In Memoriam – Ravi Shankar [1920-2012]

Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra
Ravi Shankar, Sitar – André Previn, conductor – London Symphony Orchestra
“This is my first humble offering to be performed in the West, and I am proud and happy to be playing it with the LSO and André Previn. The listener will not find much of the harmony, counterpoint or sound patterns he is used to, and which form the basis of Western classical music. I have consciously avoided these, only using them minimally, because they are elements which, if emphasized, can spoil or even destroy the RAGA BHAVA (the mood and spirit of the Raga).
Modulation is not used in Indian classical music, but a musician may suddenly shift the tonic (the Sa) and in a flash suggest the pattern of a different Raga, before coming back to the originaltonic and Raga. This is a feat which gives a great thrill to connoisseurs and is known in Sanskrit as AVIRBHAVA-TIROBHAVA (appearance and disappearance). In the semi-classical form known as THUMRI, however, modulation is used quite frequently. I have made special use of this technique in Concerto. The basic Raga (first movement) is KHAMAJ, and D is established as the tonic (Sa). The second movement is in the morning Raga SINDHI BHAIRAVI. The tonic shifts to B. A few other notes are used occasionally as accidentals. The third movement is in the evening Raga ADANA, where the tonic shifted to E.
The last movement is in the evening Raga MANJ KHAMAJ, and the tonic moves back to D. Manj Khamaj is an offshoot of the Raga Khamaj of the first movement; it becomes different because of the change of stress, which is now on the 4th and 6th notes (Ma and Dha) instead of the 3rd and 5th.
The exact pattern of the ascending and descending note-sequence of the original KHAMAJ has not been used when modulating, but only the notes of the scale. The first movement (Khamaj) has been treated in more or less strict classical form with the traditional ALAP, JOR and GAT, and the third movement (Adana) is in fast KHYAL style. The beginnings of the second and fourth movements (Sindhi Bhairavi and Manj Khamaj) are written in the semi-classical form known as THURMI, which is more sensuous, romantic and sad.
I have used various TIHAIS and CHAKRADARS all along in my solo improvisations as well as when other instruments are involved. These rhythmic patterns are typical of Indian music, and are generally used at the end of a section to build up rhythmical excitement to the climax.
Due to the fact that my own sitar is tuned to C Sharp (Sa) which remains constant throughout, it has been necessary for me to adjust a second instrument for use in the Concerto, where the tonic shifts from D, to B, to E, and back to D. this means that I must play at a higher pitch than usual, and the adjustment is not only one of tuning, but also involves certain structural changes. ”
RAVI SHANKAR, 1971.
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