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'V R Sekar, son of famous violinist Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan, learnt the violin in the Karnatak style. He later became fascinated with the warm sound of the cello and picked it up'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
'When I bought my Yamaha QY20 sequencer, I started working on various versions of Rara venu gopabala. They sounded good!'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
'When I bought my Yamaha QY20 sequencer, I started working on various versions of Rara venu gopabala. They sounded good!'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
'I have known Ilaiyaraja as a guitarist, even before the beginning of his career as a film composer. I played the solo violin parts in his albums'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
'Resonance does something entirely new with two music systems that have each been around for thousands of years, and I feel that this revolutionary aspect is what lends this project merit'

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Quick links:

Read review of the Resonance album

Visit the  MSQ website
 

Narasimhan (extreme left) with Sekar, Murali and Chandran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Interview

'A revolutionary marriage'

V S Narasimhan explains how Resonance combines two grand music systems that have been around for thousands of years, and looks back on the hurdles and joys of the union


Tell us about your string quartet. Do you practise and perform regularly? Can you tell us a little about each musician?

The Madras String Quartet was formed in 1993. Its members are V R Sekar (cellist), B J Chandran (viola), K Murali (violin) and myself. We are all professional musicians, earning our livelihood in the film industry.

I enjoyed the experience of doing chamber music (Western) with my colleagues way back in the early 1960s. We met every Sunday to practise. The group was christened Madras Chamber Orchestra and I was leading it. We performed with many visiting artistes from the UK, Germany and the USA. We also took up opportunities to participate in their master classes. After many years, there was what one could term a crisis in the film-industry, and this led to the unfortunate disbanding of the group.

But due to our continued love and passion for chamber music, Sekar and I thought of forming a string quartet. The talented young violinist Chandran readily switched to the viola (though he is a violinist), and to form a quartet. Murali was also roped in. Thus the Madras String Quartet was born.

We keep Sunday as a regular meeting day for the joy of making music! We perform regularly and recording the album Resonance has been very rewarding.

About each of us:

I learnt the violin (Karnatak music) at a very early age from my father V Sreenivasa Iyengar, a gottuvadyam vidwan. I accompanied him at his gottuvadyam concerts at many places in Karnataka. As a boy, I happened to play in film recording sessions in Mysore and Madras, and later took this up as a profession. I was also introduced to the Western violin and studied with Adrian L'Armand (of Australia).

V R Sekar, son of the famous violinist Kunnakkudi R Vaidyanathan, took his initial music lessons on the violin in the Karnatak style. Later, he became fascinated with the warm sound of the cello and picked it up as his instrument. Though he initially studied with cellist Michael Rozario, Sekar is essentially self-taught. Currently, he is one of the most sought-after cellists in India.

B J Chandran is the son of veteran violinist Bhadram, who hails from Andhra Pradesh. He is an extremely talented violinist who switched to the viola for the sake of the quartet, and his musical expertise made the transition smooth. Though Chandran studied with a few teachers in Madras, he is also largely self-taught and has carved a niche for himself in the film music industry.

K Murali is the son of Krishna of Krishna-Chakra, music director duo. He studied violin at an early age and has always been a hard worker. He contributed a great deal to the MSQ until he resigned, after the completion of Resonance.

P Mohan Rao is the son of violinist Narasinga Rao, and took the place vacated by his brother-in-law. Mohan is a talented young violinist who is busy in films.

Who thought of the idea of playing traditional Karnatak  compositions against a background of Western harmonies?

As a violinist in films, I was also interested in the theory of Western Music. When I bought my Yamaha QY20 sequencer, I started working on various versions of Rara venu gopabala. They sounded good! This gave rise to the idea of playing traditional Karnatak music compositions against a background of Western harmonies.

Who composed the Western score? Did you have some practice sessions before you recorded this album? Where did you record it and was it done at one go, on one day, or over a couple of days?

With my experience in the study of harmony, I arranged the pieces chosen for the string quartet. We had practice sessions spread over three months before the recording of the album. Balaraman recorded it at VGP Studios in Madras over three days.

How come the tape is released by a New York company and distributed by a Delhi company? Who is Rangasamy Parthasarathy and how did he come into the picture?

Rangasamy Parthasarathy is an old time music director, an old friend of mine and proprietor and chairman of Oriental Records. In November 1999, when he told me that he wanted to do a unique project, I suggested what I had in mind. He said he liked the idea and agreed to produce and market it. Thus Resonance was brought out on CD and tape.

Were you in any way inspired by Ilaiyaraja's experiments in albums like 'How to Name it' and 'Nothing But Wind'? He has composed Western harmonies for 'Tulasi dalamula' in raga Mayalavagoula, and also used Indian ragas like Malkauns/Hindola in his thematic compositions.

I have known Ilaiyaraja as a guitarist, even before the beginning of his career as a film composer. I played the solo violin parts in his albums How to Name it and Nothing But Wind. I was certainly inspired by those previous projects, but I saw the potential in Resonance to be even more revolutionary in terms of the dualism brought about by combining Indian and Western harmonies in this particular fashion.

Have you heard of Chitravina Ravikiran's idea of melharmony, where musicians stick to the grammatical rules governing a raga even when they create harmonies? We notice that you have created minor-chord harmonies for a predominantly major scale raga like Yaman Kalyani (Krishna nee begane baaro). What principles did you go by when you wrote the score?

I have not listened to Chitravina Ravikiran's work. I have simply followed the basic principles of harmony in arranging the pieces.

Are there some ragas for which you can compose harmonies easily, and some which turn out more difficult? Would it be correct to say that sampoorna ragas like Shankarabharanam offer greater harmonic possibilities than a more complicated sampoorna oudhava raga like Saramati? How did you select the compositions for this album? Did you consciously choose a mix of slow and fast tempo compositions?

Yes. There are certain ragas that give in easily to the treatment of harmonizing and some don't. It all depends on one's understanding of the music systems one deals with. I did choose the pieces with the idea of having a variety of tempos and moods.

You bring restraint and seriousness even to fast compositions like Shara shara samarai and Raghuvamsa sutha , which musicians usually use to show off their speed. You play each composition with deeply felt emotion, expressed through very sensitive nuances. Tell us how you felt when you recorded this album. Was it personally fulfilling?

It was very challenging when I began to write the arrangements. At times it was frustrating not being able to execute what I wanted. For many weeks I did my work of arranging the music with a passionate focus. When we tried out the arrangements live for the first time, my joy knew no bounds! It gave me immense satisfaction. I am very proud of my colleagues for their intense hard work on this album. Again, one must understand that doing something new within the confines of Indian and Western music is difficult. Resonance combines and does something entirely new with two music systems that have each been around for thousands of years, and I feel that this revolutionary aspect is what lends this project merit.

Any reviews in Western classical music journals? Do you plan to do more such recordings? How does the Indian market receive efforts like this?

The response has been very good in spite of poor marketing. We have received very encouraging appreciation from many well-known musicians abroad, like David Balakrishnan, founder member of the Turtle Island String Quartet. I am very eager to continue such work as it is very satisfying!

SRR



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