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Tournier, Henri

Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Art of Improvisation - Book & 2 CDs

Improvisation is essential to the performance of classical Indian ragas. This media package is the foremost guide to improvisation in classical North Indian style. It provides fascinating insights and challenging study material for bansuri players, other melody instrumentalists, singers and musicologists alike.

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Traditionally, students learn improvising in proper style by spending years or decades with a teacher. They pick up the teacher's music by ear, imitate it, and so by copying his model eventually develop their own expression. But our fast-paced modern times make it increasingly difficult to spend long time with important teachers. Therefore learning with notations, audio and video recordings in addition to (or even as a substitute for) personal contact is becoming more and more important nowadays.

Hariprasad Chaurasia (* 1938) is the most important Indian flutist of the past decades and is recognised worldwide both as classical raga artist and as a fusion musician and film music composer. He has been teaching regularly in the Indian music programme at the Rotterdam Conservatory since 1991. As he could not be there all year round, he has repeatedly recorded improvisations, tailored for his students to work with during his absence. Basically, these are short concert pieces, reduced to essential characteristics.

In order to make the most of it, these pieces have been analysed and transcribed in Indian Sargam notation by the students in collaboration with Henri Tournier, longtime student and assistant of Hariprasad. Over the years, a collection of music has piled up that has now become an essential teaching material at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Practising these pieces is supposed to give a complete understanding of the underlying musical principles and to serve as a reference for developing one's own improvisations.

CD 1 contains pieces in the ragas Yaman, Hansadhvani, Desh, Malkauns and Bhimpalasi and tabla recordings of important talas. The performances of Yaman, Hansadhvani and Desh are kept very compact, lasting around three minutes each. More elaborate performances are given in Bhimpalasi (14 min.) and in Malkauns (21 min.). All recordings are exactly notated to the finest ornaments both in Indian Sargam and in Western staff notation. They are also thoroughly analysed regarding meaning and structure. That way you can read along while listening to the recording and grasp every detail when playing yourself.

CD 2 has the ragas Gujari Todi (49 '46'') and Mishra Pilu (19' 01''). These two ragas are briefly presented in their specifics in the book, but the recordings are only analyzed structurally using a timesheet - they are not written out. These recordings are meant to deepen the listening comprehension, not for exact copying in your own playing.

Hardcover, 200 pages, text and numerous notations by Henri Tournier (Raga Guide), including two audio CDs containing six raga performances by Hariprasad Chaurasia, full colour, with paintings by Sujata Bajaj