||PANDIT PRAN NATH
Midnight / Raga Malkauns
||"4 VIII 71 SF"
||"21 VIII 76 NYC"
"When he would sing, the raga would manifest in the walls"
A long-awaited release from La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's
archives featuring two hour-long ragas by one of India's most
important singers of the 20th century, Pandit Pran Nath. Born
in 1918, Pandit Pran Nath began seriously studying the raga at
the age of six. Possessed with a prodigious memory, he would literally
spend hours a day singing and learning hundreds of raga compositions
and poems, frequently outdoors in forests or in the middle of
rivers. He spent several years living in the caves of Tapkeshwar
as a holy ascetic, clothed only in ash, singing for hours at a
time amidst the other devotees.
By the 1930s he was regularly appearing on All India Radio to
great acclaim as the leading interpreter of the Kirana style.
He made his first concert appearance in the United States in 1970
and his impact at this time on American musicians and artists
is hard to overstate; Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Marian
Zazeela would become formal disciples in a student/guru relationship
for many, many years. Some of Pandit Pran Nath's other students
included Charlemagne Palestine, Jon Hassell, Yoshi Wada, Henry
Flynt, Don Cherry, Rhys Chatham, and Christer Hennix.
The recordings presented here feature Riley, Young, and Zazeela
as accompanists, and were made in 1971 and 1977; they are the
only available performances on CD at this time. Pandit Pran Nath
tended to primarily focus on the alap portion of the raga (which
is the more meditative beginning section), often stretching it
out to forty or more minutes. That he did so is important in that
the qualities that figure prominently in the alap -- the drone
and the infinitely subtle pitch relationships between notes --
were what resonated so sharply with the American minimalist composers.
Pandit Pran Nath seems like a force of nature on these performances;
you can actually feel his voice in your chest as the ragas unfold.
His ability to sustain a note for what seems an eternity, and
then continue to provide endless variations in pitch are time
disorienting and mind melting. For Pandit Pran Nath, music was
the force of god made manifest. That he believed so shows in these
tour de force performances which I can't recommend highly enough.