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Classical

The Resonance Between

The Resonance Between
The Resonance Between
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Hindustani classical music has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with audiophile recording almost from its introduction in the West. It has also stimulated some of the first experiments in “fusion” music.

In 1955, celebrated violinist Yehudi Menuhin invited sitarist Ravi Shankar to perform at MOMA. Shankar had to decline, but his brother-in-law, sarodiya Ali Akbar Khan (son and fellow disciple of sarod legend Allauddin Khan) played instead. The next year, Shankar recorded Three Classical Ragas in Abbey Road studios—only the second Indian classical program to be recorded on LP. Khan, of course had made the first LP the previous year while in New York.

In 1965, Khan began teaching in America and in 1967 opened the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in California. Meanwhile Shankar had developed a jazz following and recorded several albums for Richard Bock of World Pacific/Pacific Jazz. Better known today are his friendship with and influence on Beatle George Harrison, culminating in the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, the first major rock concert for charity.

In June 1966, Menuhin and Shankar performed together for the first time at the Bath Festival. A few days later at Abbey Road they recorded West Meets East, a critical and sonic success that spent six months atop the classical charts and won a chamber music Grammy—the first for any Asian music.

As Hindustani music began to find a Western audience, the Connoisseur Society commissioned David B. Jones to record 11 albums between 1966 and 1974 featuring Ali Akbar Khan. Made using four Sony C37 microphones, an Ampex recorder running half-inch tape at 30 ips, and custom tube electronics, these sessions remain the benchmark for lifelike balance and presence in this repertoire. They were reissued on CD as the Signature Series by AMMP, the label associated with the Khan College, with the involvement of high-end designer Mark Levinson.

The Resonance Between carries on several traditions. Sarodiya Alam Khan and sitarist Arjun K. Verna are both students of Ali Akbar Khan; Alam is his son. Their collaboration with tablaist Nilan Chaudhuri, the adventurous Del Sol Quartet, and composer Jack Perla continues the exploration of melding Western and Hindustani elements. And it was released with an “Audiophile Audio Production” press release.

Begun before the COVID pandemic, the project was recorded using innovative synchronized streaming during lockdown. Harmony has no function in the Indian classical tradition, so all the musicians mostly play simultaneous melodic lines. The compositions had to be notated so the quartet could read them; a custom intonation guide was also required. To make the quartet audible in the mix, complex EQ was used to tame overtones on the Indian instruments, along with a multiband transient processor to balance their perceived placement. The results are variable; while the Western strings are audible, the expressiveness of the sitar especially suffers. The are many moments of excitement and reflectiveness along with occasional modernist touches, but the album’s greatest strength may be the joyful virtuosity of its participants and its spirit of shared humanity.

Tags: CLASSICAL MUSIC

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