Deepti Navaratna | Shirish Korde: Ka

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Shirish Korde: Ka

by Deepti Navaratna

South Indian classical voice meets contemporary orchestration.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Durga Shloka
Deepti Navaratna, Jan Muller-Szeraws & Boston Musica Viva
4:23 $1.99
2. Anusvara
Deepti Navaratna & Jan Muller-Szeraws
11:08 $1.99
3. Ka
Deepti Navaratna & Amit Kavthekar
5:05 $1.99
4. Jhire Mire
Deepti Navaratna, Jan Muller-Szeraws, Boston Musica Viva & Amit Kavthekar
4:52 $1.99
5. Pilu
Deepti Navaratna
6:12 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
'In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha,
born Only Lord of all created beings.
He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven.
What God shall we adore with our oblation?'

In the later hymns of the Rig Veda, we are introduced to the concept of Ka. Literally, in Sanskrit, the word translates as the interrogative pronoun “who” (it still has its echoes in modern Indian languages–”who” in Bengali, “what” in Hindi, “why” Marathi). However, in the Rig Veda, the word has a secondary role--a proper noun, identifying the god who started and remains at the heart of all creation. This noun/pronoun wordplay produces a powerful effect in these hymns, transforming confused interrogatives into hymns of praise.

In more ways than one, we are asked to span these dualities in Shirish Korde’s eponymous song cycle-Ka. Written for carnatic soprano, Deepti Navaratna and the Boston Musica Viva, the work takes this Ka duality as its central idiom. In the Vedas, Ka occupies both question and answer. Similarly, the song cycle explores the unifying duality of voice and instrument, percussion and melody, and, perhaps most prominently, a synthesis in the seemingly insurmountable differences in Eastern and Western music.

Durga Shloka: Perhaps the most literal manifestation of Ka is in the first piece of the song cycle, the Durga Shloka. In it, a shloka, or chant, attempts to define the essence of the goddess by reciting sixteen of her names. Yet in this simple enumeration, the work synthesizes both Western and Eastern musical traditions: Western instruments are mixed seamlessly with Eastern instruments and the carnatic soprano. The ultimate effect is to find a synthesis in the apparent duality of the disparate constituent parts.

Anuswara: The play between voice and instrument, between East and West becomes more subtle in the second movement of the work, Anusvara (5th Prism). Structurally, the work can be seen as one long movement (alap) interrupted by two rhythmically driven dhrupad influenced sections. Here, we find an intensely intimate encounter between the voice and cello, between Eastern and Western music: in the alap sections, the carnatic soprano engages a remarkably human-sounding cello–an interaction which is sometimes characterized by imitation, sometimes by counter-point between the two lines. All this is underscored by an electronic tamboura drone through which woodwind-like timbres occasionally emerge. In the dhrupad section, this relationship shifts dramatically. Here again, there is a playful interaction between voice and cello which is reinforced by the drone. This interplay between sensual alap and playful dhrupad ultimately resolves itself in a serene, almost ethereal conclusion.

Ka: In sharp contrast, however, is the title work of the cycle, Ka, which features an almost violent opposition between almost every possible aspect–Indian and Western percussion, between sung rhythm and instrumental rhythm, between text and nonsense syllables. This opposition arises slowly from the simple electronic tamboura drone, however, quickly accumulates to an almost overwhelming wall of sound. Yet even here, the culmination of the work is not pandemonium, but rather the fusion of all these disparate entities into a completely novel rhythmic polyphony that features these traditions as unique contributors. Having illuminated this consonance, the work abruptly returns to its electronic tamboura drone.

Jhire Mire: As if reconciling the various disparities the work synthesizes, the final movement provides an epilogue in the setting of Jir Mir–a Rajasthani folk song describing the unfaltering love of a faithful lover. The movement opens with an initial flourish of woodwinds and strings in the Kirwani raga. This introduction abruptly changes to the Bhairavi raga, featuring a tabla and carnatic soprano performing a setting of the folk song–a text that describes a faithful woman whose love never falters. And instrumental interlude reintroduces the opening motive, followed by imitations of the melody by both sitar and woodwind sections. The voice and tabla re-enter along with various elements of the orchestra, culminating in a radiant conclusion to the work.

Pilu: The modern sense of raga–the combination of five or more notes that set the modality for a piece of music–arrived in classical Sanskrit literature, when the poet Kalidasa applied the term to the “loveliness” or “beauty” of the voice. In classical Indian music, the raga represents the combination of notes that are present in the work, not dissimilar to the Western concept of modality. Indeed, as with Western modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, &c.), Indian ragas are not only associated with both mood and a geographical location, but also with season and time of day, each of which contribute to the composition as a whole.

Pilu is adapted from the first movement of Korde’s violin concerto Svara-Yantra, which first written for Joanna Kurkowitz and The National Polish Radio Orchestra and was dedicated to the Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasria. The current recording features over-dubbed soprano soloist over ectronic tamboura drone. Pilu takes full advantage of its eponymous raga– a somehow demure and melancholic mode that is typically utilized in classical genres such as North Indian Khayal. Shirish Korde’s work takes advantage of these subdued aspects, featuring a spare ensemble of soprano and electronic tamboura drone.

The work slowly unfolds with a tempered electronic tamboura drone that supports a long, ornamental melody sung by the soprano voice. Slowly, multiple voices emerge from this initial melody, sometimes in sharply contrasting rhythmic patterns based on the solfege of the Pilu raga, at other times as confluent melodies that highlight the unique consonances and dissonances of the scale. Yet as quickly as these voices accumulated, they appear to dissipate and vanish into the spectral texture of the electronic tamboura drone.



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