Produced by Eva Soltes
South India’s classical music, Karnatak music, weaves together three key elements: a melodic ethos called raga, a cyclic hand-counted metric structure called tala, and a devotional poetic text called sahitya. There is no purely instrumental Karnatak music; even when nobody is singing, the words are there, waiting to be voiced. A Musician’s repertoire is a collection of songs and improvisatory ways of decorating the songs. Improvisation may come before, during and after the song itself. A master musician is someone who can communicate the expressive essence of the raga, breathe life into the text and honor the demands and possibilities of the tala.
T. Viswanathan (1927-2002) was such a master. His melodic improvisations (alapana) were unhurried, sensuous, and profoundly expressive. His knowledge and understanding of the songs brought them to life even in his flute renditions; when he sang, new dimensions of meaning opened up, even for a listener who does not know the language. His command of tempo and meter was of a rare kind; even in the most challenging rhythmic improvisations (svara kalpana) the deep lyricism of his playing never suffered.
T. Viswanathan, flute
H.V. Srivatsan, violin
Trichy Sankaran, mrdangam