Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Review #1: Purbayan Chatterjee and Subhankar Banerjee

I guess it served as Nashville’s consolation prize for having the Ravi Shankar concert cancelled, but Purbayan Chatterjee’s concert, with Subhankar Banerjee on tablas, could not have been better. A thoroughly satisfying and thorough performance.

Chatterjee seems very interested in contrasts. In the alap on his first piece, the evening raga Malgunji, there were many sections where he would strike a note followed by the same note with a different attack and whatever else was required to generate different combinations of harmonics to surround the pitch. These sections seemed much more concerned with the combination of timbral contrasts than in melody. In the faster sections, he and Banerjee took real delight in breaking off very vigorous, fast passages and joining together to parse out a delicate 3-note figure: the contrast between loud and soft, fast and slow, takes great technical mastery.

The ascendancy of sounds over notes came out also in the climaxes of sections, the most intense of which ended with a nearly dissonant, metallic crunch.

When Chatterjee came on stage, one noticed his very stylish glasses. He’s a young man, only 29, and although he plays this very traditional music, and seemed well-attuned to the religious dynamics of performance, one cannot believe that a young Indian engaged in a cultural field in this day and age would not be completely plugged into the breadth of global culture. You wondered what was on his iPod. And it was easy to see a linkage between his use of sounds and practices in organization of sound found in sophisticated popular music.

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