The Just Alap Raga
Pandit Pran Nath 18th Anniversary Memorial Tribute
Three Evening Concerts of Raga Darbari in the MELA Dream House
Saturdays, June 7, 14 and 21, 2014, 9 pm
La Monte Young, voice
Marian Zazeela, voice
Jung Hee Choi, voice
Naren Budhkar, tabla
The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD
MELA Foundation Dream House
275 Church Street, 3rd Floor, between Franklin & White Streets in Tribeca
$36. MELA Members, Seniors, Student ID, $28.
Limited seating. Advance reservations recommended.
Info and reservations: 212-219-3019; firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Evening Concerts of Raga Darbari in the contemporary Kirana gharana (style) of North Indian Classical Music will be performed by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela with The Just Alap Raga Ensemble in a memorial tribute to Pandit Pran Nath on the 18th anniversary of his passing, Saturday Evenings, June 7, 14 and 21, 2014 at 9 pm in the MELA Foundation Dream House light environment, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor. PLEASE NOTE: To prepare for the scheduled concerts the Dream House Sound and Light Environment is now CLOSED for the season; it will reopen on Saturday, September 20, 2014. From Thursday, August 14 through Sunday, September 14, MELA will present Jung Hee Choi’s multimedia installation, Ahata Anahata, Manifest Unmanifest VIII.
La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, voices; with Naren Budhkar, tabla; will be accompanied by The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD. The Just Alap Raga Ensemble will perform Pandit Pran Nath's special arrangement of "Hazrat Turkaman," a traditional vilampit khayal composition set in Raga Darbari.
Young considers The Just Alap Raga Ensemble to be one of the most significant creations in the development of his compositional process in that it organically merges the traditions of Western and Hindustani classical musics with the knowledge of acoustical science to embody complementary forms in an encompassing evolutionary statement. Pandit Pran Nath has said, "Alap is the essence of Raga. When the drut [faster tempo] begins, the Raga is finished." With The Just Alap Raga Ensemble, Young applies his own compositional approach to traditional raga performance, form and technique: a pranam (bow) of gratitude in reciprocation for the influence on his music since the mid-fifties of the unique, slow, unmetered, timeless alap, and for one of the most ancient and evolved vocal traditions extant today. The Ensemble features extended alap sections, sustained vocal and instrumental drones, two- and three-part harmony and counterpoint in just intonation over tamburas. Young, Zazeela and Choi premiered The Just Alap Raga Ensemble on August 22, 2002 in a memorial tribute to Ustad Hafizullah Khan, the Khalifa of the Kirana Gharana and son of Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Sahib.
In 2009, with deep
respect for Pandit Pran Nath’s arrangement of this great
composition, "Hazrat Turkaman," Young composed two-part harmony
for the ‘sthayi and for the antara. As in
his 2003 composition “Raga Sundara” set in Raga Yaman Kalyan,
the harmony line for these compositions in Raga Darbari
continues the introduction of two-part harmony into Indian
classical khayal composition, reinforcing the
contribution of this new element into Indian classical
music. The harmony for the ‘sthayi of "Hazrat
Turkaman" is dedicated to Jung Hee Choi and was composed as a
present on her birthday, November 1, 2009; the harmony for
the antara is dedicated to Pandit Pran Nath and was
composed on his 91st birthday, November 3,
Pandit Pran Nath virtually introduced the vocal tradition of North Indian classical music to the West in 1970. His 1971 morning performance at Town Hall, New York City, was the first concert of morning ragas to be presented in the U.S. Subsequently, he introduced and elaborated to Western audiences the concept of performing ragas at the proper time of day by scheduling entire series of concerts at special hours. Many students and professional musicians came to him in America to learn about the vast system of raga and to improve their musicianship. In 1972, Pran Nath established his own school in New York City under the direction of his disciples La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, the Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music, now a project of MELA Foundation. Over the years Pran Nath performed hundreds of concerts in the West, scores of them in New York City, and in fall 1993, he inaugurated the MELA Foundation Dream House with three Raga Cycle concerts. He continued to perform here annually during his remaining years, and on May 12 and 17, 1996, his two concerts of Afternoon and Evening Ragas in the Dream House were his last public performances before he passed away on June 13, 1996.
Pran Nath's majestic expositions of the slow alap sections of ragas combined with his emphasis on perfect intonation and the clear evocation of mood had a profound impact on Western contemporary composers and performers. Following Young and Zazeela, minimalist composer Terry Riley became one of his first American disciples. Fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell, jazz all‑stars Don Cherry and Lee Konitz, composers Jon Gibson, Yoshimasa Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison and Allaudin Mathieu, Sufi Pir Shabda Kahn, mathematician and composer Christer Hennix, concept artist and violinist Henry Flynt, dancer Simone Forti, and many others took the opportunity to study with the master.
In The Hindustan Times (2003), Shanta Serbjeet Singh wrote:
“[Young and Zazeela] would create works like the “Just Alap Raga Ensemble,” which would amaze musicians of the caliber of Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj or the Gundecha brothers were they to hear it. In fact I wish they would hear it and savour their own legacy of Indian classical music in two new ways, one, by way of the Youngs’ immense sadhna and two, by way of the fact that today the great art of Hindustani Shastriya sangeet has actually become so much a part of the world of music. Did not the ancients say: Vasudeva Kumutbhakam—the world is a family? A work like “Just Alap Raga Ensemble” actually proves it.”
The 2005 article, “Tales Of Exemplary Guru Bhakti / Pran Nath, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela,” in The Eye, quarterly magazine of SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) notes that:
“He [Young] is a master of Hindustani classical
music. … La Monte Young
and Marian Zazeela, founders of the MELA Foundation Dream
House in New York are responsible for having single-handedly
introduced vocal Hindustani classical music to America.
In 1970 when they brought renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran
Nath of the Kirana Gharana to the U.S. and became his first
Western disciples, studying with him for twenty-six years in
the traditional gurukula manner of living with the
guru, Americans and Westerners only had a nodding acquaintance
with Indian music, that too, only instrumental music through
the performing tours of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Also some
introduction to Indian rhythm techniques through the
charismatic playing of Pandit Chatur Lal, the tabla player who
always accompanied Ravi Shankar through the sixties. But
the deep, unfathomable intricacies of Khayal Gayaki
and of the whole cosmos of Alap were totally unknown
to them. Indeed, as his many American shishyas, most
of them practicing musicians themselves, would say later, even
unimaginable. … Young and Zazeela, who taught the Kirana style
and performed with Pandit Pran Nath since 1970 in hundreds of
concerts in India, Iran, Europe and the United States, have
continued their Guru’s work in the most exemplary
manner. In June 2002, shortly before he died, Khalifa
Hafizullah Khan Sahib, Ustad Wahid Khan Sahib’s son and a
great sarangi master, conferred on Young the title of Khan
American Music, Winter 2009, reviewed the Ensemble's March performance at the Guggenheim Museum:
introductory alap, the musicians
initially presented the text of the composition proper in
traditional monophonic fashion against the drone. Later on,
however, the ensemble revealed its most striking innovation: in
another bold deviation from traditional North Indian monophony,
they rendered the composition in two-part harmony. ...in the
context of raga performance, this harmonization, combined with
the ethereal polytonal quality of Raga Yaman, lent the ensemble
a breathtakingly lush quality with each return of the refrain."
In his LA Times Blog, critic Mark Swed wrote of the Ensemble's performance of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra in Raga Sindh Bhairavi:
"Frankly, what made me drop everything and fly to New
York at the last minute for the [Merce Cunningham] memorial was
the announcement of the music lineup, which was a
once-in-a-life-time gathering. La Monte Young, the
otherworldly inventor of Minimalism, began the program singing a
welcoming raga with Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, which was
pure vibratory magic."
Concert admission is $36 / $28 MELA members; seniors; students with ID. Limited seating. Advance reservations recommended. For further information and reservations, 212-219-3019, email email@example.com
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE CONCERTS WILL BE RECORDED LIVE. AIR CONDITIONING WILL NOT BE USED BECAUSE OF THE NOISE IT PRODUCES ON THE RECORDINGS. THE CONCERTS IN THE DREAM HOUSE CAN BE VERY HOT AND HUMID BECAUSE OF THE LIGHTS. PLEASE DRESS APPROPRIATELY FOR THE HEAT.
MELA's programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and generous contributions from individuals and MELA Members.