Amit Chaudhuri, an author and vocalist, blends memoir and music appreciation in ''Finding the Raga : An improvisation on Indian Music,'' out now from New York Review Books.

In it, Chaudhuri charts a personal journey that began with a Western-orientated love for the singer-songwriter tradition, followed by a headlong immersion into Indian classical music.

That heritage remained supreme for him until an accident of what he calls ''mishearing'' made him conscious of the elements shared by some ragas and Western sounds - a realization that that led to his ongoing recording and performance project ''This Is Not Fusion.''

In the book, Chaudhuri reflects on the raga, the framework of Indian classical music. Resisting the urge to find an analogue to Western tradition, he writes : A raga is not a mode. That is, it isn't a linear movement. It's a simultaneity of notes, a constellation.''

Elsewhere he adds that it is neither a melody composition, neither a scale nor the sum total of its notes.

In an interview, Chaudhuri gave a brief introduction to the raga and described the evolution of his musical life, from childhood to ''This Is Not Fusion.'' Here is one little excerpt from the conversation :

One of the first musical experiences I had was my mother singing Tagore songs. Growing up in Bombay, I remember the tranquil energy of her style; it wasn't sentimental, but it was vibrant.

Without realizing it, I was being drawn deeply into the sensuous immediacy tone and tempo, and also a style that is precise whose emotion lies in tone rather than in added sentiment.

Of course, there was also ''The Sound of Music'' and ''My Fair Lady.'' I spent a while infatuated with Julie Andrews. Then, when I was 7 or 8, my father bought a hi-fi record player, which came with a couple of complimentary records that I probably played a part in choosing without being informed in any way.

I think one of them was by the Who, which I liked a lot; ''I Can See for Miles'' was one of my favorite songs . I also had a taste for the early Bee Gees, and of course the Beatles.

At 12, I started to play the guitar and by the time I was 16, I was composing songs in a kind of a singer-songwriter mold. Yet at the same time I began to be drawn to Hindustani classical music for the first time.

There were a few reasons, I had a teenage attraction to difficulty, and I was becoming more interested in complex tonalities. I was listening to Joni Mitchell, and I loved the fact that she could be melodious, kind of open-ended in her harmonic compositions, while at the same time quite complex.

I also knew of people like Ravi Shankar, partly because of the Beatles. When we thought of Indian Classical  Music, we basically thought of instrumental music : tabla players playing really exciting rhythmic patterns, getting applause at the end of the improvisatory spells, and of course the sitar and sarod. Vocal music seemed to be  a little out of the way, arcane.  

The World Students Society thanks author Joshua Barone.


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