Hello and welcome to Conductor’s Reports, the second in a series of blogs from Doug Peck, The Jungle Book's music supervisor, musical adaptor, arranger and orchestrator. During Candide, my first collaboration with Mary Zimmerman, I sent Mary conductor’s reports after performances to enhance the daily stage management reports and keep her connected to the show as we continued to develop the production in our travels from Chicago to Washington, DC and Boston. In keeping with this tradition, when I went on my second music research trip to India, I sent her reports of my experiences. The Goodman has asked me to share these notes and I am happy to do so. Enjoy!
Hello from Pune! This place is amazing, and I am so glad I figured out it was here. The Chennai Festival is Carnatic whereas the Pune festival (Sawai Gandharva is the title) is mostly Hindustani, so it's great to explore the differences. Pune books some very big names, and I am seeing a living legend each night.
The festival hosts almost one million people and they all seem to be completely in love with this music. The fancier people buy tickets for $50 way in advance so they can sit on benches, but the rest of us pay 100 rupees (about $2) to find a place to sit on the ground. I just loved seeing people in their 70s sitting on the ground for five hours at a time out of love of music.
Of course no one tells you where to go or what to do since there are no reserved seats, so I kind of wandered around until a beautiful Indian girl (probably college age), pointed to her blanket and told me I could sit with her. Very kind of her. It was one of those evenings where when it started, it felt very cramped and full, but by the end there were easily three times as many people in the same amount of space.
First up was Pallavi Pote, a singer. She has a very powerful voice and uses tons of ornamentation. She has endless breath and choses almost exclusively minor keys, very dramatic ragas. She lives and teaches in Pune and is clearly beloved. It was interesting to hear such a big voice in this style of music and how the other instruments definitely beefed up their sounds, too, in support of her.
Second was Hariprasad Chaurasia, the world’s bansuri (bamboo flute) master and the reason everyone was there that day. He is quite advanced in age and shakes a lot. The amazing thing is that no matter how much his hands were quivering, his tone never wavered. I keep reading in my books about “swara” which is the Indian concept of honest emotion in the tone that every musicians seeks. Well, he’s got it. He would introduce a new note into the raga and people would throw their hands in their air at the beauty. His music was very simple for a very long time, and then he started going wild. I thought his tabla player was European, but he’s just a very Western looking Indian guy—Vijay Ghate.
| Hariprasad Chaurasia and Vihjay Ghate
Amazing, and so sensitive to Chaurasia’s every musical idea. They did a really fun duet section with Chaurasia wherein he would play a passage on the flute and Ghate would mimic both the rhythm and the tone—the audience went nuts, clearly loving the melodic capabilities of the drums. That's a must for the show, and I definitely want to use bansuri-style flute cues in our underscoring.
Between Pote and Chaurasia, it was a fantastic day at the festival. Can’t wait for more tomorrow.