his 'montony'. The raga is called Charukeshi and he was at his best with this raga.

pm317 said...

ricpic said...
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Feel sad for you.

pm317 said...

The music was sometimes jazzy
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It sounds that way to the uninitiated. But the so called improvisations in Jazz is nothing compared to what a real talented artist can weave with Hindusthani music. They shun repetition and a real artist is expected to produce intricate permutations and combinations of the scale. Indian classical (both South Indian and Hindusthani aka North Indian) music is rooted in math and has the same 12 note scale as in Western classical and it is centuries old.

pm317 said...

Wonder if anybody wants to listen to

THIS?!

The instrument is called Shehnai and it is a wind instrument. The artist is the late venerable Bismillah Khan (very proud to say he was Indian). I had seen him play a live concert at UVA some 20 years ago. What a joy!

pm317 said...

Dante said...
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I am a serious listener of Western classical music (and Indian). I will raise your Clair de Lune (love Debussy) to Rodrigo's Aranjuez II Adagio :)

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Shankar had it right. Indian music has been polished for three times the lifespan of European forms, and its scales and rhythms are far more refined. But don't try to convince someone who thinks chord changes and written scores are the height of human creativity.

Particularly now, when melody and harmony both have been banished from western pop music in favor of rhythm and ranting at industrial strength volumes.