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    Gustavo Dudamel, superestrella de la música clásica, dirigirá la Ópera de París

    En una jugada maestra, la venerable compañía ha contratado como su próximo director musical al excepcional artista clásico que también ha conquistado la fama en la cultura popular.En un golpe maestro de la venerable Ópera de París, fundada en 1669 por Luis XIV, la compañía anunció el viernes que el conductor superestrella Gustavo Dudamel será su próximo director musical.Dudamel, líder musical de la Filarmónica de Los Ángeles desde 2009 e inusual artista clásico que ha cosechado un estatus de celebridad de la cultura pop, solo ha dirigido una única producción en París: La Bohème en 2017. Y, aunque en Los Ángeles ha jugueteado con el repertorio operístico, tanto en la Ópera Metropolitana como en otros escenarios, es más conocido como conductor sinfónico.Pero para quienes han seguido de cerca el ascenso constante de Dudamel en los últimos 15 años, no será sorpresa otro gran nombramiento. El nuevo puesto es un hito en la magnífica carrera de un artista que se hizo renombre como niño prodigio con las orquestas en Norte y Sudamérica y que ahora, a los 40 años, tomará las riendas de una de las compañías de ópera más antiguas de Europa. Ocupará el cargo a partir de agosto, en principio por seis años, superpuestos en gran parte con su trabajo en Los Ángeles, donde su contrato actual llega hasta la temporada 2025-26.Dudamel —nacido en Venezuela en 1981 y formado ahí por El Sistema, el programa gratuito subsidiado por el gobierno que enseña música a los niños en las zonas más pobres— ocupa una posición única en el mundo de la música. Lo asedian las principales orquestas, entre ellas la Filarmónica de Berlín y la Filarmónica de Viena.Pero también ha actuado en un espectáculo de medio tiempo del Súper Bowl, apareció como Trollzart en el filme animado Trolls Gira Mundial, dirige la música en la próxima versión fílmica de Steven Spielberg de West Side Story e inspiró un personaje desmelenado en la serie de Amazon Mozart en la Jungla. En 2019 recibió una estrella en el Paseo de la Fama de Hollywood.Sin duda, su renombre será una inyección de energía para la Ópera de París que, como otras organizaciones artísticas, contempla cautelosamente volver a presentarse ante su audiencia tradicional tras el largo cierre pandémico al tiempo que busca captar nuevos asistentes. Con un generoso subsidio del gobierno francés, la compañía —cuyo director Alexander Neef, asumió el cargo el otoño pasado— ha expandido su audiencia en los últimos años, pero aún enfrenta la presión de los agitados debates sobre la representación racial y la relevancia de las costosas formas artísticas clásicas.Ya no se acostumbra —especialmente fuera de los países germanohablantes— que los directores musicales de ópera inicien como pianistas y entrenadores de voz y asciendan el escalafón de la compañía, tal como hizo el antecesor de Dudamel en París, Philippe Jordan, de 46 años. Aunque Dudamel no cuenta con esa preparación, no es un desconocido para las principales casas operísticas. Debutó en la Scala en Milán en 2006, cuando tenía veintitantos años y al año siguiente se presentó en la Ópera Estatal de Berlín. Su primera actuación en la Ópera del Estado de Viena fue en 2016 y en la Met en 2018 con Otello de Verdi. El miércoles concluyó una temporada con Otello en Barcelona.Durante su trabajo en Los Ángeles, ha contribuido al sólido programa educativo de compromiso con la comunidad, en especial con la Orquesta Juvenil de Los Ángeles, un programa inspirado en El Sistema que se fundó en 2007. También sigue ocupando el cargo de director musical de la Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, pero después de criticar al gobierno de Venezuela en 2017, el gobierno canceló la gira internacional que estaba programada. A pesar de que no ha podido actuar con la Simón Bolívar desde entonces, aún trabaja de forma remota con la agrupación y, en ocasiones, se ha reunido fuera de Venezuela con grupos de sus integrantes.El nombramiento de Dudamel sucede dos meses después de que se dio a conocer un reporte sobre la discriminación y la diversidad en la Ópera de París, enfocado en los cambios al repertorio, el proceso de admisión de la escuela y la composición racial y étnica de su compañía interna de ballet.Pero alrededor del mundo, las compañías de ópera también han sido llamadas a diversificar su personal, elenco artístico y repertorios. Junto con Ching-Lien Wu, la recién nombrada maestra del coro de la Ópera de París, la contratación de Dudamel forma parte de un esfuerzo por cambiar el rostro de las filas ejecutivas de la compañía y su enfoque hacia la diversidad y la igualdad.Zachary Woolfe ha sido el editor de música clásica desde 2015. Antes fue crítico de la ópera en The New York Observer. @zwoolfe More

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    A Battle of Boos and Cheers at the Symphony

    In the early 1980s, John Adams’s “Grand Pianola Music” defied the seriousness of classical music. Not everyone liked that.It was 1970, and the composer John Adams was tripping on LSD.He was at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, and he wandered into a rehearsal for Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” with the eminent pianist Rudolf Serkin sitting at a Steinway.Adams saw — or thought he saw — the piano begin to stretch into a cartoonishly long limousine. A similarly fanciful vision later came to him in a dream: He imagined driving down a California highway as two Steinway grands sped past him, emitting sounds in the heroic vein of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and “Hammerklavier” Sonata.Both of these surreal episodes contributed to Adams’s eclectic and playful “Grand Pianola Music.” The piece, which premiered in 1982, had a turbulent early history, inspiring a rare chorus of boos and drawing criticism as a symptom of American consumerism. Yet many grew to adore it — enough to garner it multiple recordings, steady representation on orchestra programs and its own episode of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Sound/Stage streaming series, out Friday.Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in “Grand Pianola Music” for the orchestra’s Sound/Stage streaming series.Farah Sosa for the LA PhilIt was an acquired taste even for its creator. “I think I said something wry in ‘Hallelujah Junction’ about wanting to take ‘Grand Pianola Music’ behind the barn and shoot it,” Adams said in a recent interview, referring to his 2008 memoir.“I’m glad I didn’t shoot it,” he added with a chuckle.If audiences were slow to accept “Grand Pianola Music,” it may have been because they didn’t know what to make of its puckish rebelliousness. The beginning, a Minimalist shimmer, was familiar territory — albeit scored idiosyncratically for winds, brasses, percussion, two pianos and a trio of siren-like singers. But the finale was audaciously melodic and openhearted, in defiance of contemporary music’s persistent, thorny seriousness.Elements foreshadowed Adams’s operas “Nixon in China” and “The Death of Klinghoffer.” At the time, however, “Grand Pianola Music” seemed a strange follow-up to the sensuous “Harmonium,” and not exactly a natural predecessor of the straight-faced and symphonically cosmic “Harmonielehre.”“It begins like ‘Harmonium,’” Adams said recently. “Then I don’t know what happened. Instead of something that people would expect, this crazy thing happened where I got into B flat major, and the piano started banging away, and I learned something about myself: that I have a bit of Mark Twain in me, I guess, because I went with it.”For the most part, though, “Grand Pianola Music” isn’t so grand. The introduction swells to a brief glimpse of the finale, but then gives way to serenity and a slow passage that recalls the spare beauty of earlier American composers like Aaron Copland. (In “Hallelujah Junction,” Adams describes the work as part of a family of pieces that “evoke the American-ness of my background, sometimes with wry humor and sometimes with a reserved, gentle nostalgia.”)This first section takes up more than two-thirds of the 30-minute running time, but Adams said it’s the second and final part, “On the Dominant Divide,” that people tend to remember. It’s also what attracted the most criticism.It starts with the pianos shimmering again, over flares of brasses that build tension until a wave of arpeggios flows from the pianists. As that subsides, a brazenly anthemic melody emerges, what Adams refers to in his book as an “Ur-melodie” that sounds familiar yet unplaceable. It is repeated, bigger each time and eventually bordering on tasteless, but held back from a tipping point by a delicate balance of irony and reaching a climax with the only text in the piece: “For I have seen the promised land.” In something of a coda, the ensemble recedes, then returns with its fullest sound yet, propulsive like a plane in takeoff — and ending just as it takes flight.“John wasn’t in any way disguising some very wonderful, big, gestural, unabashed qualities that are part of his nature,” said the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who has led works by Adams for decades, including as the music director of the San Francisco Symphony from 1995 to 2020. “There’s a luxuriance in the sound, and I think a kind of ‘well, we all secretly admit that we do love certain things if we’re pressed into revealing it.’”Adams conducted the 1982 premiere at the San Francisco Symphony’s New and Unusual Music festival. It was, he recalled, “a marginal catastrophe.” The singers performed with an operatic sound, which made him realize that the piece required voices with the directness of wind instruments. And people he respected frowned on the score.Adams conducted the premiere at the San Francisco Symphony’s New and Unusual Music festival in 1982.via San Francisco Symphony“I really thought,” Adams said, “that I had made a mistake with this piece.”Mark Swed, now the Los Angeles Times’s classical music critic, heard “Grand Pianola Music” soon after, at the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival — where, he said, its tunefulness took everyone aback, programmed among works by luminaries of the European avant-garde.“People were bewildered,” he added. “We were still trying to figure John out. What happened? Did this guy go over to the dark side or what?”Swed said that he was probably “pretty pretentious about it back then,” but that he didn’t not enjoy it: “I just didn’t know that it was OK to enjoy it.”Then “Grand Pianola Music” traveled to the East Coast. The composer Jacob Druckman programmed it for the New York Philharmonic’s Horizons ’83 festival (subtitled “The New Romanticism?”) and insisted on conducting it.The orchestra was under-rehearsed, Adams said, and at any rate Druckman didn’t have a lot of experience as a conductor. Heard on an archival recording, the piece’s crucial staccatos are imprecisely pronounced, and the finale is shockingly subdued.Even more shocking, though, is the audience’s reaction. People tend to greet new music, even if they grumble about it on the way out the concert hall, with at least polite applause. There was some of that for “Grand Pianola Music” at Avery Fisher Hall; but there was also a loud contingent of boos. They cool off quickly, but roar back the moment Adams comes onstage to take a bow with the players.“All it takes is two or three people,” Adams said, “and all you hear are the boos.”Adams around 1982, when “Grand Pianola Music” premiered.Ron Scherl/Redferns, via Getty ImagesUrsula Oppens, one of the piano soloists, grabbed Adams’s hand during the bows and told him: “Oh my God, they’re actually booing. Don’t you just love it?”Who was booing, and why, is a bit of a mystery. Swed, who had traveled to New York for the Philharmonic concert, suspected an anti-West Coast bias; the audience’s reaction made him an immediate defender of the piece. The New York Times critic John Rockwell, who wrote in a review that the boos were “a telling tribute” to the piece’s “vitality,” later guessed that the hostility was “one way for determined musical modernists to protest the creeping tide of New Romanticism.” Indeed, a publication by IRCAM, the avant-garde French electronic-music institute founded by Pierre Boulez, compared “Grand Pianola Music” to the America of Disney and McDonald’s.“We were still pretty seriously in the grip of very, very severe modernism,” Adams said. “There was this sense of gravity, that contemporary music was meant to be good for you in the way that spinach is. I think people thought I was waving my nose at the whole concept of a contemporary music festival.”He wasn’t. “I think of composers I love — whether Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’ or Beethoven’s scherzos, or even those weird moments in Mahler where there’s humor,” Adams said. “And I’ve never been afraid of that.”Episodes of levity recur throughout Adams’s music; he likened the ironically effervescent British Dancing Girl aria in “The Death of Klinghoffer” to the porter scene in “Macbeth.” From that perspective, the finale of “Grand Pianola Music” seems hardly outrageous or unusual — or at all deserving of its initial reception.Adams came around on the piece, eventually deciding it was “not so bad” and finding that he enjoyed conducting it. He led the performance captured on a 2015 recording with the San Francisco Symphony, a double bill with his “Absolute Jest.” It’s an interpretation of sublime balance and articulation, the meaning of its finale — its nod to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — elevated by a clearly presented reference to “the promised land.”A new generation of conductors has also taken up “Grand Pianola Music,” such as Christian Reif, who presented it with members of the International Contemporary Ensemble at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 2018. When Reif told Adams about the coming performance, the composer responded, “Oh, you’re doing that silly piece of mine.”“This piece has so many things that I love about his music,” Reif said in an interview. “The layering of sound, the color palette of a big ensemble, the simplicity and delicacy, but also the explosions and the big dramatic, heroic moments — he doesn’t shy away. It’s unabashed, and we reveled in it.”In the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Sound/Stage episode — which blends a recently taped performance at the Hollywood Bowl with landscape video art by Deborah O’Grady, Adams’s wife — the conductor Gustavo Dudamel calls the work “one of my favorites.” His reading is impressive if only because the piece’s challenges, its inflexible rhythms and demand for absolute precision, are all the more difficult with players confined to plexiglass cubicles.“It’s a real document of the pandemic,” Adams said.Even so, Dudamel marshals a performance that radiates uplift and awe, enough to make a listener wonder what all the negativity was about in the early 1980s. Looking back, Swed said, “it sounded like John was selling out.”“But in a weird way,” he added, “maybe what he was doing was actually avant-garde.” More

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    Edinburgh Festivals Will Go Ahead, in Person and Online

    The Edinburgh International Festival, canceled last year, said it would proceed in August thanks to three specially built pavilions.Three pavilions will be built to host events for the Edinburgh International Festival this summer.Edinburgh International FestivalLONDON — The Edinburgh International Festival, a showcase of international dance, music and theater, will go ahead in front of audiences this August, the festival’s organizers said on Tuesday.The festival, which normally floods the city with tourists, was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But events will be staged Aug. 7-29 in three pavilions across Edinburgh, Fergus Linehan, the festival’s director, said in a telephone interview.The pavilions will be specially built to maximize air flow and allow social distancing, he added.The festival’s program will be released in June, Linehan said; the organizers are still waiting for a decision from the Scottish government about how many people will be allowed to attend. But the ongoing pandemic and the limits it has placed on international travel mean it will have a different flavor from normal.“In terms of the people onstage, we’re not going to be flying in a big dance company from the U.S., or an opera company from Paris,” Linehan said. “But there are individual artists coming.”The festival, which began in 1947 with the aim of uniting people through culture after World War II, is known for large-scale performances, especially of big classical and operatic works. The 2019 festival, for instance, featured the Orchestre de Paris performing epic pieces by Beethoven and Berlioz, as well as several presentations by the Komische Oper Berlin. That will also change this year. “We can’t have that many musicians onstage, and we can’t have those big choral bits,” Linehan said, but he insisted smaller works would be just as exciting and innovative.Many performances will be streamed free for international audiences, he added.Coronavirus cases have fallen rapidly in Scotland this spring thanks to an extended lockdown and a strong vaccination program. On Monday, there were only 199 new cases reported among a population of around 5 million, and no deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to Scottish Government figures.But many restrictions are still in place, including on cultural life. Museums cannot reopen until Apr. 26. Other cultural activities cannot restart until May 17 at the earliest, and even then, only with small audiences.The Edinburgh International Festival is one of a host of arts events that normally take place in the city each summer. The festival’s organizers insist the others will occur in some form, too.A spokeswoman for the scrappy Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which normally features thousands of small theater and comedy shows, said in an email that organizers were working toward an event to run Aug. 6-30. It was still unclear if the Fringe would be “digital, in person, or both,” she added.The Edinburgh International Book Festival will also proceed from Aug. 14 with in-person events “if circumstances permit,” a spokeswoman said in a telephone interview.The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a popular series of parades involving bagpipe performances by armed forces from around the world, is also set to go on. It started selling tickets last October but has not provided any updates since. On Tuesday, its organizers did not respond to a request for comment.Linehan said he hoped the International Festival’s announcement would give confidence to other events to press ahead with plans. His festival won’t make any money, he said, but that didn’t matter. “This is a really momentous moment for us,” Linehan said, adding: “It’s really important we get back to live performance.” More

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    Met Opera Players to Meet an Old Friend for a Gig, and Aid

    The musicians, who went unpaid for nearly a year, have been invited to join Fabio Luisi, their former principal conductor, and his Dallas Symphony for two benefit concerts.The musicians of the Metropolitan Opera’s orchestra, who went unpaid for nearly a year, are getting a hand from one of their old maestros, Fabio Luisi.Luisi — who was the Met’s principal conductor for more than five years, and was seen as a candidate to succeed James Levine as its music director before the post went to Yannick Nézet-Séguin — has invited the musicians to Texas at the end of the month to join the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, which he now leads, for two benefit concerts.The Dallas Symphony announced on Monday that the Met musicians would join its players for performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 on April 30 and May 1. The orchestra noted in a news release that the concerts would present the first opportunity in over a year for many of the Met’s musicians — who recently began receiving partial pay as they negotiate a new contract — to perform together for a live audience.A spokesman for the Dallas Symphony said that roughly 40 to 50 Met musicians were expected to travel to Dallas for the concerts, and added that they would be paid for the performances. The joint concerts will act as fund-raisers for the Met Orchestra Musicians’ Fund and the Dallas players’ union’s DFW Musicians Covid-19 Relief Fund; a filmed recording will be released.“As one of the few orchestras fortunate to be able to perform all season to live audiences, we are painfully aware that many of our colleagues around the country were not able to play concerts due to restrictions in their cities or the financial situation of their organization,” Kim Noltemy, the president and chief executive of the Dallas Symphony, said in a statement.Luisi said in a statement that he sought to “gather musicians together to make music” as a “symbol of solidarity.”“During my time with the Met,” he added, “I became close to many of the members of the orchestra. It is devastating that these incredible musicians have not had an opportunity to perform together in over a year.”Brad Gemeinhardt, a Met Orchestra hornist who is the chair of the committee which represents the musicians in negotiations with management, offered thanks to the Dallas orchestra. “We cannot overstate the impact this unprecedented collaboration will have on our members, both financially and artistically, after this long year of cultural famine,” Gemeinhardt said in a statement.After going without paychecks for nearly a year, members of the Met Orchestra voted last month to return to the bargaining table in exchange for temporary pay of up to $1,543 a week. The Met, which has said that the pandemic has cost $150 million in lost revenue, and its general director, Peter Gelb, are insisting on long-term pay cuts to offset those losses — cuts a number of other leading orchestras have agreed to.In January, Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s music director, agreed to give up to $50,000 in matching donations to the orchestra and chorus. After the musicians and the company reached their deal on temporary pay, he sent a letter to the Met’s leaders urging them to “find a solution to compensate our artists appropriately.”“I am finding it increasingly hard to justify what has happened,” he wrote.The Met said at the time that it shared his frustration and that all parties had been “working together for new agreements that will ensure the sustainability of the Met into the future.” On Monday afternoon, the company added in a statement that it hoped the musicians would “have an increasing number of performance opportunities between now and the fall, when we will once again be able to come together at the Met.” More

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    When Boston Ruled the Music World

    Three recent recordings conjure the mid-20th-century moment when the city was a center of innovative composition.When I moved to Massachusetts in the mid-1970s to start a doctorate at Boston University, there was a specific professor I wanted to study with: the formidable pianist Leonard Shure.But Shure was hardly the only renowned pedagogue in Boston. The city had at that point long been a hub of academic music, with distinguished programs at Harvard, Brandeis and Boston universities, the New England Conservatory, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Until I arrived, though, I didn’t realize what a center the Boston area was for contemporary music; from afar, the city had seemed to me too staid and traditional for that. But in its own buttoned-up New England way, it was a modernist hotbed. Each of those institutions was like a little fief, with eminent composers on the faculty. Each maintained active student ensembles, including many devoted exclusively to new music.If you wanted to be on the front lines of the battle between severe “uptown” music and rebellious “downtown” postmodernism, you headed to New York. If you were drawn to mavericks and intrigued by non-Western cultures, especially Asian music, you probably found your way to Los Angeles or San Francisco.But if you wanted a classic education, studying with a true master composer — and at that time, almost all the major university composers were white men — you went to Boston. But the music that emerged there in those decades has faded in favor of work from other American cities.Not entirely, however. Keeping that legacy alive is part of the mission of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and its record label BMOP/sound. The ensemble champions modern and new music from all over. But according to its founder and artistic director, Gil Rose, 40 or 45 percent of its recordings have been of works by Boston-area composers.Schuller in the late 1970s. His overlooked operatic collaboration with John Updike, “The Fisherman and His Wife,” has been recorded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.Fletcher DrakeSeveral recent releases have brought me back to my first years in the city, when composers at those various academic institutions loomed large. Three recordings are especially exciting: Gunther Schuller’s overlooked opera “The Fisherman and His Wife” and albums of orchestral works by Leon Kirchner and Harold Shapero.Schuller, who died in 2015 at 89, once described himself as a “high school dropout without a single earned degree.” Technically that was true. But he was a protean musician who in his late teens won the principal horn position at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and then, two years later, moved on to the Metropolitan Opera, where he held the same post until 1959. Yet, he also played and recorded in jazz groups with the likes of Miles Davis.When I moved to Boston, Schuller was in the final years of his transformative tenure as president of the New England Conservatory. There he had established the first degree-granting jazz program at a major American conservatory — bringing in the pianist Ran Blake to chair it as well as hiring giants to teach, including Jaki Byard and George Russell.Anticipating by decades creative practices that are commonplace today, he had coined the term “third wave” to describe music that drew from both classical and jazz genres. Schuller, who as a composer was drawn to 12-tone idioms, though not in the strictest sense, also appointed the brilliant modernist Donald Martino to lead the composition faculty. He had all the bases covered. Schuller also taught for two decades at the Tanglewood Music Center, serving as artistic director for 15 of those years, until 1984.For all his formidable skills and vision as a composer, Schuller may have been more consequential as a teacher, mentor, conductor and a tireless (sometimes shrill) agitator on behalf of contemporary music and living composers than as a writer of music himself. That perception has long seemed unfair, but it persists. Though fine pieces from his large catalog have been gaining attention, “The Fisherman and His Wife” has languished.It was commissioned as a children’s opera by the Junior League of Boston, and first performed in 1970 by Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston — though Caldwell had another composer in mind for the project when she found herself working with the imposing Schuller.The 65-minute opera, based on a familiar story by the Grimm brothers, boasts a libretto by none other than John Updike. As the story unfolds, a lowly fisherman makes repeated trips back to the restless sea to summon a magical fish he has caught and released — the fish is actually an enchanted prince — and to ask for the granting of yet another of his wife’s increasingly grandiose wishes. Schuller inventively, yet subtly, organized the score like a theme and variations. Most boldly, he wrote whole stretches of the score in his trademark modernist language — steeped in, but not beholden to, the 12-tone approach, with some jazz chords folded in.A 12-tone opera for children?Yet Schuller was on to something. The story is full of darkness, strangeness, magic, evocations of a threatening sea and cloudy skies, bitter confrontations between the wife and husband. Why not convey it through flinty, atonal music? The voice lines are written with skill to make the words come through clearly. Updike introduced the character of a cat that both meowed and talked, a charming role that Schuller assigned to a high soprano. The orchestration, for a smaller ensemble, is alive with myriad sonorities and captivating colors.Though released last year, the BMOP/sound recording was made in 2015 in collaboration with Odyssey Opera, founded by Rose, following a semi-staged concert performance. The commanding mezzo-soprano Sondra Kelly as the wife, the plaintive tenor Steven Goldstein as the fisherman and the sturdy baritone David Kravitz as the magic fish are excellent — and Rose draws glittering, swirling, mysterious playing from the orchestra. I could be wrong, but with a vivid staging, I think an audience of children would respond well to it.Schuller, an accomplished, exacting conductor, wrote a comprehensive book about conducting. Across the river in Cambridge, the respected composer and Harvard professor Leon Kirchner also had a following as a conductor back then, though he was not the most efficient technician. He was, however, a skilled pianist and a probing musician who understood how pieces were supposed to go.Leon Kirchner, a composer and conductor based at Harvard, in 1982.John GoodmanIn 1978, with the support of a dean at Harvard, Kirchner founded the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, a professional ensemble of freelance players organized purely so that Kirchner could conduct free, routinely packed concerts. With those dedicated players, he led scores like Debussy’s “La Mer” and Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony as if he had written them. A remarkable 1984 account of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with Peter Serkin as soloist, was issued recently on a Verdant World Records release, and it’s just as exhilarating and profound as I remembered.As a composer, Kirchner was powerfully influenced by his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg. Like Schuller and others of their generation, Kirchner adopted the aesthetic and approach of 12-tone music but with freedom and flair, unbound by strict rules. I do remember him being narrow-minded about composers who stuck essentially to tonal harmonic languages — let alone to Minimalism, which he could not abide.But I’ve always admired the depth, imagination and engrossing complexity of his music. Those qualities abound in five orchestral pieces on a riveting BMOC/sound recording from 2018 — particularly the 11-minute “Music for Orchestra,” from 1969. It’s a transfixing score that feels subdued in a lying-in-wait way, as if at any moment pensive stretches of lyricism could break out. And sometimes do, through cascades of skittish riffs and teeming bursts.Harold Shapero, born in Lynn, Mass., in 1920, may have been the most precociously gifted American composer of his generation, which included his friend Leonard Bernstein. As a student at Tanglewood, Shapero deeply impressed Aaron Copland. He earned the attention of his idol, Stravinsky, when that composer came as a guest to Harvard, where Shapero was a student.Harold Shapero, born in Lynn, Mass., in 1920, may have been the most precociously gifted American composer of his generation.Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty ImagesShapero set about adapting Stravinsky’s Neo-Classical style, giving it a jolt of American spunk and unfettered intricacy. From 1940 to 1950, he produced a breakthrough series of ambitious works, including his daunting 45-minute Symphony for Classical Orchestra, composed in 1947. Bernstein adored the piece and led the premiere in 1948 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He recorded it in 1953 on a single hectic day with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. Then the work disappeared until André Previn discovered it and led a triumphant performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1986, and later recorded it. You could make a case for the piece as one of the great American symphonies.The BMOC/sound album includes Shapero’s Serenade for String Orchestra from 1945, a 35-minute, five-movement score that vividly demonstrates how Shapero, while writing in a Neo-Classical idiom, was attempting to make essentially tonal music modern and challenging. The first movement is an engrossing jangle of counterpoint, yet somehow transparent. The Menuetto is like a diatonic retort to Schoenberg’s 12-tone minuets. The slow movement is weighty and searching, yet harmonically tart and suffused with tension. The finale is frenetic, pointillist and wonderfully jumpy.In 1950, Shapero helped start the music program of the newly founded Brandeis. That department soon became the unofficial headquarters of the “Boston School” of composers, as it was called, which included Irving Fine (who died in 1962, at 47) and Arthur Berger. All three began as Stravinsky-influenced Neo-Classicists. But over time, Fine and Berger slowly adopted their own brands of the 12-tone writing that was taking hold in universities, for better or worse, as the de facto language of modernism. Shapero, who died in 2013, explored the technique but never went along. He composed less and less, until he had a renewed burst of creativity running Brandeis’s electronic music studio.But he was a great mentor to countless student composers. And his life offered a lesson, a kind of warning: Stick to your guns; don’t be intimidated; write the music you want to write. They were lessons eagerly learned in the explosion of creativity happening in Boston. More

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    Tanglewood Is Back This Summer, With Beethoven and Yo-Yo Ma

    Closed last year, the Boston Symphony’s warm-weather home in the Berkshires will host an abbreviated six-week season.There won’t be the traditional, grand closing-night performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with its stage full of singers. In fact, to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of the coronavirus, there will be no vocal music at all at Tanglewood this summer.But there will still be a lot of Beethoven, along with crowd-pleasing tributes to the composer John Williams and familiar guests like Emanuel Ax, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma.Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s warm-weather home in the Berkshires, announced in March that after remaining closed last year because of the pandemic, it would open this summer for a six-week season — about half the usual length — with limited crowds and distancing requirements. On Thursday, the orchestra filled in the programming: heavy on appearances by its music director, Andris Nelsons, and with a focus on Beethoven, whose 250th birthday last year was muted because of widespread concert cancellations.Nelsons will lead eight orchestral programs, including a Beethoven opener on July 10 featuring the “Emperor” Piano Concerto, with Ax as soloist, and the Fifth Symphony. On July 23, the Boston Pops will honor Williams, who turns 90 next year and is the Pops’ laureate conductor; the following evening, Mutter gives the premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2, and on Aug. 13 Williams shares the podium for a night of film music. On July 30, the violinist Leonidas Kavakos does Beethoven trios with Ax and Ma, who also plays with the Boston Symphony under Karina Canellakis on Aug. 8. (Details are available at bso.org.)Throughout the summer, performances will last no longer than 80 minutes, without intermissions, and all concerts will take place in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, which is open on the sides. The space, which usually holds thousands, will have a reduced capacity, as will the lawn that surrounds it — a favorite spot for picnicking. Tanglewood is waiting to announce what might go forward in late summer of its well-loved series of pop performers like James Taylor.Students at the Tanglewood Music Center, the orchestra’s prestigious summer academy, will play chamber concerts on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons, and programs are planned for the Tanglewood Learning Institute, a series of lectures, talks and master classes that began with great fanfare in 2019. The orchestra will host a two-day version of its annual Festival of Contemporary Music, July 25-26.The Knights, a chamber orchestra, will be joined on July 9 by the jazz and classical pianist Aaron Diehl for Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and selections from Mary Lou Williams’s “Zodiac Suite.” Among the Boston Symphony’s guest conductors will be Thomas Adès (the orchestra’s artistic partner), Alan Gilbert, Anna Rakitina and Herbert Blomstedt; soloists include the pianists Daniil Trifonov, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Kirill Gerstein, and the violinists Baiba Skride and Lisa Batiashvili.The Tanglewood season is part of the nationwide thawing planned for this summer of a performing arts scene that has been largely frozen for over a year. The Public Theater has announced that its venerable Shakespeare in the Park will go forward, as will Santa Fe Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York. On Thursday, the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado said it would move forward with a nearly two-month season.But as they reopen, institutions are reckoning with sharp losses. As it celebrated the return of Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony said its current operating budget was $57.7 million, down from its prepandemic budget of over $100 million. The orchestra estimated that it has lost over $50 million in revenue in the last year. More

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    5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Brahms

    Listen as Carlos Santana, Branford Marsalis and others pick their favorites of the moody master of 19th-century music.In the past, we’ve chosen the five minutes or so we would play to make our friends fall in love with classical music, the piano, opera, the cello, Mozart, 21st-century composers, the violin, Baroque music, sopranos, Beethoven, the flute, string quartets and tenors.Now we want to convince those curious friends to love the music of Johannes Brahms (1833-97), master of stirring symphonic exclamations and moody piano solos. We hope you find lots here to discover and enjoy; leave your favorites in the comments.◆ ◆ ◆Isata Kanneh-Mason, pianistThe beginning of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is one of my favorite concerto openings. It’s got drama, intensity and emotion — and that’s before the piano even joins! The soloist doesn’t come in for almost four minutes while the orchestra has a long, thrilling introduction illustrating the themes of the movement. Brahms uses the full orchestra, with a lot of grandeur, so the entrance of the piano is always a beautiful surprise, coming in very lyrical and soft. And after such a long wait!Piano Concerto No. 1Krystian Zimerman, piano; Berlin Philharmonic; Simon Rattle, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon)◆ ◆ ◆Carlos Santana, guitarist and songwriterWhen my father died in 1997, I made a resolution that I wouldn’t listen to music for two months. And after two months, my father’s voice said to me, “I need you to play music now.” So I turned on the radio. I was taking my son to school, and as soon as I turned it on, I heard that melody. My father played the violin, and I felt a connection, that he was directing me to this song; it turned out it was Brahms. Not long after, we were working on “Supernatural” with Dave Matthews, and this song came up again. I shared it with Dave, and the next thing you know, it went on the album as “Love of My Life.”Symphony No. 3New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor (Sony Classical)◆ ◆ ◆Branford Marsalis, composer and saxophonistUnlike a lot of modern musicians who are hellbent on this individuality thing, I openly admit to thievery. I steal. And I steal a lot from Brahms. There are times it’s unintentional, and times it’s quite intentional. This was 50/50. I did some music for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and I wrote a melancholy piece for Toledo, the piano player in the movie, and string orchestra. I’m writing the melody and I resolved it in the third and fourth bars. I stole that second half from somewhere, but it took weeks for me to figure out where. Of course, I took it from one of Brahms’s intermezzos.Intermezzo in A minor (Op. 76, No. 7)Glenn Gould, piano (Sony Classical)◆ ◆ ◆Barbara Hendricks, sopranoMy introduction to Brahms came in 1975 at Carnegie Hall, where Herbert von Karajan was conducting the Second and Fourth Symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. I had just auditioned for him; he asked me to prepare the soprano solo from the “German Requiem” so that I could sing it at the end of the tour, and he invited me to the concert. It was an unforgettable experience. I later recorded the “Requiem” with him and the Vienna Philharmonic: I dedicate that solo to all who have lost loved ones or are suffering because of this pandemic, essential workers, and victims of conflicts and tragedies all over the world.“A German Requiem”(Deutsche Grammophon)◆ ◆ ◆Tania León, composerDedicated to Clara Schumann, this intermezzo is emotional and intense. It has a magical spell, a loving aura that gently touches the heart. The power of this music sends you to a world of introspection and intimate tranquillity. It is a piece that never dies; it alludes to something you can never grab. You listen to its poetry, and it compels you to listen again and again.Intermezzo in A (Op. 118, No. 2)Murray Perahia, piano (Sony Classical)◆ ◆ ◆Anthony Tommasini, Times chief classical music criticI love the spacious, probing, moody Brahms; the Brahms of breadth and depth; the progressive composer whose mature harmonic language anticipated the atonality of Schoenberg. But Brahms, a virtuosic pianist in his prime, also has a wild side, a showy streak. And no music better captures him in that vein than the dancing, dizzying finale of his Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, which he calls a rondo “in the Gypsy style.” On this exciting recording from 1967, Artur Rubinstein, then a month shy of 80, joins far younger members of the Guarneri Quartet.Piano Quartet No. 1(Sony Classical)◆ ◆ ◆Zachary Woolfe, Times classical music editorHere’s more of that jovial Brahms: the finale of his Violin Concerto, a dance with one foot in a sumptuous ballroom, the other in a down-and-dirty village square. After the concerto’s tender slow movement, it’s an irresistible explosion. The soloist here is the silver-toned Janine Jansen; I heard her play this not long before the pandemic began, so for me it’s a precious reminder of what came before — and what will come after.Violin ConcertoOrchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Decca)◆ ◆ ◆Bongani Ndodana-Breen, composerBrahms gave us music of great emotional depth that forces us to pause and reflect. On the whole, his musical demeanor is serious and beautifully melancholic. His “German Requiem” has lived with me since my teens in South Africa, when I first heard it at an arts festival. Three years later I would turn to it when mourning the devastating loss of my grandmother. Instead of the traditional Latin Requiem, Brahms assembled his own beautiful text from biblical sources, in a setting that gave them new meanings. From the opening motif in the cellos to the first words sung by the chorus — “Blessed are they that mourn” — we are embraced with warmth, comfort and, dare one say, love. I have had to turn to it again during this pandemic to quietly grieve the loss of close friends.“A German Requiem”WDR Symphony Orchestra; Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor◆ ◆ ◆Peter Pesic, pianist and scientistWhen I was 11, I went deaf from ear infections. After an operation, I was taken to a concert to try out my recovering hearing. The effect of this music was overwhelming. Later, I realized that no other piece of music begins like this: at the crisis, the critical moment. Over the insistent throbbing of a drum, the orchestra soars slowly upward, straining against gravity, struggling so hard yet falling short. It spoke to me even as a child. How could something so heart-rending be so beautiful? Where did this immense struggle lead? I had to know.Symphony No. 1Columbia Symphony Orchestra; Bruno Walter, conductor◆ ◆ ◆Iman Habibi, composerBrahms’s most intimate emotions manifested themselves in his final sets of piano pieces, Op. 116 to 119. My appreciation for them grew with each encounter: first, when I learned some of them as an undergraduate piano student; later, when I had the opportunity to study them in graduate school; and, most recently, as this composer’s last thoughts resounded through our home as my wife, Deborah, performed and recorded the Op. 119 set. These pieces feel personal and remarkably mature in their simplicity, teeming with an abundance of beauty and intricate detail.Intermezzo in E minor (Op. 119, No. 2)Deborah Grimmett, piano◆ ◆ ◆Hyeyung Sol Yoon, violinistI think back to my ornithologist father-in-law wondering aloud, “How was Brahms able to create music that sounds like the vastness of nature?” And to my former teacher ruminating that Brahms was always trying to write textures that were too big for a given ensemble. I listen to the slow movement of the Clarinet Quintet, and I hear, at a microscopic level, that he is creating a boundless world. It’s like seeing the sinew of the body, the veins of the leaves. There’s so much to take in: richness of the harmonies, rhythm of duplets and triplets rubbing against each other. They all gather to bind the sadness and beauty of this revelatory work.Clarinet QuintetAnthony McGill, clarinet; Pacifica Quartet (Cedille)◆ ◆ ◆Valerie Coleman, composer and flutistBrahms’s Fourth Symphony never fails to fill concert hall seats with its charm and familiar interplay between strings and woodwinds. I love it because of how it makes me feel. It’s an old friend who visits. Together we walk along a woodsy trail, laughing and reminiscing in a constant dialogue of all the happy memories of summer festivals gone by.Symphony No. 4Philadelphia Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor◆ ◆ ◆Jeff Scott, hornistWhen I went to Manhattan School of Music in the mid-1980s, I’d go to the library to do my listening homework. One day I was preparing for a reading of the Brahms Op. 40 Trio; one version looked interesting because it had been recorded at the Marlboro Festival, which I knew, even as a freshman, was prestigious. The horn player was Myron Bloom, one of the greats — though I had no idea who he was at the time. The pianist Rudolf Serkin and the violinist Michael Tree were also legends. This recording changed my perception of what classical music is — and how beautifully the French horn could fit into the canon.Horn Trio(Sony Classical)◆ ◆ ◆Simon Halsey, choral conductor“Music for the soul,” “medicine for the voice”: These are two of the comments from my singers when we made this recording of “A German Requiem.” To go deep into the text — its phrasing, diction and meaning — was part of a fascinating journey with this great choir and orchestra, savoring the instinctive understanding of the tradition; the warm, velvety choral sound; and the virtuosity of the Berlin Philharmonic. Everything came together. This piece is so well known in Germany that you can feel the audience singing along in their imaginations; it’s music that elevates us as we share it.“A German Requiem”Berlin Radio Choir and Berlin Philharmonic; Simon Rattle, conductor (Warner Classics)◆ ◆ ◆Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, Times music writerIt’s not just strange, the change from major to minor: In this breathless ride of a Scherzo, it feels violent, with existential stakes, as the two modes tussle for control with the gritted urgency of antagonists fighting atop a runaway train. The rhythm, too, veers sharply between duple and triple forms, even as the momentum barrels forward. The sense of unity and propulsive flow that grows out of this destabilizing mix of elements is uncanny — Brahms at his intoxicating and brainy best.Piano Quintet in F minorQuatuor Ébène; Akiko Yamamoto, piano (Erato)◆ ◆ ◆Seth Colter Walls, Times music writerWas Brahms a classicist or a progressive? Why not both? Wilhelm Kempff’s restrained, artful approach to the late piano works serves as a reminder of how to bring it all together. Gorgeous melodic lines are shaped with a singing quality; surprising ruptures have a teasing playfulness. And not long after the three-minute mark in a recording of Op. 119, No. 4, Kempff honors some stray, crunchy low-end notes that trouble the otherwise lilting passage — balancing Brahms’s strangeness with his grace.Rhapsody in E flat (Op. 119, No. 4)(Deutsche Grammophon)◆ ◆ ◆Hélène Grimaud, pianistWith and in music, one can withstand the ambient chaos of life and rediscover a possible harmony which doesn’t speak of lost paradise but of paradise found. Romanticism is a way of being. It is a fight for wholeness, for what is essential. It is to go toward that goal with empty hands and an open heart. Music is passion which has found its rhythm. With Brahms, the music’s inner pulse is very close to that of the human heart. Through his signature “Rückblick,” this sense of longing and looking back, his language becomes poignant beyond words.Symphony No. 3Vienna Philharmonic; Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon)◆ ◆ ◆Joshua Barone, Times editorIf anyone ever tells you that Brahms is boring or unemotional — and, bafflingly, that’s bound to happen — just respond with any of the three intermezzos of his Opus 117. After the first, a lullaby of crushing beauty, comes No. 2, in B flat minor. It too is a lullaby, with a lilting melody — as simple as the two-note phrases that open his Fourth Symphony — emerging from gently flowing runs. Despite the cascading architecture, it is not so much a passionate outpouring as an invitation, from one lonely soul to another, for five minutes of deeply felt intimacy.Intermezzo in B flat minor (Op. 117, No. 2)Radu Lupu, piano (Decca)◆ ◆ ◆David Allen, Times writerIt took me a long time to love Brahms, whose music once struck me as all too sleepy — “autumnal,” we critics often call it. It wasn’t until time forced me to learn that to live is to lose, I think, that I came to obsess over the dark side of his scores: the grief and sorrow, the loneliness and guilt, the desperation, even the anger. Nowhere is that darkness more engulfing than in his fourth and final symphony, a work with rage at its heart, whatever face it might try to maintain. And no conductor has made its horrors more consuming than Wilhelm Furtwängler.Symphony No. 4Berlin Philharmonic (Pristine Audio)◆ ◆ ◆ More

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    With Open Ears, Indian Ragas and Western Melodies Merge

    Amit Chaudhuri charts his musical journey in a new book, “Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music.”Amit Chaudhuri, an author and vocalist, blends memoir and music appreciation in “Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music,” out now from New York Review Books. In it, Chaudhuri charts a personal journey that began with a Western-oriented love for the singer-songwriter tradition, followed by a headlong immersion into Indian classical music.That heritage remained supreme for him until an accident of what he calls “mishearing” made him conscious of the elements shared by ragas and Western sounds — a realization that led to his ongoing recording and performance project “This Is Not Fusion.”In the book, Chaudhuri reflects on the raga, the framework of Indian classical music. Resisting the urge to find an analogue to Western tradition, he writes: “A raga is not a mode. That is, it isn’t a linear movement. It’s a simultaneity of notes, a constellation.” Elsewhere he adds that it is neither a melody nor a composition, neither a scale nor the sum total of its notes. In an interview, Chaudhuri gave a brief introduction to the raga and described the evolution of his musical life, from childhood to “This Is Not Fusion.” These are edited excerpts from the conversation.One of the first musical experiences I had was my mother singing Tagore songs. Growing up in Bombay, I remember the tranquil energy of her style; it wasn’t sentimental, but it was vibrant. Without realizing it, I was being drawn deeply into the sensuous immediacy of tone and tempo, and also a style that is precise, whose emotion lies in tone rather than in added sentiment.Of course, there was also “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” I spent a while infatuated with Julie Andrews. Then, when I was 7 or 8, my father bought a hi-fi record player, which came with a couple of complimentary records that I probably played a part in choosing without being informed in any way. I think one of them was by the Who, which I liked a lot; “I Can See for Miles” was one of my favorite songs. I also had a taste for the early Bee Gees, and of course the Beatles.At 12, I started to play the guitar, and by the time I was 16, I was composing songs in a kind of singer-songwriter mold. Yet at the same time I began to be drawn to Hindustani classical music for the first time.There were a few reasons. I had a teenage attraction to difficulty, and I was becoming more interested in complex tonalities. I was listening to Joni Mitchell, and I loved the fact that she could be melodious, kind of open-ended in her harmonic compositions, while at the same time quite complex. I also knew of people like Ravi Shankar, partly because of the Beatles. When we thought of Indian classical music, we basically thought of instrumental music: tabla players playing really exciting rhythmic patterns, getting applause at the end of their improvisatory spells, and of course the sitar and sarod. Vocal music seemed to be a little out of the way, arcane.But then I heard Vishmadev Chatterjee — what an amazing voice. And at this time, there was also this man, Govind Prasad Jaipurwale, who began teaching my mother Hindi devotionals. I realized that while teaching her, he was doing tiny improvisations with his voice, which pointed to a different kind of imagination and training. I began to be receptive to the kind of Indian classical music that had always been there, but which I had shut out. I asked my mother whether I could learn classical music.For some time, different types of music lived alongside one another. I played a bit of rock guitar. And I worked on an album that I thought was my way of becoming a singer-songwriter. My song “Shame” comes from that time. Its tune begins with the note C-sharp, then with the word “shame” in the chorus returns to C-sharp. It goes to that note after touching C — so chromatic notes are introduced at the end of the chorus, with a degree of estrangement, as the chords are C major and A major. Here, I think I was already responding to the way notes in North Indian classical music create a hypnotic effect through small shifts.Then I began to practice Indian classical music a lot, about four and a half hours a day. And I spent a lot of time listening to music, trying to comprehend what is happening with the time cycles, then trying to sing to them and improvise. So obviously that began to take over some of the other musical activity.I should say that a raga is not a tune. It’s not a note, not a scale, not a composition — although the raga is sung in the framework of a composition. But you can identify the raga from a particular arrangement of notes that have to do with the way they’re ascending and descending; a particular pattern in the ascent and a particular pattern in the descent identifies the raga.You cannot introduce notes which aren’t there in the raga, but you can slow it down. You can evade presenting the delineation immediately. That evasion is partly where the imagination and the creativity lie. You could climb up to the octave, and then you are done with what’s basically a cluster of notes that could be sung in a minute in a song. But doing this over 30, maybe even 40, minutes — that becomes an expansive idea of creation, not just delineating or stating, but finding different ways of saying. That’s what’s at work here, in the khayal form especially.The expanded time cycle allows you to explore these notes, to make the ascent and descent very slowly. The ear might recognize the fast version of the ektaal rhythmic system, which sounds like the normal version.The fast ektaalAmit ChaudhuriNow, when that added space occurs, you don’t keep time in an ordinary sense, but you are aware that the 12 beats of the ektaal have been multiplied, each one by four beats, until it ends, and you come back to the beginning.The slow ektaalAmit ChaudhuriSo there’s this kind of time remaining to sing and elaborate a bit on the progression. That’s an extraordinary modernist development. You can hear it in the raga Darbari by Ustad Amir Khan. It’s an amazing recording.Ragas are basically found material. Indians might say there are 83 of them, or a thousand; I don’t know. No more than maybe 50 ragas are sung today in the North Indian classical tradition. And maybe there are 30 that you hear over and over again, taking into account the fact that we don’t hear the morning and afternoon ragas because concerts are in the evening.That’s because ragas have specific times and seasons. The raga Shree is associated with twilight and evening.And the raga Basant, which has almost the same notes, is sung in the spring.If architecture is a language with which to understand space and time, so is the raga. It’s also like language. For instance, you don’t use the word evening to refer to morning. Similarly, you don’t sing the morning raga Bhairav in the evening. With recordings, though, you can, if you wish, listen to ragas at any time of the day. Until the recording studios came along, ragas came to life only ephemerally.So this was primarily the music that I practiced. The singer-songwriter had gone into permanent retirement. But by the late 1990s, that zeal of the convert that had possessed me when I was younger had passed, and I began to return to my record collection and listen to Jimi Hendrix. Bent notes, the blues, the raga Gujri Todi — all of that came together as I was listening. A moment of “mishearing” occurred when I thought I heard the riff to “Layla” in that raga.A week or two later, it happened again. I was standing in a hotel lobby and someone was playing this Kashmiri instrument, and suddenly it seemed to launch into “Auld Lang Syne.” Of course, it wasn’t. But then I thought: Is it possible to create a musical vocabulary — not to bring things together consciously, East and West, but to capture the kind of instability of who I am and the richness of what I had discovered in that moment. And that’s why I call it “not fusion.”“Summertime” happened around the time that I was creating these pieces. In it, I’m improvising on the raga Malkauns, but within the form of “Summertime,” an early kind of jazz composition based on the blues. I’m showing that it’s possible to improvise on Malkauns according to this form, which is what a jazz pianist does. But I’m bringing in another tradition.The same thing is happening in “Norwegian Wood.” I’m taking the raga Bageshri and improvising on the space that each bit gives me. “I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me” — that gives me space to improvise on those notes. What I’m doing is a feature of khayal. That’s why I would say again, it’s not fusion, because fusion artists don’t do that. What they do is, they sing their own stuff in a Western setting.Exploring these ideas has been deeply satisfying. Has my musical journey come full circle? I have not gone back to becoming a singer-songwriter, but I have brought together everything I know. If you’re a creative artist, the things you know tend to come back to you in some way. I’m very lucky that happened to me. More