Intercultural Composition: Arranging Marriages Between Western And South Asian Art Music

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Music


The aim of this research is to develop new possibilities for intercultural music making between Western & South Asian art music. To do so, I will compose, exploring new interfaces between Western & South Asian art-music; & I will create new methodologies for collaborative works, based upon intercultural dialogues between composers, performers, scholars & audiences from these different worlds. My own bi-musical identity will act as a bridge between two musical cultures.
Not withstanding important work by La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Ravi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia & others, Western & South Asian art musics have both interacted far more with various other traditions than with each other. Today, both traditions show increasing appetites for cross-cultural collaboration. Hence, by acting as a 'marriage broker' who can bridge differences across these cultures, I will bring the two sides together in fruitful sustained projects.
I am a European composer of English descent (born 1956). I have performed on Western violin & Hindustani sitar at major European festivals, learning sitar for 32 years, including 3 years as a Commonwealth Scholar in India. My Ethnomusicology PhD is on improvisation in the art-music of Thailand. With my 'Anglo-Indian new-music ensemble', Sounds Bazaar, I worked with musicians including Terry Riley, perhaps the most significant Western composer/improviser in our field. Now, after working with Ensemble Modern, Germany's foremost new-music ensemble, as a consultant to their Indian project, receiving two commissions, with nine performances of three works, & two radio broadcasts by them, my career has reached a point of potential transformation that will be fulfilled by a fellowship.
During the fellowship, I will compose at least two substantial works per year for five years. Developing new methodologies for intercultural composition-as-research, I will, in each work, explore a 'marriage' between a new range of materials, forms, & philosophical approaches of Western & Hindustani art-music.
Concurrently, I will initiate a series of collaborative projects, one per year, in partnership with the Asian Music Circuit (AMC). The first project, starting in autumn 2007 & touring in May-June 2008, will have 3 co-directors: Viram Jasani of AMC; cellist Rohan De Saram, a maestro of Western new-music performance, for many years a member of the Arditti String Quartet; & myself as bridge between two cultural perspectives. We have agreed to collaborate in choosing each artist & agenda.
We will invite a senior South Asian maestro to work alongside Rohan De Saram as a creative centre for the encounter. The project will involve younger professional performers, Western & British/South-Asian. I will write one work for each project & we will commission a range of composers fluent in one or both systems, ranging from promising young professionals to world leading figures. All participants will engage in intercultural dialogue, aspiring to bring the different theoretical, cultural & philosophical backgrounds of music making into the conscious realm.
Research outputs will be disseminated primarily to composers, performers, researchers & audiences across the spectrum of musical cultures from which the intercultural musical languages are derived, via concerts at important UK & European venues, public presentations at Goldsmiths & AMC Education Centre, & via the fellowship website. Key website publications will include critiques of my compositions & collaborative projects (developed in relation to critical discourses of Akin Euba's intercultural musicology), scores of my works, & audio recordings of excerpts.
Usually, arranged marriages are between two parties from one tradition. At a time when intercultural dialogue is in crisis, musical research across disparate traditions, with public performances including communities with different backgrounds, will offer a prototype for optimising dialogues across other cultural divides.


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