THERE'S A WONDERFUL BLEND ONTIRTHA. THERE ARE ALL THE INDIAN SCALES AND RHYTHMS AND SUCH, BUT THEN THERE WILL BE A PIECE THAT HAS ALL OF THAT BUT YET ALSO HAS THE HARMONIC FEEL OF A WESTERN BALLAD STANDARD. I'd say that a common error when it comes to cross-cultural music, or a common error when talking about it, is that people think it's miraculous. I mean, it can be great and it can be really a beautiful thing when people can come together and make music, but it's also just a fundamental fact about humanity — that that's something we can do.
We've come to exaggerate difference to such a degree that we can't even imagine that these things are possible. Not only are they possible, they are so commonplace that all culture as we know it is the result of things like this. So it's not a miracle when people from different so-called traditions can come together and make music, because we all work in the same way, we all have the same kinds of bodies, and it's all working with sound and time, it's not a big deal.
I don't want to minimize what we've done, but the other thing is that this is not a project about difference; this is a project about community. I built this music with those two guys who are as cosmopolitan as I am. They're not coming from some pure place of only Carnatic music or only Hindustani music. They're both guys that grew up in cities. Actually I knew Prasanna because he was living in Boston, and he grew up in Kenai listening to heavy metal. But he's also trained on Carnatic music and happens to be the first Carnatic guitarist ever to just play Carnatic music on a regular guitar. He's innovated all this technique on the instrument in order to do what he does. But he's also somebody who's been into Bartók and Stravinksy and he's into Charlie Parker and Coltrane and he's into Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. So he's a person of the world.
And the thing about Nitin Mitta, his uncle was very active in film music in South India. I don't know how much of that music you've heard, but it's extremely hybrid music. It's basically the popular music, because everybody hears it in the films and that's sort of what circulates as pop songs. But it's very much grounded in classical traditions; in fact most of the musicians playing on those recordings are classically trained musicians. They have classically trained singers, but then it also has these folk roots as well that are very powerful. But then it's also global music in the sense that it draws influence from American rock and from Western classical music and from pop and, nowadays, hip-hop and electronic music. It's very global music, it's probably more global than anything you hear in the States.
These guys grew up with that, so they're not coming from one far corner into this. It was ridiculously easy to make music with these guys, not because we're the same but because what differences there were, were productive ones and we all had certain things in common that helped us build.
VIJAY IYER TRIO + MIGUEL ZENÓN QUARTET | Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, Boston | December 9 @ 8 pm | $40-$50 | 617.482.6661 or celebrityseries.org.