This installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello will be a bit more personal than those in the past. I know I’ve been terrible the past couple of months about blogging, but [fortunately] I’ve just been far too busy performing and giving presentations to have spent much time writing here or elsewhere.
After having this wonderful dinner with some new Indian-Muslim friends at a Bollywood Party last night, though, I decided it was time to do another spotlight. The subject of this post is Anup Biswas, about whom I discovered after reading the Cambridge Companion to the Cello (which I still think should either be significantly amended or at least have the title reflect the actual subject matter: “The Cambridge Companion to the Western Cello”).
The reference to Biswas at the end of a chapter in the Cambridge Companion to the Cello. Mainy in reference to the music school he started at an orphanage in Calcutta. Found this wonderful photo (above) of a collaborative performance between Dipak Sapui, Soumita Roy – the Bharat Natyam Dancer in center, and Anup Biswas at the Poulton House in Gloucestershire (5 June, 2010). It was part of a fundraising tour for the orphanage music school which teaches both Western and Indian classical music, and, apparently collaborative fusions between both art music traditions if this image is any indication.
The one video I’d been able to find of Anup Biswas playing Indian Music was from this recital, again to benefit the Mathieson Music Trust, at the Sacred Heart Church in Caterham, Surrey. The tabla player is Chiranjit Mukharjee.
Two things struck me when I first came across the reference to Anup Biswas: 1) that the Cambridge Companion to the cello bothered to mention anyone connected to a non-Western Cello playing tradition at all, and 2) until learning about Biswas, I was unaware of cellists in India who were already incorporating the cello into Classical Indian Music, most of what I’d seen are Western cellists (e.g. Saskia Rao-de Haas, Nancy Kulkarni) who had gone to India to learn Indian music on the cello (though now some cellists in the states are now getting conservatory level training on Indian music–more about that on a future Sunday Spotlight).
To accept the position I just laid out requires one to adopt considerable humility about the arts in which one is not an expert. While I am free to not enjoy the music of Richard Wagner, it is silly for me to try to argue that Richard Wagner does not deserve his standing as one of the greatest composers. That’s a matter of judgment and I’m not competent to judge (Mark Twain said that “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds,” which seems about right to me). Surrendering that independent judgment is irksome, and gets more so as one’s knowledge approaches the fringes of expertise. I know more about literature than I know about music, and I nonetheless do not enjoy the later novels of Henry James that are most highly regarded by the experts. But my wife is an expert on Henry James and over the years I have had to accept that I don’t know what I’m talking about.
In dealing with such situations, Hume’s distinction between sentiment and judgment is invaluable. One is not required to surrender one’s opinions, but merely to acknowledge their nature. I am not able to argue that the later Henry James does not write well; all I can do is assert that his later style is not to my taste–an assertion that is true and valid within its limits. The cliché “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” is in this sense a precise and admirable preface to whatever comment comes next.
Setting aside some of the issues regarding excellence and music I mentioned in a previous post, I was struck by how much Murray’s sentiment [sic] regarding only being able to assert an opinion about our relationship to works of art was something I talked about in my undergraduate thesis. Namely that most of the things we say about anything has to do with our relationship to that thing rather than about any Kantian Ding an sich (“thing-in-itself”). His relationship to how Hume deals with that issue is probably a bit clearer than Hume himself ever was. Continue reading “Charles Murray and “The Impossibility of Being Nonjudgmental” (part 1)”→
This week’s installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello is about Dutch cellist, Saskia Rao de Haas. I first learned about her and her work playing Indian music on the cello some years ago. I finally picked up a copy of the CD, Creating Waves (released on Rhyme Records), that she and her husband Shubhendra Rao (disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar) for which I am very grateful as at the time only a few audio clips of Saskia’s work was available at her old website.
from her bio:
Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist and composer from the Netherlands. She is based in New Delhi, India where she is recognized as a well-known exponent of Indian Classical music. Saskia is hailed as a pioneer in the world of music for introducing her Indian Cello. Speaking about Saskia in an interview on National Television, her Guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia said,“Saskia has been taught by God and everyone should listen to her music”.
Here’s a video of Saskia in performance with Shubendhra: