Inner Octaves – Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble
OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, 6 November 2009
IN THEIR fusion of the musically familiar and the unexpected, Tune Up tours consistently present a dynamic, innovative and convergent programme. This latest tour by virtuoso guitarist Simon Thacker together with nine of the UK’s finest Indian and Western classical musicians was no exception, introducing a confluence of Eastern and Western musical traditions together with the emergence of newly commissioned works by Shirish Korde and Nigel Osbourne.
Featuring Carnatic virtuoso violist Jyotsna Srikanth, tabla master Savar Sabri, the Edinburgh String Quartet (Tristan Gurney on violin, Phillip Burrin on violin, Michael Beston on viola, and Mark Bailey on cello), multi-percussionist Iain Sandilands and Brazilian double bassist Mario Caribè, the Nava Rasa Ensemble utterly transported their audience.
The quality of the musicianship together with the choice of material created a wonderful sense of complete immersion in pure sound. Being lost in this series of soundscapes was an absolute pleasure, the depth and breadth of sound, vibrant colour and intensely resonant textures of the instruments were both illuminating and emotive.
The whole concept of Inner Octaves, “a composition of pulsating energies vibrating across the whole spectrum of frequencies”, was brought richly to life in human and musical terms throughout the performance. The “extraordinary range of cultural influences, musical forms and emotional states” in the selected works were beautifully fluid and seamlessly communicated by Thacker and his fellow musicians.
The first work, Francesco en Paraiso by pioneer minimalist Terry Riley (from his cycle The Book of Abbeyozzud), presented a superbly mellow dialogue between Simon Thacker on guitar and Tristan Gurney on violin. This was followed by a series of compositions and improvisations from Jyotsna Srikanth (violin) and Savar Sabri (tabla).
Srikanth’s playing was a revelation, her sublimely expressive performance firmly imbedded in the musical traditions of Southern India. Together with Sabri’s command of the tabla, the two musicians performed in brilliant counterpoint to each other, their rapport and enjoyment of the music totally infectious.
Nigel Osborne’s The Birth of Nacitekas for guitar concertante was another highlight of the evening. Inspired by a Hindu myth, each of the ten movements explored a different Indian scale. The first movement unfolds from the bass, the guitar then emerging from this dark undercurrent. The instrumentation of this piece is incredibly sensitive and finely balanced between darkness and light.
Acknowledged for his extensive work in the field of musical therapy in war torn regions of the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East, Osborne’s composition feels as if a whole life of experience is contained in this single work.
The rich tapestry of sound presents a myriad of textures; there are sections on the violin as subtle as mist contrasted with the animated feel of improvised jazz on guitar or the incredibly spatial and otherworldly sound of the water phone. This bizarrely captivating instrument played with both the hand and bow utilises water within to produce a simultaneously interior and expansive sound. A work of meditation and turbulence, The Birth of Nacitekas is strikingly contemporary.
The second half of the concert opened with an exquisite set of Japanese dances played on guitar and string quartet followed by Shirish Korde’s NADA-ANANDA (Ecstasy of Sound), a concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble. A multilayered work in three movements this was the perfect conclusion to the programme, shimmering with brilliance and interwoven circular melody, a joyful dance of instrumental unison and a celebration of life through music.