Hello and welcome to Conductor’s Reports, the last 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!
Today started with a lecture at 8:05am by David Claman who teaches musicology and composition at one of the City Colleges of New York, specifically Indian music. His presentation was about fusing Carnatic music and jazz—it was as if it was tailored to me at this moment in my process! He presented some great excerpts I wasn’t familiar with and clearly knows Carnatic music very well. I was really glad I went, and the Indian music lovers I was sitting with were fascinated as Claman explained the tonal commonality of certain ragas with blues scales. Of course, I already knew this, but it was fun to hear someone explain it in reverse, as it were. He shared a quote from an Indian musician who said Indian music must “add the left hand to speak to the West” and that is so what we are doing with our score.
After the lecture, I went to Ghatam Karthick’s Heartbeat Ensemble, another fun fusion show. Karthick’s vocal percussion was amazing. I got some exciting arrangement ides about stop-time in tap sections with the vocal tabla syllables—I’ll sing to you what I’m thinking of when I see you. Super exciting, and it was fun to see everyone on the edge of their seats.
Then I went to my last concert which, along with Kadri Gopalnath (saxophone) and Amjad Ali Khan (sarod from Pune) was the musical highlight of the trip. Thanks to Saraswathi Ranganathan, our wonderful veena player for the show, I got to go backstage and meet U. Srinivas before the show, watching him warm-up as his other musicians got settled onstage. He was really kind—totally the “I was a famous child prodigy and I’ve still got it” type—and clearly so devoted to his craft. He was warming up on his mandolin an hour before his show, which he told me was going to be a three-hour concert. He totally understood when I said I could only stay for the first hour because of my flight and he said he hoped I would enjoy the show and have a nice trip home.
I was so thrilled I could hear at least a full hour of this amazing mandolin concert. Srinivas is one of those pure maestros whose music-making, no matter how intricate, is pure joy. You know those are my favorite players. Even when expressing a very deep emotion, the pleasure is always part of the equation. Yo Yo Ma is the best example, or Beverly Sills. Sometimes the blend of mandolin and violin had an almost bluegrass feel, and it was just a perfect final Indian moment in an outdoor venue hearing this gorgeous music, reflecting on everything I’ve learned over these two research trips.
I am beyond grateful that you encouraged and helped make possible this second trip. My ideas have grown deeper and crystallized as I got to know the country and music a lot better. I didn't think it was possible, but I am even more excited and passionate and supercharged about our show.
Lots of love. See you soon.
Time is running out to see this magnificent production before it heads to Boston! See The Jungle Book now.