Sunday, May 27, 2007

making fusion music

One of my more impulsive decisions this past week was to take Wednesday (May 23rd) off, and participate a workshop on fusion music organized by Dr. S.A.K. Durga of the Centre for Ethnomusicology, Chennai. The event was held at the Savera Hotel. It was good to exchange views with Prof. Akin Euba, Niko Higgins, Dr. Durga, Dr. Lalitha, Siddhartha Patnaik, K Parthasarathy, and others. We also got to listen to audio clips of various intercultural/interstylistic experiments, of which the most striking was Vijay Iyer's desi-influenced piano/poetry.

Then we got to the business of defining what is and isn't fusion music, a discussion that promptly got us tied up in knots. Defining fusion pre-supposes two or more 'authentic'/'un-mixed' forms in the first place, and this rarely turns out to be the case. Even Carnatic music, as homogeneous as we think it to be, represents an amalgamation of various streams, including ancient Tamil music. And Carnatic-Hindustani fusions represent a coming together of forms which have diverged from a common (albeit hybrid) ancestry to begin with.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the day was the jam session, in which we experimented with different kinds of stylistic blending and improvisation. While the die-hard musicologists griped that this was not really fusion, and that fusion music needs a corpus of compositions to be worth its weight in theoretical salt, the musicians did have a whale of a time.

Two of my all-time favorite fusion music albums:

Meeting of Angels by Nishat Khan & Ensemble Gilles Binchois (1996), with Todd McComb's write-up here=>

<= Fra Senegal til Setesdal by Kirsten Braten-Berg (1997)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


mango tree in fruit
raucous parrots celebrate
many greennesses

Monday, May 21, 2007

Groovin' on Rives

Snooping around the site led me to this performance of "If I controlled the Internet" by poet/spoken-word artist Rives:

Curious, I surfed on to his website ShopliftWindChimes and found these two charming and evocative poems Kite ( video here) and Glaucoma (audio here)

These also brought back the realization that I haven't written poetry in way too long...

of chimps and confidence intervals

Doctor, humorist, and (think cricket-) commentator rolled into one, Dr. Hans Rosling is debunking myths about the 'Third World' with the best stats and data displays you've ever seen. Amazing way to present time-trends and pre-test questionnaires.

In case the embedded object below does not work, click here to view it.

From the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) site: "Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

"What sets Rosling apart isn’t just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You’ve never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling’s hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.

"Rosling’s presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster’s flair.

"Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)

"Rosling began his wide-ranging career as a physician, spending many years in rural Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (which he named konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden, wrote a textbook on global health, and as a professor at the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm initiated key international research collaborations. He’s also personally argued with many heads of state, including Fidel Castro.

"As if all this weren’t enough, the irrepressible Rosling is also an accomplished sword-swallower — a skill he demonstrated at TED2007."