New album “Seamless Strings” by V.S. Narasimhan out now!!
Seamless Strings is yet another momentous effort in V.S. Narasimhan’s on-going journey to connect the Indian and Western Classical music systems through works for string quartet. In his efforts to connect these music systems, Narasimhan has taken a distinct approach to do so with some set principles in his mind. In his own words:
“What my String Quartet plays is predominantly South Indian Classical Music, a music system fundamentally based on lyrics, which function as the ‘Heart’ of the music (in contrast to Western String Quartet music which is mostly instrumental with no lyrics). I therefore keep the original music in its purest form in the ‘Main Voice’— that is the 1st Violin—and then add colors from Western harmonic principles. I then introduce the percussive material as and when necessary with my imagination with the other three voices.” – VSN
The uniqueness of the Carnatic music system is that it is based on Ragas; there are thousands of them. A raga can be said to be the equivalent of a scale or mode. It has a definite discipline of approaching one note from another, and therefore the musical structure that governs the raga also governs the ornamentations that can be heard (the ornamentations specific to Carnatic music called ‘gamakas’ are heard most prominently through the 1st violin or “Main Voice” but can also be heard by the other instruments in the quartet including the cello).
While working with the inner parts Narasimhan has always kept the composer’s melodic line as the prominent voice. The inner parts form harmony at times and percussive support at other times. But foremost, the entire music falls under the ‘Raga System’ — so the melodic movement in any part has to conform to the specific rules attributable to that particular Raga so that at no point in time is the ‘aural image’ of the Raga lost!
Narasimhan has used electric instruments in recordings of his string quartet arrangements; however for on-stage performances as the Madras String Quartet they use acoustic instruments.