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Nakul Krishnamurthy in conversation with Khyam Allami

Nakul Krishnamurthy and Khyam Allami discuss the intercracies of tunings and the construction and methods behind non-western modes of music as well as Nakul’s commission for Counterflows At Home.

Khyam Allami is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher and founder of Nawa Recordings.

Primarily an Oud player, his artistic research focuses on the development of contemporary and experimental practice based on the fundamentals of Arabic music, with a focus on tuning and microtonality.

Currently he is completing an M4C/AHRC funded PhD in composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University. This three year practice-based research degree will see him explore the application of contemporary acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic compositional techniques and processes to Arabic music through the use of technology and various instrumentation.

 

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Khyam Allami: 

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Khyam Allami: 

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Khyam Allami: You mentioned this topic in the

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Khyam Allami: Podcast interview and I spoke with Mark Fell about it. I participated in his class the week after you did

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yeah he was telling me 

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Khyam Allami: I think this is a really important thing to consider and to dig deep into.

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Khyam Allami: Obviously the exclusionary politics is hyper-important within your new composition but “navigating the gaze” as you called it, the gaze of both the Western audiences and the gaze of your

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Khyam Allami: Local audiences, wherever you might be in India, is hard

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Khyam Allami: I would love to hear more from you about where you're at in your thinking about that 

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Khyam Allami: and how it's influencing your practice in any way, if it is

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is a very difficult question to answer, but there are a lot of things that I started discovering when I started thinking about these topics and

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: One of them was obviously the problems with the tuning systems like you mentioned - and your project is brilliant when it comes to that 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me, another question that has always troubled me was basically kind of thinking about a note as a fixed frequency

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: or, for that matter, if you think about a note as being fixed in the frequency spectrum

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: as a single tone or single value

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me, that was a bit

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Disconcerting, because I was always thinking about, how can you just

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: take a note out of the context that it belongs in

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: You know it's a part of a scale, or how it relates to the tonic

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: You have to think about it in terms of music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So how can you think about note in isolation, having a specific note on a five line stave as something that is always fixed and then you give it a context by drawing 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And so the context comes later. It is kind of like scientifically fixing a note in that frequency space and just deciding that that is that note

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But, for me, coming from a carnatic perspective, a note couldn't be imagined as a single frequency value, it is something that

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Moves through time and space. Sometimes a note can be a fixed value in relation to a tonic but sometimes it cannot be. It will be constantly in motion

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Something that you cannot assign a fixed value to

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: because it oscillates between two different other notes

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So how do you understand such a note that is being indicated by a movement between

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Two notes or two values

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So thinking about this

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The limits of the European thinking started becoming very clear

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: When you see that you cannot extract a note from its context

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is what is constantly happening when you look at it from European perspective, this Orientalist view of thinking about Indian music or any other forms of music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: always extracted from its context

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Another problem is obviously thinking about the music that I make.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And people responding to it by classifying it as a specific genre, which carries with it the baggage of the genre and

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The Western history of the genre

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I am a bit uncomfortable with people calling my music drone or something like that, because that's not what I'm trying to do here, and it is classified like that only because it is easy to do so.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: just because that is what you're used to as a Western audience.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me that is problematic, and that puts me in this difficult spot again and again.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: When presenting my music, I become a representative of India, and there are certain notions of how I am supposed to be

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And so the whole question starts becoming contextualized in terms of the politics between East and the West.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For instance, this piece has got a lot to do with the Indian political setup of social caste systems but.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The moment you start thinking about it as an “Indian music” piece it gets recontextualised as reflecting the politics between East and the West

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It either conforms to the stereotypical tropes of how Indian music is supposed to be, or it subverts the trope of how Indian music is supposed to be. But then both these ideas depend on how the West sees India

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So it always gets recontextualized in a lot of different ways

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The notes that I use, the kind of music that I make, the genre that it belongs to, and what it is supposed to do

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: This kind of pressure from the West makes it very difficult, but my music is being presented in the West, so it is something that comes as a byproduct.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But yeah very difficult to

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: navigate.

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Khyam Allami: Have you shared your work with musicians from India and had any feedback from them about what their gaze on it might be?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: A few people, but the thing is, I don’t know a lot of people who are familiar with an experimental approach or who are

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: receptive to that kind of an approach, so if it goes into the carnatic domain, the responses that I get are, this is not authentic

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And this doesn't do that, or I don't understand what's going on here and so, that's all.

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Khyam Allami: I've suffered the same. The other day, when I shared a video of the performance that we did using Apotome, somebody put a comment on Facebook saying 

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Khyam Allami: Where's the oud?

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Khyam Allami: I totally understand you and I feel that frustration.

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Khyam Allami: Does that make you feel more.

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Khyam Allami: confident about what you do? In terms of

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Khyam Allami: The fact that you're

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Khyam Allami: Taking a more individual and personal approach, rather than trying to fit within a

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Khyam Allami: cultural context.  Or does it make you feel

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Khyam Allami: A little bit less confident and more disconcerted with the ideas that you want to present?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I guess both.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: On the one hand

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I am worried about my music not being accepted anywhere, you know, obviously, as a musician I want my music to reach other people. But then, at the same time

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: After every composition, every piece of work that I do, when I listen back to it, one of the ways in which I check whether it is good for me or not.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Is basically by asking how a Carnatic and a Western audience would see it. If the carnatic audience would call it not carnatic, but

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Any other audience would call it Carnatic

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Then I think the piece is successful for me.

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Khyam Allami: So the people who are within the domain should reject it, but people who are outside the domain should actually attribute the music to that field.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: If that tension’s there, I think the music is good, and that is kind of my rule of thumb.

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Khyam Allami: That's really beautiful. I think that's a great way to look at it, because then you are somehow satisfying your own desires, that are linked to both of these worlds and actually

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Khyam Allami: many other worlds, you know you're playing within the grey area rather than on specific steps.

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Khyam Allami: Points within that binary.

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Khyam Allami: Which I think is really, really fascinating

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Khyam Allami: and that's what I absolutely loved about your solo album.

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Khyam Allami: And, the same goes for this new project. I think what you're trying to explore, not just in terms of tonality, and not just in terms of texture but in terms of that grey area of tonality, of polyphony

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Khyam Allami: of linguistic usage and structure, I think it's really, really stunning.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Thank you I’m really glad you like it

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Nakul Krishnamurthy:  I was really happy when you texted me after the release because, obviously, my first release and I didn't know how it was gonna be received, and when I got your message I was like

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yes, thank you, thanks a lot, because now, I know that this is something good and someone who knows about music, who's good at it, if he can tell me that it’s good, then I can be happy about it.

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Khyam Allami: Not only that Nakul, I wrote to you with utmost sincerity because

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Khyam Allami: I have felt

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Khyam Allami: at many times

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Khyam Allami: as an outsider in both worlds, both in the Arab world and in Europe or in the West more generally.

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Khyam Allami: And I always find myself in this oscillating mode, juggling all these different plates

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Khyam Allami: Trying to satisfy your own needs, but somehow also navigating all of these different gazes that come along with it and

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Khyam Allami: I always wondered, where are the musicians from Africa who are struggling, the same as me? Where are the musicians from India who are struggling, the same as me? Where are those from China or from Japan or

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Khyam Allami: Indonesia, who are struggling, the same as me? And when I come across people who are

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Khyam Allami: participating in that friction somehow, I get incredibly excited because I find it inspiring. As a fan of music, it's inspiring for me to hear somebody else's approach to that friction because

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Khyam Allami: I think it's much more difficult than people imagine it to be

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Khyam Allami: There are so many sub-layers to the musical question which essentially means the experiment of the ideas, that it's hard to find other people who understand the complexity of that Web.

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Khyam Allami: And when I heard your record, I felt like, this is a person I can relate to

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Khyam Allami: This music makes me feel something that I searched for in my own music, and, this is something that has me excited to think about the future, where things can go, how far can we push it?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: You said that really well. Sometimes, this complexity, is something that doesn't really come across easily. It gets categorized

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is easily classified as something that can be understood. You know it is not just the music, for me, it is about locating myself. I'm sure you have gone through the same tension

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I feel like an outsider to India and I'm an outsider here too. So where am I? I don't belong anywhere.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So reflecting on my music and trying to make it work on the one hand I'm trying to make it belong to both places, because that is what I am trying to do with myself as a person, but at the same time

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I do not belong there, so my music reflects the fact that it doesn't belong to either of these places also.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And all these complexities that you mentioned, it feels as if a lot of these complexities are simply lost because people do not understand the context.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Any of the experimental aspects that i'm doing with carnatic music is totally lost on an audience here

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And any of the things that i'm doing here is totally lost on the audience in India.

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Khyam Allami: Yes

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That’s a very simplified version of the problem

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: but yeah...

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Khyam Allami: Do you find that it affects your

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Khyam Allami: Let's just call it your compositional process, or your creative process?

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Khyam Allami: Do you feel that somehow there is something in your subconscious that's monitoring what you do? I don't mean self censorship or control but, do you feel that? or are you able to really let go and do whatever you want, and then analyze later?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think a lot before I make things.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So for me, a process of making a composition

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Isn’t just making music. The first idea that comes is not something that I'm satisfied with

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I believe that an idea has to be worked on over and over

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It has to be polished so much, to make it something that is good enough or something that is interesting enough.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So the first idea that comes in my head

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Is always a very simple idea, it needs more work.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So throughout this process of thinking and developing this concept, or even if the structure of the whole piece, or what kind of voices I'm using, what layers am I going to use

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And how am I going to organize them, is a product of a lot of thinking and then I try them out a lot before even going to the computer.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: This iterative process, where it goes on, again and again. So for me, making a piece is a pretty long process, it takes me one and a half, two months to make one piece of music.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I just do that, nothing else, I don't take any deviations anywhere. It’s just, start with an idea and develop it and develop it. In that process, this constant questioning that happens

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: What is happening here? Is it something interesting? and when you start again with an idea, for more than a month, it becomes an interesting process

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So that problem is always there, but I guess, to answer your question, there is this constant worry that happens, because 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I don’t know if the idea can communicate what I’m trying to do, because of the lack of an understanding of the position that I come from, or what i'm trying to do with it.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And sometimes it leads to me trying to make it a bit more obvious, even if it's in the mix, if there are parts where I am trying to use my voice and

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: If it is not heard as a voice, then it is very important that it has to be understood as a voice.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Should I make it a bit more obvious in the mix? or should I just keep hidden behind and just let it be part of the texture? But in the end

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I should just do it the way I want it, not how I want the audience to hear it. That questioning is always there, it doesn't go away.

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Khyam Allami: Yeah... I feel you.

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Khyam Allami: It sounds to me like what you first mentioned with regards to the

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Khyam Allami: Problem of a note being fixed, and this notion of, let's just call it modulation for want of a better word, is in a way, also self reflective within your own

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Khyam Allami: Personal process. It's like you are modulating in the same way. Maybe you feel like something wants to fix you into a specific place

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Khyam Allami: but you don't want to be fixed, you want to have the freedom to modulate

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Khyam Allami: In the same way that you want the note to have the freedom to modulate, and therefore make sense within its own context

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Wonderful, thank you, yes 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: that is a very good way of putting it.

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Khyam Allami: I talked about this as a kind of fret analysis

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Khyam Allami: which for me makes sense because I come from a stringed instrument and I'm thinking about the oud, but for you, with the voice, it's even less restrictive.

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Khyam Allami: Especially when thinking about gamaka, meend and the these nuances of the singing style all over India

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Khyam Allami: not only carnatic music or hindustani music, but also across all the rural landscapes

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Khyam Allami: I guess it's interesting for me to ask you

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Khyam Allami: What do you imagine?

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Khyam Allami: What am I trying to say?

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Khyam Allami: Do you think that if you?...

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Khyam Allami: Forget that, let's do a little thought experiment.

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Khyam Allami: Imagine there are 100 people like me, who have an intimate understanding of these problems and experiences and can somehow relate to them. And as a community

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Khyam Allami: We invite you to create a new work and to present it to us

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Khyam Allami: What would you imagine?

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Khyam Allami: If you were to allow yourself the space to daydream and have this thought experiment, where would that take you? 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I guess the fundamental difference for me, would be a sense of freedom.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because I wouldn't have to explain anything, I can just have the freedom to do it.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So i'm not worried about whether something is gonna come across in my music because i'm sure that people will get it, so again, I think it liberates me in a certain way.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is the first emotion that comes to me, more than anything else. I don't know what kind of music I'd make, but I know that that music will be so much more free.

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Khyam Allami: And musically do you think that would

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Khyam Allami: Push you towards doing something hyper-experimental? or do you think that you would choose to do something actually very minimalist and simple?

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Khyam Allami: or somewhere along that line?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I don't know, are super-experimental and minimalist opposites?

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Khyam Allami: Not necessarily. I mean I was just trying to think about things in terms of complexity. You might say, if I had that kind of opportunity and that kind of audience

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Khyam Allami: I would do something with 10 voices, I would compose something for 10 different people singing, or me singing 10 different things, with lots of complex electronics

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Khyam Allami: or maybe you would say, I would just do a solo voice thing, where I would just sing one note for five minutes.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yeah I get it, I think the fact that I could explore all this, is the difference.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I might do any of them. Just my voice, singing with the shruti box and doing an experimental carnatic thing. That is something I would try there, but I wouldn't try now.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because it doesn't make sense if I do something like that only in my head. I think I would be more confident about doing it in that kind of situation

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Than I am now

164-171 CUT

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Khyam Allami: Thinking about this idea

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Khyam Allami: Of having a sincere and true creative freedom

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Khyam Allami: Freedom to explore

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Khyam Allami: Whatever comes to your mind.

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Khyam Allami: And to know that the audience you might be addressing is sensitive to the foundational ideas and to the complexities...

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Khyam Allami: what's my question?

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Khyam Allami: My question is.

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Khyam Allami: Do you think...

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Khyam Allami: What am I trying to say...

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Actually something just popped into my mind

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Khyam Allami: Please go ahead

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Ok.

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Khyam Allami: Please go ahead

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think one aspect of this kind of freedom that maybe doesn't get talked about much, is one of a temporal freedom

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because for me, there is some kind of a time mismatch that I feel in terms of duration

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Sometimes I want to let a certain idea go on for a much longer time 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because in a carnatic performance, a concert goes on for sometimes three hours or four hours...

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is kind of a convention and a performance practice. Some ideas can take a long time

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: You can elaborate on one note for such a long time, and you don't have to worry about whether it's time to change to something else or not.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But the moment I started making music in this kind of [European] domain, I actually did not understand the temporal dynamic of it.

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Khyam Allami: For sure

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I still don't know. This is something I'm struggling with. How far should a section go or how far can I keep exploring an idea.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Should I change over now or not? but, obviously there's no right answer. But the fact that this question exists, shows that there is a mismatch in terms of how you see the duration, or the temporality of a piece right.

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Khyam Allami: Yes, absolutely.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I don't know.

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Khyam Allami: What I find fascinating about this discussion, and these ideas, is how much we feel somehow constrained.

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Khyam Allami: Whether it be by temporality, or by the musical material that we should use. I think a lot about avant garde composers and musician from Europe and America 

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Khyam Allami: Who have created incredible works because of the sense of freedom that they have felt, to be able to explore those avenues, regardless of whether there are audiences that would accept those ideas or not. And I wonder why we don't feel that same sense of freedom.

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Khyam Allami: My first impression is that there are some remnants in our subconscious that are tied to, essentially, a political struggle. 

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Khyam Allami: Whether it be a local struggle, like in your case when you were talking earlier about the caste systems, privilege and opportunity 

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Khyam Allami: Or whether it be in the context of a colonial power struggle

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Khyam Allami: Or the remnants of a colonial power struggle that still exists today.

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Khyam Allami: I think many people find it difficult to appreciate the way that those ideas have

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Khyam Allami: Become embedded within our subconscious.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I don't know. There are a lot of ways in which you can talk about this whole East/West power dynamic. For me

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Having grown up in a village in India, and how Europe has always been this mythical place and how

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The people of this place are supposed to be so ahead of the rest of the world.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That always plays upon your subconscious. There is always this nagging feeling somewhere, which you cannot really unpack, and you cannot really decode 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But there is something there, which always keeps you conscious of yourself, always being aware of yourself.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: There is something that you cannot totally let go of. It just holds you back, and I do not know what it is, but I can see it happening, I can see it manifesting in a lot of ways. For example

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: When we were preparing to do the podcast for this project, they asked me where I am most comfortable recording, and my first instinct was, home

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because I'm more comfortable at home than going outside. For me this being outside itself makes me a bit more aware of myself and conscious of myself

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Even small things like eating out or eating at home... eating at home definitely.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Or the choice between doing a performance or recording and sending music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would obviously send the music rather than perform. So there are a lot of different ways, I don't know why but it's always there, even though I have been here for three years now

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is still not enough time for me to feel totally free and “at home”.

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Khyam Allami: And do you feel that freedom when you're in India? Sorry, I can't remember which city you grew up in, or which city you lived in.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I grew up in a small village in the south of India, in Kerala.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It was a small village

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Now it's a town.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And then I moved to Chennai.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: When I was 16

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But that was only because I was in boarding school. I guess I got a full exposure when I was 22.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And only then I started realizing that there is some world outside of that small village.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But coming here from Chennai, I suddenly realized that there is a world outside of Chennai too

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So...

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Khyam Allami: Do you feel that freedom that you're talking about in Chennai, for example?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yes, I do.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would be more ready to go out there than here, even if the weather is more extreme.

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Khyam Allami: And what about what about creation?

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Khyam Allami: If you had the opportunity to execute some of these new ideas in Chennai rather than in Glasgow or anywhere else do you think that the results would be different?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is a very, very interesting question because it goes both ways. On the one hand, I have more freedom to experiment here, but at the same time, I am less free in the act of experimenting itself.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I know that back in India, there is not a lot of scope for my music.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I might just play it, and no one will bother to listen to it. So I won't have an audience

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And for me, an audience for my music is very important. I'm not a person who will just make music for my own sake and keep it on my computer. That's something that doesn't really resonate with me.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Back in Chennai, there is a lack of freedom, but at the same time, this act of experimenting itself, in creating a piece of music includes many other factors that start coming in

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And in that context, I think I am free. So I am both more and less free, at the same time, here and there.

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Khyam Allami: Yes

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Khyam Allami: I think about this a lot because.

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Khyam Allami: I've worked on a bunch of different projects that were created.

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Khyam Allami: In the Arab world, in Cairo, Tunisia, Beirut, and then project projects that are created outside, whether it be in Scandinavia or in Germany or in the UK and.

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Khyam Allami: Being somebody that has grown up with a kind of nomadic lifestyle

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Khyam Allami: And having spent many years bouncing between different places and living out of a suitcase.

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Khyam Allami: There's a part of me that allows me to create my own little world wherever I am and somehow tap into that.

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Khyam Allami: But the influence on my subconscious, of the subtlety of sounds and ideas and smells and arguments in the street and things that you feel when you're in a place, does have an impact.

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Khyam Allami: On the way that I perceive myself, on the way I perceive my ideas 

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Khyam Allami: And sometimes I think about

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Khyam Allami: Maybe trying to find time to create something in a space or in a place that somehow fuels these desires, but then to take it from there and

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Khyam Allami:  Present it somewhere else, in a different environment, but then we come back to this tension, this push and pull that is happening all the time.

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Khyam Allami: It's one of those situations where I think neither you nor I have.

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Khyam Allami: Any clear guidelines about how to

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Khyam Allami: How to navigate it

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That's so true. Sometimes, when I'm making a piece of music and I'm thinking about whether this works or whether this is good

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I just want to find the person who I can compare my work with

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And have this all round kind of feedback from them, because they understand the whole politics and the whole context. But I have to send it to different boxes and see how they react to each of these.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: On the one hand, it is good

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because it gives me the confidence that I'm trying something new, irrespective of how it comes out, at least I'm attempting something that is not done.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But at the same time, the lack of this guidance makes it so difficult for you to even generate anything new.

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Khyam Allami: Do you find it difficult, that there isn't

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Khyam Allami: Let's say

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Khyam Allami: A previously trodden path that you can go down and

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Khyam Allami: Hear what other people have done in order to develop ideas

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I always think about it, but I find it both good and bad at the same time

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is good because I see this huge possibility and there is a lot that can be done

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And it is also very curious that not a lot of people have done it.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That always makes you doubt, but at the same time, you can also, see that possibility.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I know that there is a lot that can be done, irrespective of whether I can do it or not,

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But if there was someone, even if there was just one or two people who were there

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would have been able to connect with them and think about how else I can explore

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Someone to show you the way or at least let you know of the possibilities.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would have liked to have someone like that, but at the same time not having someone like that is also interesting, because it feels like there are these possibilities that I can explore, and I have to just try and do it.

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Khyam Allami: When I think about your experiment

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Khyam Allami: Or experimentalism within the Arabic music context there really aren't many references, they're just two or three artists

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Khyam Allami: Then there's two or three also from Iran, for example, which I find very, very inspiring but

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Khyam Allami: I I always end up falling back to looking at Western experimentalism for ideas and nuances. Then I also end up falling into the trap of being pastiche in some way, in trying to recreate some of those ideas and then trying to unpack all of that and find something more

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Khyam Allami: Individual.

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Khyam Allami: For me, it’s the greatest challenge, because there's obviously a

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Khyam Allami: very rich history of experimentalism that has come out of Europe and the US, which is incredibly powerful and incredibly liberating. But at the same time there are so many elements of it that feel somehow.

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Khyam Allami: distant and a bit difficult to engage with, and so when you look the other way to your own culture and you try to find those things and they're not really there

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Khyam Allami: You end up in this weird space of half pastiche/half new and struggling. Have you experienced anything similar? Do you find yourself leaning towards one - let's call it an archive for lack of a better word? One history, more than another history.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think, yes

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That’s something that I have experienced quite a lot

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It took me quite some time to figure out a synthesis of the kind of influences that I have had, and the kind of knowledge that I've acquired by learning different kinds of music, if you can call it that.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So for me until like around two to three years back, they were like different bubbles, which did not intersect at all, and I did not know how to put them together or how to look at one through the other.

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Khyam Allami: Right

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: When I was doing my undergrad in Western classical composition, I would turn off my carnatic brain or hindustani brain altogether

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And it was all about pastiche. I was just making music that was supposed to be interesting according to how the history defined it to be interesting.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me that was a space where I made a lot of music, but none of it was really satisfying because I was again doing a pastiche of others

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And then I came to Counterflows festival in 2017, and then I moved to the UK and suddenly I saw this

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Experimental music field and actually what happens in the underground music, and it got me thinking

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I cannot obviously just make music like this. That's not what I want to do, how can I bring my expertise or whatever I know of Indian classical music.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And think about that music in the same way that experimental music has done to western philosophy

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So what I think my current solution for this is, or what i'm doing right now, is that I borrow the thought process 

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Of how you think about experimenting. What does it mean to experiment with music? and then use that lens on carnatic music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Or Indian classical music. So that kind of got me out of this problem of trying to make.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Western experimental music and to focus on making experimental carnatic music. Where does experimental become the adjective?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The frame through which I look at it comes from the West, but what I'm applying it to is carnatic music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me, certainly it gave me the sound that I myself did not realize could come out of me. And that was like, yeah this probably is good, I don't know, I should make a couple of people listen to this.

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Khyam Allami: That must be very powerful because you're a singer, so it's literally coming out of you!

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yeah it's true but, for me, I think

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: The kind of a connection that I have with my voice is probably the same kind of connection that you have with your instrument. For you, the instrument is an extension of your body.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Right?

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Khyam Allami: I think this it's never quite the same thing 

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Khyam Allami: When you are able to actually express something with your own body

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Khyam Allami: Then there's a connectedness that I think will always be missing from playing an instrument.

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Khyam Allami: I don't know, that's just how I feel about it

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Khyam Allami: And I was unfortunately never gifted with a nice voice and I never really explored it.

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Khyam Allami: But...

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Khyam Allami: Just, to go back to this idea of

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Khyam Allami: Of the different lenses you were mentioning earlier

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Khyam Allami: Do you ever find yourself worrying about how you use those lenses?

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Khyam Allami: and how your usage might be interpreted?

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Khyam Allami: Like these little devils above your shoulder there are always somehow questioning your idea?

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Khyam Allami: Or are you able to find an angle, looking through a specific lens at something

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Khyam Allami: And then let yourself be free within it?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: This is very, very pertinent to one specific lens that I use, if I can say that, it's obviously that none of them are isolated. That is one way of thinking I'm always doubtful about, and that comes from my history of working in Indian popular music.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I worked in the Indian film industry for quite a while.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And that is something that I wanted to do because I did not know of the other possibilities. So for me Indian film music was the way to be a musician, there was nothing else.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Until probably like three years, four years back.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I was totally invested in wanting to be an Indian film music composer, but at the same time, to become a composer was hard. It was easier to make it as a singer and then become a composer.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: There were certain ways of singing, ways of performing, and ways of composing that I learned and that I tried to master when I was doing this popular music. Some of those things that I learned, I find them interesting in a very specific way

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: But the fact that it is popular music and there is this elitism that is associated with class
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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That there is something about popular music that is supposed to be looked down upon

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: It was also very present in me. I'm not saying that I never looked down on popular music, I did, but still I loved popular music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: In my brain I was like, no, that is something that is below everything, but in my heart, I was like oh I love this song and I love this song

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: That conflict is there, and it took some time for me to realize that it is totally fine to love that music

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: And for me to change the thing in my brain that it's okay for me to love that kind of music. Those lenses sometimes start creeping into my music and

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I like that. One thing that I really liked about this new Counterflows project was that I wanted the singing to be in the front, because there's a lot of politics in the text.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So, I had to think, how do I capture my voice here? What kind of an aesthetic do I want my voice to have?

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: I wanted it to be very emotive and emote a certain way that I felt as a person who's struggling with these tensions

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: Trying to look at myself and to capture the emotion of the text itself and communicate that for the dancer to perform.

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Nakul Krishnamurthy: So for me, there was some kind of an intersection there. But what interested me the most was that in order to capture this, I started using the recording techniques and how I used to sing and to capture my voice when I was doing popular music.

334
00:45:13.170 --> 00:45:13.380
Khyam Allami: The voice in the front. But the aesthetic of that voice comes from that space

335
00:45:13.680 --> 00:45:25.260
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So I didn't know whether I should be using it or not, because.

336
00:45:26.310 --> 00:45:39.090
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I wanted to, but I didn't know whether I should. In the end, I ended up doing it. So yeah there is always that problem, but I decided I'm just gonna do it.

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Khyam Allami: Sorry, one second.

338
00:47:02.700 --> 00:47:03.030
Khyam Allami: ...

339
00:47:04.830 --> 00:47:05.340
Khyam Allami: Delivery.

340
00:47:13.050 --> 00:47:16.050
Khyam Allami: There's a part of me that wants to ask you about

341
00:47:18.600 --> 00:47:22.440
Khyam Allami: What your processes are for navigating

342
00:47:24.360 --> 00:47:28.590
Khyam Allami: All of these questions

343
00:47:30.150 --> 00:47:30.810
Khyam Allami: But

344
00:47:32.310 --> 00:47:41.970
Khyam Allami: It sounds to me like it's an ongoing process, so I don't want to get into a conversation where you feel like you need to define

345
00:47:42.480 --> 00:47:56.610
Khyam Allami: One methodology that you use to navigate this and find your way in or out of a process, but you mentioned positionality in a couple of different ways multiple times

346
00:47:58.470 --> 00:48:02.460
Khyam Allami: And I find that to be interesting.

347
00:48:03.480 --> 00:48:26.850
Khyam Allami: I think about many questions. Who am I making this music for? What relevance does it have to my current context? Would my friends like it? Is it something that I want or am I doing it for the sake of filling a gap that I found somewhere?

348
00:48:28.440 --> 00:48:30.780
Khyam Allami: And After a creative process of some kind,

349
00:48:32.010 --> 00:48:38.250
Khyam Allami: I try to analyze and see if 

350
00:48:39.780 --> 00:48:40.710
Khyam Allami: Somehow, I have self-restrained

351
00:48:42.780 --> 00:48:52.710
Khyam Allami: Or taken a specific path because of a certain idea, as opposed to just letting it be whatever it wants to be.

352
00:48:53.970 --> 00:48:54.540
Khyam Allami: And that sometimes makes me doubt whether a compositional idea is worth exploring or not

353
00:48:55.560 --> 00:49:06.630
Khyam Allami: So I wanted to ask you.

354
00:49:08.850 --> 00:49:17.640
Khyam Allami: Can we turn to talking absolutely about music, and about the musicological ideas themselves?

355
00:49:18.390 --> 00:49:31.800
Khyam Allami: Do you feel any specific musical impact of these questions? Are there any musical, compositional, choices that you've made that are either in reaction to some of these ideas of positionality?

356
00:49:33.750 --> 00:49:39.750
Khyam Allami: Or things that have come through that questioning? Actual musical ideas.

357
00:49:43.620 --> 00:49:43.980
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Hmm

358
00:49:47.370 --> 00:49:47.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy:  I think I definitely have. I'm trying to think of them.

359
00:49:48.960 --> 00:50:00.060
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Most of my music making depends on a lot of decisions that I make

360
00:50:00.840 --> 00:50:11.700
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Before I actually execute them. A lot of these decisions have been influenced by certain constraints and a specific way of thinking

361
00:50:14.070 --> 00:50:15.870
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But I don't know

362
00:50:18.690 --> 00:50:21.030
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think it comes from this fact that

363
00:50:22.080 --> 00:50:34.050
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I've always found it a very romantic notion, to be able to think about your music as something that can exist by itself, without having any external influences. But I don't think that is the case for me

364
00:50:35.190 --> 00:50:45.630
Nakul Krishnamurthy: For me, it is an idea. There's a lot of other external influences that come in - musical and non musical

365
00:50:47.430 --> 00:50:53.790
Nakul Krishnamurthy: For instance, this Counterflows piece

366
00:50:55.530 --> 00:51:05.790
Nakul Krishnamurthy: When I was thinking about the politics of it, there was a certain way in which I envisioned the piece in my head. I thought I was doing justice to the kind of politics that I was trying to address and

367
00:51:06.390 --> 00:51:20.040
Nakul Krishnamurthy: One day, after making the piece, I realized that it was going to be presented at Counterflows festival, and it is gonna be listened to by a predominantly European audience.

368
00:51:21.810 --> 00:51:30.030
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Definitely not a lot of Indian audience. So did I even consider who is going to listen to this music?

369
00:51:30.480 --> 00:51:38.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And suddenly, I started doubting my own decisions. I was like, this is one important question that I should have considered while creating.

370
00:51:39.090 --> 00:51:48.000
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Somehow it slipped my mind, because I was working with so many other political issues, and I was collaborating with other artists and thinking about this politics through my music.

371
00:51:48.360 --> 00:51:51.300
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But suddenly I realized that this is a question that i've always thought about

372
00:51:51.570 --> 00:51:59.010
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Although I forgot to think about when I made this music

373
00:51:59.070 --> 00:51:59.460
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But...

374
00:51:59.940 --> 00:52:06.570
Nakul Krishnamurthy: As for specific compositional decisions, I think the duration is obviously one of them

375
00:52:07.020 --> 00:52:09.300
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And that is something that i'm always concerned about

376
00:52:10.260 --> 00:52:24.240
Nakul Krishnamurthy: My wife has been very supportive and she is one person who gives me very good critical advice. Sometimes I just ask her to sit and listen and see if it is going on for too long.

377
00:52:24.780 --> 00:52:38.160
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And she gives me very good feedback about it. That has really helped me edit my piece and give it a nice shape. But duration is a question that always comes to mind. Probably the first thing that comes to mind

378
00:52:38.190 --> 00:52:44.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think about the domain in which I'm presenting and how I should think about it.

379
00:52:45.360 --> 00:52:45.960
Khyam Allami: So let's talk music in a little bit more detail

380
00:52:46.170 --> 00:52:52.770
Khyam Allami: Specifically about this new composition.

381
00:52:53.790 --> 00:53:00.540
Khyam Allami: I think you very eloquently discuss the political background and ideas within this project in the podcast 

382
00:53:03.120 --> 00:53:16.050
Khyam Allami: So I want to avoid covering the same issues that you talked about there, but I wanted to ask

383
00:53:18.090 --> 00:53:28.500
Khyam Allami: What was your musical compositional process that led you to this end result? The use of multiple voices. The exploration of these polyphonies.

384
00:53:28.800 --> 00:53:37.440
Khyam Allami: The dissonance that happens between the different voices, both in the way they modulate and in the way they actually sync

385
00:53:37.860 --> 00:53:39.780
Khyam Allami: At different points 

386
00:53:42.120 --> 00:53:44.760
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yes, I think, for me

387
00:53:46.740 --> 00:53:51.150
Nakul Krishnamurthy: The politics in this piece reflects on the music itself

388
00:53:52.620 --> 00:53:58.170
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I saw the politics to be happening in three different domains, one was the domain of the text

389
00:53:58.560 --> 00:54:05.160
Nakul Krishnamurthy: The other was the domain of the dance, and the third was a domain of the music. Let us focus on the music and the text here.

390
00:54:05.580 --> 00:54:16.140
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think the text relates a lot of the politics that is reflected in the music 

391
00:54:17.430 --> 00:54:20.880
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because of the specific way the text is written or the specific text I’m using.

392
00:54:22.290 --> 00:54:32.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: The kind of tool that I use right now, in the release that I did for Cafe OTO and in this piece

393
00:54:34.020 --> 00:54:50.100
Nakul Krishnamurthy: What I like to do right now is to think about an Alap and a Jor. So I would just sit in front of my microphone, turn it on and start singing. I sing for probably around an hour, two hours, three hours

394
00:54:51.360 --> 00:55:07.650
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Sometimes not at once, maybe take a break, come back the next day and sing again. Then I chopped the recordings up into each phrase. In the end, for this composition I probably ended up having around 500 to 600 phrases

395
00:55:08.130 --> 00:55:19.320
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And so those phrases are individual units of meaningful music, my unit is a phrase, not a note.

396
00:55:19.620 --> 00:55:20.910
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Now I have different blocks of phrases

397
00:55:21.210 --> 00:55:35.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So different units of meaningful music. But I don't know how i'm going to put it all together.

398
00:55:36.450 --> 00:55:38.250
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And how they come together is I put them in a generative system

399
00:55:38.280 --> 00:55:48.600
Nakul Krishnamurthy: They all go into an environment 

400
00:55:49.080 --> 00:55:56.280
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I start looking at how they can intersect with each other. What are the different ways in which they can come together.

401
00:55:56.730 --> 00:56:00.840
Nakul Krishnamurthy: One of the main considerations here was the text itself. There was a certain linearity to the text.

402
00:56:01.140 --> 00:56:09.150
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That had to be reflected. But at the same time, how can I support that linearity and think about it in a different way?

403
00:56:09.720 --> 00:56:24.540
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Going from one end of the text to the other, but at the same time, how can something that happens later in the text, intersect with something that happens before? That reflected in the music too.

404
00:56:25.200 --> 00:56:26.460
Nakul Krishnamurthy: One phrase is composed of a word.

405
00:56:26.880 --> 00:56:31.560
Nakul Krishnamurthy: End each phrase is sometimes sung with the same word in 20 or 30 different ways

406
00:56:32.040 --> 00:56:46.920
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And then I move on to the next word. So each of these individual units of meaning are put in a very simple generative system using Ableton Live

407
00:56:47.400 --> 00:56:49.080
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Different lengths of clips.

408
00:56:49.140 --> 00:56:52.230
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I start triggering them at different points in time and I don't know how they will intersect.

409
00:56:52.500 --> 00:57:01.260
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So I start listening to how they sound and sometimes record them. Sometimes I get an idea and then go and execute it by placing those clips in certain ways to see what comes out of it.

410
00:57:01.800 --> 00:57:17.610
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Some of it is always deciding where the dissonance is. Do I want more layers? Do I want this part to be more rich texturly? or do I want it to be very simple, just one word and one voice coming through?

411
00:57:18.660 --> 00:57:23.520
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Another consideration here was to make the lyrics legible

412
00:57:24.300 --> 00:57:28.440
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It should not be a mess. There is a meaning in the text, and that should be communicated too.

413
00:57:28.830 --> 00:57:34.980
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So it is sometimes about getting that texture and sometimes about stripping back completely so that the word can be heard.

414
00:57:35.250 --> 00:57:39.690
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Then, bringing the whole thing again to hear the textures

415
00:57:40.020 --> 00:57:52.020
Nakul Krishnamurthy: What happens to these textures when the notes are always in motion, rather than having something fixed? What if the whole thing keeps moving all the time?

416
00:57:53.460 --> 00:58:03.270
Nakul Krishnamurthy: What happens when you cannot hold on to it? It is always in motion

417
00:58:03.840 --> 00:58:10.980
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is also interesting to not be grounded in one place. That is how I feel at the present

418
00:58:10.980 --> 00:58:12.270
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Always oscillating and

419
00:58:12.540 --> 00:58:23.730
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Not being able to locate myself in any individual place, as a person, as an individual, that probably comes through in the composition too 

420
00:58:24.240 --> 00:58:30.840
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And for me, that movement is what, in the end, makes it interesting. That is what I think I tried to do through this work.

421
00:58:32.250 --> 00:58:42.510
Khyam Allami: What I found most fascinating about it, which I think you touched on really beautifully, is that there is this ever present oscillation.

422
00:58:43.170 --> 00:59:00.510
Khyam Allami: And within it, there are moments where things line up and lock into place, and then they come out again. This is something that's been very much at the forefront of my mind, the idea of going in and out of particular desires

423
00:59:01.800 --> 00:59:13.410
Khyam Allami: Whether that be a particular polyphony, a stack of different notes or going in and out of specific interval structure.

424
00:59:16.290 --> 00:59:26.040
Khyam Allami: What interests me in what you said just now, is that you are using this generative process to develop some ideas and sometimes you'll hear something.

425
00:59:26.460 --> 00:59:43.350
Khyam Allami: That you think felt really good and then you'll want to recreate it by placing those elements, within each other in a certain way. But do you ever get inspired to go back and re-record something new?

426
00:59:44.940 --> 00:59:50.190
Khyam Allami: Because you heard a result of the generative process that made you think about what you were singing in a different way?

427
00:59:50.580 --> 00:59:54.060
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yes, yes, I did that quite a lot with this piece in fact.

428
00:59:55.230 --> 01:00:10.890
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Something that was really interesting came up. Something that I never expected. I knew that I had to go back and record it. This was not just a musical idea, it was an interesting thing that happened with the text.

429
01:00:11.250 --> 01:00:12.720
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Also, there were certain intersections between words which sounded beautiful

430
01:00:13.740 --> 01:00:22.950
Nakul Krishnamurthy: because the words themselves were beautiful

431
01:00:22.980 --> 01:00:23.730
Nakul Krishnamurthy: but at the same time it generated a new meaning that I never thought the text had

432
01:00:24.750 --> 01:00:29.580
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I was like... Where did that come from?

433
01:00:30.270 --> 01:00:33.900
Khyam Allami: Can you tell us what the words and the meanings were?

434
01:00:34.440 --> 01:00:39.270
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I might have briefly touched upon this in the podcast.

435
01:00:39.600 --> 01:00:42.780
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But, what happened was

436
01:00:43.290 --> 01:00:49.170
Nakul Krishnamurthy: The text is basically three lines, it is a story of a character, who says at the end

437
01:00:50.460 --> 01:01:02.100
Nakul Krishnamurthy: In very beautiful words, that she praises lust and says, am I not better than her? “Her”, in this text refers to the ideal woman according to Indian mythology.

438
01:01:02.550 --> 01:01:06.180
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So what happened was that, when she says, am I not better.

439
01:01:07.950 --> 01:01:22.140
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I randomly clicked on the wrong word, wrong clip, and it started putting the words for lust and bravery and along with the word for the ideal woman.

440
01:01:22.500 --> 01:01:24.930
Khyam Allami: What are those words?

441
01:01:25.410 --> 01:01:30.840
Nakul Krishnamurthy:

Kaamadhura Madhura Komala Vakkinale
With lustfully sweet words 
[Kaamadhura - lust filled; Madhura - Sweet; Komala - Soft, tender; Vakkinale - through/with words]
Kaamam Sthuthichu Tharasa Thamuvaacha Dheeram
(She) praised lust and boldly spoke thus 
[Kaamam - lust; Sthuthichu - praised/with praise; Tharasa - powerful, straight, bold; Thamuvaacha - Spoke thus; Dheeram - being bold/bravery]
Vallabhayil Adhikam Nallaval Njan Allayo
Am I not better than her, the/your ideal woman 
[Vallabha - ideal woman, the woman with all the qualities, Vallabhayil - than the ideal woman; Adhikam - more; Nallaval - nicer/better woman; Njan - Me; Njan Allayo - Am I not?]

442
01:01:30.900 --> 01:01:31.680
Nakul Krishnamurthy: put it in each but.

443
01:01:32.010 --> 01:01:41.910
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Kaamam basically means lust and Dheeram means bravery as well, Vallabha means wife, and here she is talking about the wife of the protagonist.

444
01:01:42.270 --> 01:01:43.980
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And she is the “ideal woman”

445
01:01:44.100 --> 01:01:51.510
Nakul Krishnamurthy: What happened when I was playing Vallabha, the word for ideal woman, suddenly somehow from somewhere Kaamam came in.

446
01:01:51.900 --> 01:02:01.110
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And it was very very interesting. It made a lot of sense, but I didn't have the right sonic texture, so I went back

447
01:02:01.410 --> 01:02:15.960
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I recorded Kaamam 20-30 times and came back and started triggering different versions, and suddenly the texture just blew up into something that is beautiful

448
01:02:16.320 --> 01:02:17.760
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And the text also started making so much more sense

449
01:02:18.240 --> 01:02:23.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That was probably the magic that happened for me in this composition

450
01:02:24.990 --> 01:02:36.720
Khyam Allami: That's exciting for me to hear, because I think this is the real potential of generative processes. I don't think generative processes are very good at

451
01:02:37.080 --> 01:02:52.380
Khyam Allami: Creating end results, but I think they're excellent at inspiring end results. I find it really fascinating to hear you talk about it from the textual perspective because

452
01:02:54.150 --> 01:03:12.780
Khyam Allami: There’s obviously so much meaning that is necessary to elucidate in some way, and this brings us back around to our concepts or our questioning earlier about who is your audience? 

453
01:03:15.090 --> 01:03:24.360
Khyam Allami: If here in this scenario, you are being so faithful and connected to the text, it means that in your mind, you are considering it for a listener who can understand the text.

454
01:03:25.050 --> 01:03:34.590
Khyam Allami: Obviously I followed along with the lyrics as much as I can, but once things start to become juxtaposed and contradictory

455
01:03:35.130 --> 01:03:46.770
Khyam Allami: Like you're suggesting here, it would be quite difficult for me to catch that meaning, without having to do a lot of stop/start and analysis 

456
01:03:47.910 --> 01:03:49.950
Khyam Allami: So it's exciting for me to hear you elucidate that in detail

457
01:03:50.670 --> 01:03:59.400
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is what is frustrating, because there's so much beauty that is being lost, just because you can translate or you can communicate, you don't know the language

458
01:03:59.820 --> 01:04:00.660
Khyam Allami: Yeah.

459
01:04:00.840 --> 01:04:06.570
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think this is something that happens quite a lot when I present my music back in India 

460
01:04:06.870 --> 01:04:13.140
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Maybe if there is something beautiful, it is lost because they do not understand the experimental tradition that it comes from

461
01:04:13.680 --> 01:04:19.530
Nakul Krishnamurthy: This work definitely draws a lot from the Western experimental tradition and is indebted to it

462
01:04:19.950 --> 01:04:35.760
Nakul Krishnamurthy: but the fact that these lenses are not accessible to people back there makes this whole beauty, if it exists in the piece, inaccessible for the people.

463
01:04:38.100 --> 01:04:40.980
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And here the language makes it inaccessible

464
01:04:42.330 --> 01:04:44.820
Nakul Krishnamurthy: All of it gets stripped down, and it’s engaged with as a “meditative piece”

465
01:04:45.330 --> 01:04:49.770
Khyam Allami: Yes, exactly.  Does that make you think that you need the freedom not only to create the piece in the way that you want it

466
01:04:51.870 --> 01:05:07.500
Khyam Allami: But also to present its contextualization in the way that you want it?

467
01:05:08.460 --> 01:05:20.460
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think that this was the idea behind this piece in a lot of ways 

468
01:05:21.390 --> 01:05:30.390
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Rather than streaming a performance online being just one way of dealing with this pandemic, I also realized that if this festival is going to be online this year I should

469
01:05:31.200 --> 01:05:41.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Make use of what an online medium can offer and do something that i've always wanted to do, but have never been able to because of the traditional modes of performance.

470
01:05:41.880 --> 01:05:49.110
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So what is the advantage of an Internet medium here? I can have as much material as I want, I can have discussions, I can have podcasts.

471
01:05:49.410 --> 01:06:01.920
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I can have long texts and everything on the website, or people can just watch the video. If they want to engage with it, they can't read it, listen to it. So I thought, why not have a podcast alongside this piece, where I can explain the politics of it.

472
01:06:02.340 --> 01:06:12.150
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I can explain what is happening in the music, some things that may be lost, maybe make it clearer and then there's this interview to talk about those things that people might miss out on.

473
01:06:12.690 --> 01:06:29.070
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And for both audiences, not just people here, but people in India who may listen to it. To make some of these things clear, so that they can start seeing these things, that magic that happened

474
01:06:29.460 --> 01:06:31.560
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Maybe somehow communicate a part of that

475
01:06:31.590 --> 01:06:35.010
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So that they can also appreciate it

476
01:06:36.030 --> 01:06:36.960
Khyam Allami: Absolutely.

477
01:06:38.010 --> 01:06:43.530
Khyam Allami: To be honest, Nakul

478
01:06:46.980 --> 01:06:47.850
Khyam Allami: I think that your ability to

479
01:06:50.040 --> 01:06:57.480
Khyam Allami: Pull apart these musical, social and 

480
01:06:59.490 --> 01:07:02.340
Khyam Allami: Political confrontations, and elucidate them in a way that's not simplistic 

481
01:07:03.480 --> 01:07:16.110
Khyam Allami: That's not demeaning to the beauty and the mystery of the abstract medium that we work in, is really, really powerful.

482
01:07:16.620 --> 01:07:25.710
Khyam Allami: And, I don't want you to feel that you should have to explain yourself every time.

483
01:07:26.430 --> 01:07:36.780
Khyam Allami: That's something that I find very frustrating. I envy artists like David Lynch who can make a film and then never talk about it in any interviews

484
01:07:37.440 --> 01:07:54.990
Khyam Allami: And I think that's the kind of freedom that may only come in our lifetime later on down the line, but I think your ability to articulate these ideas is really powerful

485
01:07:56.070 --> 01:08:03.270
Khyam Allami: And I think you should continue doing that in your own way, however you feel comfortable

486
01:08:05.640 --> 01:08:17.790
Khyam Allami: Ultimately, I feel that your path is one that is asking a lot of questions and they are questions that many of us haven't come across before

487
01:08:18.450 --> 01:08:27.420
Khyam Allami: and the results of those experiments are ones that are difficult for us to appreciate without having some insight.

488
01:08:27.990 --> 01:08:45.810
Khyam Allami: And so, as much as I often hate removing the mystery from things, I think it's really valuable that you participate in that. But I also think it's more valuable for you not to be afraid to

489
01:08:47.070 --> 01:08:56.520
Khyam Allami: Rely on any kind of idiomatic representation such as actually speaking the language and the words themselves

490
01:08:57.660 --> 01:09:15.150
Khyam Allami: Everyone will find a way to follow when the material is there, but, if we're always somehow avoiding the actual core content, I think we risk losing more

491
01:09:16.350 --> 01:09:17.850
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yeah that's so true 

492
01:09:18.900 --> 01:09:25.770
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Along with that there's also this lack of

493
01:09:26.700 --> 01:09:35.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: A tool kit or like you know even an approach or a methodology to unpack or even explore and think about these different kinds of things that are happening

494
01:09:36.390 --> 01:09:48.030
Nakul Krishnamurthy: For instance, if you're talking about a specific harmony that Beethoven or Wagner are using, there is so much research and discourse happening around it

495
01:09:48.480 --> 01:09:48.720
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But there is nothing like that to unpack something 

496
01:09:48.870 --> 01:09:54.600
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Like what you are doing, for instance.

497
01:09:55.020 --> 01:10:06.840
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is something that I am trying to deal with

498
01:10:07.350 --> 01:10:13.740
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Maybe this podcast was an effort to do that, you know, trying to show

499
01:10:14.340 --> 01:10:20.460
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That there are a lot of things to be explored here and, there is a need for a discourse around

500
01:10:20.760 --> 01:10:27.000
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is not something that you just switch off and say that is okay, or this is so beautiful, sounds so oriental

501
01:10:27.810 --> 01:10:37.560
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is something that needs to be there. There is a lot to be learned, a lot to be seen, if you look at it critically, or even analytically.

502
01:10:38.220 --> 01:10:40.140
Khyam Allami: Absolutely

503
01:10:41.370 --> 01:10:43.170
Khyam Allami: Do you find that it's a responsibility for you?

504
01:10:44.970 --> 01:11:03.180
Khyam Allami: Do you find that it's some kind of weight on your shoulders that maybe you do not want to deal with? or is it something that you are happy to engage with as an artist?

505
01:11:03.510 --> 01:11:15.300
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think I am happy to do it because I know that it is not forced. It's definitely a discourse that is needed

506
01:11:16.440 --> 01:11:25.200
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And I’m happy to take up this task of trying to encourage that discourse, it gives me a lot of pleasure because I am really happy to share these

507
01:11:25.650 --> 01:11:34.770
Nakul Krishnamurthy: interesting things that I have found and suddenly realized 

508
01:11:34.950 --> 01:11:35.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: There are so many interesting things like this happening in a lot of different pieces of music which do not get the attention

509
01:11:35.370 --> 01:11:35.820
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Or the energy.

510
01:11:35.850 --> 01:11:46.500
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That Western classical, for instance, does. I think it is unfortunate, but I'm really happy to do that, it is something that I derive a lot of happiness from.

511
01:11:48.630 --> 01:11:51.660
Khyam Allami: So maybe we can end with me asking you.

512
01:11:54.060 --> 01:11:58.170
Khyam Allami: What kind of questions would you like to be asked?

513
01:11:59.730 --> 01:12:02.190
Khyam Allami: In a perfect world

514
01:12:03.660 --> 01:12:05.940
Khyam Allami: Where you have the most

515
01:12:07.680 --> 01:12:10.170
Khyam Allami: Open minded and well educated audiences 

516
01:12:11.280 --> 01:12:20.040
Khyam Allami: Or interviewers, or academics, speaking to you. What kind of questions would you like to be asked?

517
01:12:23.910 --> 01:12:24.930
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That is a wonderful question.

518
01:12:32.370 --> 01:12:37.470
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Ideally, I know what I wouldn't want to be asked, but no I shouldn't say that.

519
01:12:37.500 --> 01:12:44.700
Khyam Allami: No, let's start with that. It's an important way to look at things.

520
01:12:44.790 --> 01:12:56.400
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Personally, I like to be asked about what is happening in the piece, but I also want to have a situation where I don't need to be asked about what's happening in the piece

521
01:12:57.450 --> 01:13:04.740
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And people can just get it

522
01:13:05.730 --> 01:13:14.130
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would like a situation where people can understand all these things without having to ask me

523
01:13:14.580 --> 01:13:26.190
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I would want to be interviewed and not asked questions as simple as where I'm from 

524
01:13:28.320 --> 01:13:33.720
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That's an ideal world for me

525
01:13:34.770 --> 01:13:47.340
Nakul Krishnamurthy: You don't need to explain your inspiration, where it comes from, where the music comes from, what your music is trying to do, what are the challenges and everything

526
01:13:48.030 --> 01:13:58.860
Nakul Krishnamurthy: because, ideally, the interview questions for anyone working in the experimental field here in the UK should be the same as the interview questions for a person like me. The questions should not have to be different.

527
01:13:59.460 --> 01:13:59.700
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But.

528
01:13:59.850 --> 01:14:08.160
Nakul Krishnamurthy: At the same time, I'm really happy to answer and talk about these issues because it gives me happiness that people are willing to engage with it.

529
01:14:08.670 --> 01:14:14.850
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It gives me this pleasure that people really want to know more about it

530
01:14:15.330 --> 01:14:29.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I love teaching. That is something that I always liked. In this case i'd not see it as teaching, but more like telling people about what I know and what is interesting to note 

531
01:14:30.480 --> 01:14:35.970
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And finding and enjoying the beauty together. It's a way of sharing, so here it is.

532
01:14:36.510 --> 01:14:43.800
Nakul Krishnamurthy: When I do that, I'm not being an artist who's saying look at what I have done, it's more like a collaborative exploration, where we both listen to it and see.

533
01:14:44.100 --> 01:14:47.520
Nakul Krishnamurthy: This thing happened when I was making this music, let us both listen to it together.

534
01:14:47.790 --> 01:14:54.510
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And that is something that I really enjoy 

535
01:14:54.840 --> 01:15:05.700
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But in an ideal world, what I would want, and this is not only concerning me but concerning all artists who are struggling to have their voice heard

536
01:15:07.290 --> 01:15:13.710
Nakul Krishnamurthy: is to have a situation where they don't need to be asked a separate set of questions from those who are born and brought up here.

537
01:15:14.400 --> 01:15:17.610
Khyam Allami: I feel what you're saying.

538
01:15:21.000 --> 01:15:30.360
Khyam Allami: Are there any musical aspects of the composition, that we didn't discuss that that maybe you'd like to

539
01:15:31.710 --> 01:15:36.540
Khyam Allami: Point our ears to?

540
01:15:37.620 --> 01:15:38.850
Khyam Allami: Whether they be things to do with rāgs that you’ve used

541
01:15:40.140 --> 01:15:43.950
Khyam Allami: or certain phrasings or certain techniques

542
01:15:45.570 --> 01:15:52.110
Khyam Allami: that you used for specific words to bring out different meanings?

543
01:15:53.340 --> 01:16:00.210
Khyam Allami: How can I better appreciate the finer details without you having to spell it out for me?

544
01:16:01.710 --> 01:16:03.840
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think now that I have spoken about that collision between Vallabha and Kaamam

545
01:16:04.920 --> 01:16:11.940
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I'll type out the lyrics in English and I'll also send you the translation

546
01:16:12.750 --> 01:16:24.480
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So that you have access to it and individual word meanings. So when you listen to it, you can figure out what I was talking about.

547
01:16:24.930 --> 01:16:30.090
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Maybe another interesting thing that happened to me was

548
01:16:30.840 --> 01:16:37.710
Nakul Krishnamurthy: When I was working on this project, the dancer said, it would be good if I can have a sense of rhythm.

549
01:16:38.730 --> 01:16:44.040
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And in my music when I'm thinking about phrases and alaps, they don't have rhythms.

550
01:16:44.340 --> 01:16:50.190
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So how should I think about that, how do I bring in a rhythm without having rhythmic instruments?

551
01:16:50.250 --> 01:16:52.020
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So I thought the simple solution was

552
01:16:52.020 --> 01:17:00.240
Nakul Krishnamurthy: To go for a jātī, which is spoken syllables

553
01:17:01.560 --> 01:17:01.860
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Like the bōls for dance

554
01:17:01.890 --> 01:17:07.950
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It's called jati for dance

555
01:17:08.610 --> 01:17:14.460
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But that is a very simple solution, so how do I make it interesting?

556
01:17:15.330 --> 01:17:25.290
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So I went back to my technique of having different phrases. But rather than having a long gap, I just went and recorded different phrases at a specific tempo.

557
01:17:26.460 --> 01:17:35.970
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And then I thought why not put them in the generative system and see what comes out of it. And something beautiful came out of it!

558
01:17:36.990 --> 01:17:38.160
Nakul Krishnamurthy: What was really interesting for me was that, on the one hand

559
01:17:39.660 --> 01:17:48.870
Nakul Krishnamurthy: You can hear the pulse, to instantly move to

560
01:17:49.440 --> 01:17:56.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But the placement of the syllables that are supposed to be on the strong beat, suddenly come on a different beat

561
01:17:56.850 --> 01:18:04.950
Nakul Krishnamurthy: If there is a cycle of eight when you do not understand the dance language, the moment you understand the dance language, the cycle is gone.

562
01:18:05.460 --> 01:18:12.630
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Because you're associating a word with a strong beat, rather than the pulse that you're going with

563
01:18:13.110 --> 01:18:13.920
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That was very interesting for me

564
01:18:14.130 --> 01:18:21.630
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I do not understand it completely, the language of jatī, but

565
01:18:22.470 --> 01:18:31.950
Nakul Krishnamurthy: From what I understand, I suddenly realized that for some people, there is a constant rhythmic cycle, but for some, there is no cycle 

566
01:18:32.010 --> 01:18:33.300
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And that is a positive thing

567
01:18:33.300 --> 01:18:34.830
Khyam Allami: Can you tell me what the phrases of the jati that you used were?

568
01:18:34.950 --> 01:18:35.280
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I used probably around 25, like tan, tit, tey, so many of them.

569
01:18:35.520 --> 01:18:36.180
Khyam Allami: So you were improvising the different syllables that are used in jatīs

570
01:18:36.780 --> 01:18:40.140
Khyam Allami: Not using one specific phrase, and then rearranging those particular syllables.

571
01:18:40.440 --> 01:18:43.620
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I recorded phrases with just one syllable in it, or five syllables and some of them will be in triple time.

572
01:18:45.240 --> 01:18:48.390
Nakul Krishnamurthy: or some of them will be very slow over half note lengths

573
01:18:48.600 --> 01:18:54.900
Khyam Allami: And I put them in the generative system and let them interact with each other 

574
01:18:55.140 --> 01:19:00.810
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It started generating weird patterns

575
01:19:02.610 --> 01:19:05.310
Nakul Krishnamurthy: and then I built them up towards the end.

576
01:19:05.580 --> 01:19:14.100
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And that gave me this breaking of the rhythmic cycle

577
01:19:14.400 --> 01:19:27.870
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But at the same time, I also realized that the jati usually doesn't have the dancer acting and emoting

578
01:19:27.900 --> 01:19:28.920
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It is usually a way of expressing rhythm

579
01:19:29.100 --> 01:19:33.360
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Indian classical dance has both emotive expression and physical movements

580
01:19:34.080 --> 01:19:41.700
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So when it is devoid of emotive expression it becomes just physical movements.

581
01:19:42.150 --> 01:19:49.050
Nakul Krishnamurthy: So I asked myself, why is it that? Why can't we have an emotive response to it, so I started layering sung jatīs on top of it.

582
01:19:49.860 --> 01:20:01.050
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And then it became even more complicated because the rhythmic cycle was totally broken all together towards the end.

583
01:20:01.560 --> 01:20:09.180
Nakul Krishnamurthy: For a dancer, it’s probably it is just a pulse

584
01:20:09.510 --> 01:20:17.280
Nakul Krishnamurthy: But for a person who listens to the music without knowing the language of the dance

585
01:20:17.820 --> 01:20:27.570
Nakul Krishnamurthy: It may sound like another rhythmic cycle, or even longer phases

586
01:20:28.080 --> 01:20:41.970
Khyam Allami: It felt to me like the rhythmic cycle started off quite simple and became more and more complex over time, but I definitely could feel the syncopation of the accenting

587
01:20:42.510 --> 01:20:51.480
Khyam Allami: And the interplay of the rhythms and while watching the video I could also start to visualize the rhythmic cycle and

588
01:20:52.260 --> 01:21:12.270
Khyam Allami: How that was being navigated but I was always feeling surprised, sometimes, by the way  that a particular syllable would land in a specific syncopated slot, or by hearing multiple syllables at the same time that you wouldn't associate with each other

589
01:21:12.300 --> 01:21:16.170
Khyam Allami: And I found this very exciting, because I studied Indian tabla.

590
01:21:16.800 --> 01:21:18.960
Khyam Allami: Hindustani tabla

591
01:21:19.020 --> 01:21:19.770
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Ah, so you know what I’m talking about!

592
01:21:22.650 --> 01:21:31.200
Khyam Allami: Yes! And reciting the bols, was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had learning music

593
01:21:31.230 --> 01:21:50.220
Khyam Allami: I'm not so good at it anymore, because I haven't practiced for 10 years or much, much more than that! But I always found that language, the language of rhythm in Indian music as a whole, as being something incredibly fascinating but also something that was 

594
01:21:53.400 --> 01:22:00.270
Khyam Allami: stuck within rigid compositional confines

595
01:22:00.750 --> 01:22:12.960
Khyam Allami: There are forms that you always have to follow, and it's quite difficult to find music that breaks out of those forms. So when I was hearing your interpretation of this it got me very excited because 

596
01:22:13.710 --> 01:22:23.520
Khyam Allami: I'm aware of it, I know what it's supposed to represent, I know it's supposed to mean, but at the same time, I too was getting lost because I've never heard anything like that before.

597
01:22:24.090 --> 01:22:36.240
Khyam Allami: I was like, do I trust my ears? Do I not trust my ears? Is my intuition correct or not? It’s a beautiful feeling for me

598
01:22:36.900 --> 01:22:45.150
Nakul Krishnamurthy: You don't know how glad this makes me because I really wanted people to get this you know and I’m so glad you found it!

599
01:22:47.820 --> 01:22:54.300
Nakul Krishnamurthy: If even two people hear this and they realise that there was something like this happening, I'd be happy and I'm so glad you found it.

600
01:22:54.840 --> 01:22:56.130
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Amazing

601
01:22:56.550 --> 01:23:01.410
Khyam Allami: Well that's maybe another conversation for next time, where we talk about rhythm

602
01:23:01.470 --> 01:23:05.730
Khyam Allami: More than then the oscillation of pitch.

603
01:23:06.150 --> 01:23:10.800
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Yeah that's also another new territory for me that's I've just started exploring

604
01:23:11.430 --> 01:23:20.760
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I really wanted to talk to you sometime about the Apotome project, because I can envision thinking about 

605
01:23:21.840 --> 01:23:25.800
Nakul Krishnamurthy: Doing something with it

606
01:23:27.030 --> 01:23:30.330
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I think it gives a very good foundation for thinking about different tunings 

607
01:23:31.650 --> 01:23:34.830
Nakul Krishnamurthy: And at the same time

608
01:23:35.070 --> 01:23:37.500
Nakul Krishnamurthy: How we can re-think those tunings as oscillations too

609
01:23:38.250 --> 01:23:40.380
Nakul Krishnamurthy: How can we use that as fodder to create new ways of moving between notes

610
01:23:41.010 --> 01:23:46.800
Nakul Krishnamurthy: That can indicate a different tuning itself

611
01:23:47.220 --> 01:23:56.640
Nakul Krishnamurthy: I want to play with Apotome a bit more, I haven't had a chance to do that, but after Counterflows that's one of the things that I’m planning to do

612
01:23:57.450 --> 01:24:07.590
Khyam Allami: Fantastic