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Om Guitar

by Stevin McNamara

Aubade 16:10


The classical music of Northern India has had a pro-found influence on me ever since I heard Ravi Shankar in concert (in Boston circa 1971). I was also fortunate to have had a great Sitar teacher, Ram Chakravarty of Benares. That said, I always felt hesitant about using this music in any other context; I felt that it would be somehow disrespectful or sacrilegious to present Indian music in a Western setting or to alter it in any way.

Although there are many musical works out there that are experimental in the East/West fusion realm (including several works by Ravi Shankar himself), it was hearing Ali Akbar Khan’s “Garden of Dreams” that finally changed my thinking. In fact, Akbar Khan’s piece sounded like a “permission” by one of India’s all-time great musicians for this hallowed music to be allowed a “Western treatment” with harmony, Western instruments, and musicians such as Jai Uttal, all partaking in a wonderful musical feast. A new doorway opened, through which I eagerly entered.

This album is one such journey into this New World.
A few words of explanation:
The origins of Indian classical music can be traced back thousands of years to the earliest writings of the Vedic culture. Originally, this music was an integral part of spiritual practice, devotion, and meditation; however, today music is also used for other purposes allowing many of these ancient chants, melodies, and traditional musical forms to survive.
1. Indian music is a “living music” in that it has been passed on by teacher to disciple for centuries. All the pieces on this album are not Indian classical music but rather have a distinct connection to the Indian musical form known as Raga, which literally means “that which colors the mind” and is the form that all classical Indian Music uses. The three principles from which the word has arisen are color (mood), passion, and melody. Ragas have arisen from That's or parent scales that are similar to the modes of Ancient Greece.
2. At the root of everything is the Drone (the tamboura), which is critical to Indian music with its constant repetition of notes usually corresponding to the root and fifth notes of the scale. It portrays the unchanging inner music to which we are all connected, and provides a tonal center from which the melody emanates.
3. The Alap is always the first movement of the piece that is performed without rhythm. This is the Raga in it’s purest form. The priciple mood (Rasa) is presented, along with the dominant notes and particular nuances of the Raga. (This is also why this is such a meditative music-traditionally the whole piece explores, and concentrates on, only one mood or emotion, such as longing, joy, peace,tranquility, etc., whereas much of Western music constantly changes and moves through many and varied emotions and colors throughout its course.)
4. The Gat, or the second movement, is a melodic theme or composition played within a set rhythmic time cycle (tala) and is accompanied by drums (traditionally the tabla). This whole section develops further though improvisation and interplay between the melody instrument and the drummer and always returns to the theme and the first beat of the time cycle, called Sam.
5. The Shruti - In analysis of Indian music, musicologists divide the octave into twenty-two finer intervals than the traditional twelve half-steps used in most Western music. When employed correctly, these microtones—called the shruti—have a profound effect on the listener, stimulating the emotions and the finer subtle senses.
Each of the instruments on this album are associated with one of the Vedic chakras or energy centers of the body. Large drums are associated with the first (root) chakra and correspond to the element earth. This chakra predominantly governs manifestation grounding, survival, and new beginnings in our lives. The root chakra is associated with the color red. Lighter Percussion sounds (such as bells,shakers and small drums) are associated with the second chakra and the element of Water. This chakra is the center of change, emotion, pleasure, and movement in our lives, and it is associated with the color orange. Stringed instruments are traditionally associated with the fourth chakra and the element Air. Balance, love, compassion, healing, and unity are governed by this chakra, which is associated with the color green.

Music and Meditation
Ancient cultures used deep spiritual meditation practices to raise consciousness to realms above the physical plane. In almost all spiritual paths and world religions there is reference to meditation as an act of centering the mind with some sort of mantra or prayer to achieve union or communication with the Divine. In the Vedic culture (and others), music was an integral part of many spiritual practices in the form of chant, which is like a musical mantra. Sound and the Divine are considered synonymous. Hence the Vedic saying “Nad Brahma”--sound is God. Today, the word “meditation” has come to mean many things to
a vast range of people. For example, for some meditation simply means sitting quietly and reflecting on things other than a hectic work day or the issue of what to eat for dinner. Or meditation can involve being out in nature and becoming attuned to the wonderful, natural world.
The common thread in these definitions is that the result of any kind of meditation should be a state of peace, relaxation, physical well-being, calm, renewal, feeling refreshed, and energized. I make no claims of any kind as to what this music will do for your well being. Let it be whatever it means to you. Sit back, relax, and take a musical journey to wherever you would like to go.


released March 1, 2020

Composed,Arranged and Produced by Stevin McNamara
Recorded Mixed and Mastered by Stevin McNamara at :
Crystal Mountain Studio, Ashland, Oregon
(April to October, 2007)


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