Monday, March 30, 2009

K.V. Narayanaswamy

During a recent viewing of A Composer's Notes, Michael Blackwood's Philip Glass documentary, I noticed that Glass's comments about the importance of Indian music were made during a concert in Chennai (Madras) featuring the South Indian vocalist K.V. Narayanaswamy (1923-2002). I had the fortune to hear KVN (as he was called) live only once, and it was one of the most astonishing concerts of my life. Considered one of the finest Karnatic vocalists of the 20th century, he was, in universal terms, a real classicist, with no gesture or ornament wasted. While capable of the most virtusosic runs and most complicated rhythmic patterns, the music was clearly more important to him than his own ego and he always focused on getting to the core of the raga and composition at hand. In this video (one of several of KVN on YouTube, all of them rather rough, but still valuable), in Raga Ranjani, pay close attention to the exquisite intonation of the third degree of the scale, sung to the solfege syllable "ga", especially towards the end of this clip.


Dan said...

Wow. Amazing.

Gordon Mumma said...

The musical traditions of India are so rich, particularly with the interaction of two performers, as with KVN and the violinist. Go back through recordings from the 20th Century of such as the family of the virtuoso Dagar Brothers, and wonder how the cultures from that part of the world can be so magnificent. Even with the economic an political turmoil that has resulted from the (still ongoing) Western imperialist assaults.

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