Scottish Chamber Orchestra – East Meets West
Scottish Chamber Orchestra – East Meets West. City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 21 Nov; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 22 Nov
Samaagam, in case you didn’t know, means coming together. For the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, it is the coming together of musical traditions from east and west. Samaagam, in this instance, is a new concerto by Amjad Ali Khan (pictured), reputed to be the world’s greatest living sarod player. Inspired by the different seasons of the year, the piece explores the common roots of the music of India and the West.
‘It’s difficult to describe in words,’ says conductor David Murphy, who is especially interested in the notation of Indian music for Western musicians, ‘but all music, whether from east or west, is based on harmonic series. If you listen to a note, it’s not just a note, but is part of a chord of several notes. That is a fundamental ingredient of the music of both cultures.’
Indian classical music has evolved over thousands of years and has a sophisticated system of rules and regulations at its roots, which gives it the freedom to flow in the ragas, or melodies. For Samaagam, the western tuning normally used by the string players of the SCO will be adjusted so that, ‘it makes sense for Indian music. Western sounds are the result of equal temperament tuning, whereas Indian music uses a more natural system. The notes are tuned so that they make mathematical sense when you add them together,’ says Murphy, whose work with the SCO is a first for a Western orchestra.
Samaagam will be played alongside Symphony No 8 by Beethoven who was a fan of Indian music and philosophy. In his pre-concert talk, Murphy will explain Indian influences on Beethoven’s music and demonstrate how the iconic voice of the Western classical tradition has the same underlying musical DNA as music that, superficially, sounds very different indeed.