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Initiating experiences

img  Tobias Fischer

I have been involved in music since high school and every experience since then has driven me into its creative realm for exploring and composing something new. I love working with music and sound, composing and performing simply are my starting and ending points. There was never an issue or space for identity that I have to make Indian or local music because I am Indian.

Growing up in Delhi, we were more into Western music than Indian, like in school and college, bands like The stone Roses or Jesus and Mary Chain were more important to me than any other music from contemporary India. It was only later in my musical journey that I got into Indian music and understood the intricacies of the classical form and started interpreting and incorporating these concepts into my music. This was also possible because I had acquired some sort of understanding of basic music theory along with the ability and maturity that is required to grasp Indian classical music. I still only like listening to classical music from India as the other forms of contemporary Indian music are too shallow for my liking. It was the understanding of Western and electronic music that lead me to admire and understand Indian classical music and look at it from a new perspective.

Classical traditions facilitate a dialogue with the past. The classical music here in India already has very strong roots and it will continue to do so in the future. But by being a bit uptight, the classical tradition is not making way of a newer audience, this can be an issue in the future. Apart from this, I feel a lot of very talented classical musicians don't get to perform as a lot of concerts are organised around established musicians and the maximum amount of audiences flock together for the really big artists. It's a kind of a catch 22 situation. There is hardly any promotion of new artists by big established classical musicians outside of their own family. This really holds back a lot of talent as I have been to classical concerts in big venues with 80% of the seats empty. Music has become in some sort of a a fashion/fad commodity with its own trends, right now the so called Sufi music is quite on top here.

I think there is a great need for also having some kind of contemporary infusement to the classical form not just from the outside like the present fusion with electronic music but from the inside where new directions and initiatives can be taken by the younger generations of classical musicians, while changing the game.

I think my involvement with electronic music over the years has lead to more association with India traditional music and mainly classical music. I trained a bit in western classical music studied some classical music on the guitar and then moved into Latin American music and jazz and then eventually into electronic music. Like jazz, electronic music has some sort of acquired taste trait to it. Electronic music is widely perceived just as dance music, like house, techno , dubstep etc. I think this is just a small part and sometimes the lowest common denominator for the understanding of electronic music. It's aimed at entertainment. I want my music and sound projects to initiate experiences.

Indian classical music is pretty close to electronic music for me in many ways like the prominent tonality and presence of the drone instrument called the tanpura, which is used as an accompanying instrument. La Monte Young and many others were hooked to this sound of drones which is totally exploited as a form in electronic music. A lot of the music that I produced under the project name 4th world Orchestra along with Ryuta K (Tokyo) and Konrad Bayer (Munich) has been exploring the these drone aesthetics in some form. The 4th World Orchestra track 'cosmicomics' is based on different kinds of drones and I feel that drones have a characteristic of stopping time and to elongate the now.

The 'Allap' structure of free time (rhythm) is an introduction to a Raga (or composition) in Indian classical music. It is based on a free time interpretation of the Raga and these aesthetics are also justly explored in the domain of electronic music. With diFfuSed beats and 4th world Orchestra we have also tried to explore this special characteristic of 'free time' in our compositions. Even micro-tones, which are an important part of the classical tradition are investigated in electro acoustic music.

For the last six years or so I have been exploring Indian classical modes as tools for composition. I have used these modes (not in their pure form) as compositional material for my new edGeCut album. While using Indian classical scales I found new freedom as a musician and a composer as it gives me so many ideas for creation and improvisation. Actually some aesthetics of modal jazz overlap with performance and improvising aspects of Indian classical music, for example, a lot of top jazz musicians like Coltrane, Miles, Garbarek in the later part of their career were drawn towards modal jazz. I feel this is where live music is at and working with electronic music as a process has lead me to a new universe for me to discover both of them again.

Indian classical music operates inside a strict melodic structure (intervals) but just like jazz, the performer can be out of the scale/raga/ composition but has to retain the real traits of the composition or the raga. If the main say or the juice of the scale/ composition is retained, it is ok to be out of it, actually like jazz this will reflect on a deeper understanding on the performer's part. This is probably not the best way to put forward this argument - there is a super structure of notes and timing (rhythm structures), but barring this an Indian classical performance is almost improvised on the spot, everything from the free time introduction (allap) to the middle part and the ending. Actually all the timing and Rhythmic structures can be ever evolving and can change from one to the other any time. As performance art this is what jazz really wanted to be in structure. Indian classical rhythms which can be another huge subject and it uses patterns of 11, 7 ½ , 9 beats very regularly. Sometimes in a performance 3-4 time signatures are used and Kai Eckhardt and John McLaughlin were attracted towards India to explore these. For me these rhythmic patterns have become very important tools for composition.

Presently, for me as a musician I feel that it is more important for me to explore these rhythms and melodic intervals of the Indian classical music than to study some jazz and classical standards of the west.

Image by by Vijay Kate.

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