Friday, June 24, 2011

Duality in music

Regular dual noise service is interrupted to provide some dual music for a change. Check out this piece by the music band 'Tirtha', aptly titled 'Duality', I kid you not:



Being a bit biased toward instruments with strings attached, fast-forward to about 5:50 and listen. That is India's most versatile guitarist, Prasanna, playing. To listeners from India (South India, specifically), Carnatic music's distinctive 'microtone' notes ring through pretty clearly, whereas Jazz aficionados will enjoy the 'swing' i suppose. He seems to be playing both of these, but then, it is not what radio-stations label either as 'fusion' (not quite imaginative), or 'new age' (out of ignorance?). Both Carnatic and Jazz music are original, classical art forms with a rich history and a dedicated fan-base. The former is native to S.India and the latter, apparently is America's only true native art-form. Equally, he is playing neither - purists are more likely come to this conclusion after detecting some 'noise' intertwined with the specific form of music they swear by.

From an OR perspective, i would like to think that the two seemingly unrelated musical forms in this piece achieve the same objective, follow certain well-defined rules and satisfy certain well-understood and pleasing properties, and depending on how you 'look' at it, you can call it Carnatic or Jazz. Duality - there is more than one way of getting things done. Whether you are a South-Indian who is just beginning to discover Jazz, or a Jazz-fan who is touched by the Kalyani Ragam for the first time, it's a great two-for-one deal.

And there is one more connection that might explain the name of the musical piece. One ancestor of Prasanna was the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, the 'man who knew infinity'. Signing off with an old solo piece by Prasanna, composed when he was an undergrad at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras:

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