Månadens foto, september 2012

Paul McCartney, på en stol, med sitar.

Samtidigt läser vi i Walter Everetts ”The Beatles as Musicians” (Oxford University Press, 1999):

“Love You To” is the first of Harrison’s Hindustani (North Indian) compositions, followed by “Within You Without You” (1967), “The Inner Light”, the Wonderwall soundtrack (both 1968), and other projects with the Radha Krishna Temple and Ravi Shankar. The song is perhaps most important for the Beatles because its change of meter, a normal event for Indian listeners, would have an effect on Lennon’s fully English compositions within weeks …

A bit of detail on the instrumentation, formal procedure, pitch, and rhythmic organization of North Indian music as practiced in this song is in order, due to the important role that Harrison allows it in several of his compositions for the Beatles. Hindustani vocal music traditionally has the singer accompanied by a single melodic instrument (sitar, dilruba, sarod, shehnai or sarangi), a drone (tamboura or harmonium) and drums (tabla); such is the case with “Love You To”. Even in this short – under three minutes – pop tune, elements of Indian structures are followed. The unmeasured thirty-five-second introduction corresponds to the Indian alap, which ends with an establishment of the tempo before the beginning of the song proper, the Indian dhrupad, as it is called in vocal music. As in India, the motives in the dhrupad are developed by improvisatory sections.

Visst kan man finna fel – indisk klassisk musik byter inte alls taktart inom en och samma komposition; sångare kompas inte alls av sitar, dilruba, sarod eller shehnai; harmonium använder man inte för att hålla bordun; och de flesta sånger kallas inte alls för dhrupad – men det är inte därför vi citerar det, utan tvärtom för att det är så roligt att höra någon kalla en Beatleslåt för dhrupad.

Nu kommer lite fler fel – det vi hör i början är ingen swarmandal, utan resonanssträngarna på George Harrisons sitar, och en taktart kan självklart vara längre än sexton slag – men desto mer prat om ”Love You To” som alap och dhrupad och faktiskt ett par insikter man höjer på ögonbrynen åt:

After the svaramandal opening, the tonic (sa=1) is introduced traditionally by the tamboura, droing with an open fifth (pa=5) above. The song’s scale is slowly introduced by the sitar in an unmeasured, improvised melody – the barlines of the Wise edition distract but are convenient for reference – that at first descends from pa to sa, and this pitch is confirmed with a string bend from B♭ in measure 6. The sitar then climbs with faster tempo and increasing rhythmic drive, corresponding to the Indian jor, and concludes with the characteristic motive, bringing the tension to a peak at A-3 before the tabla introduces the pulse in the jhala, which traditionally has the sitar repeat sa on a drone string as in A-1–2).

Outside the ornamental F# of measure 3, Harrison plays in a mode equivalent to his apparently favorite scale, the Dorian mode (here on C). The scale is a major component of the Hindustani pitch system, which classifies hundreds of rags by scale content (ascending and descending), characteristic motives (pakads), typical ornaments (gamaks) and associaions with time of day, season and mood. “Love You To” follows the pitches of the Kafi thata, equivalent to the Dorian mode, and follow typical Hindustani adherence to the upper tetrachord, but no real rags are present.

At A (beginning at 0:35), Harrison and instrumentalists initiate the dhrupad, constrained by the metric system, the tala. Bhagwat, the tabla player, recalls: “George … suggested I play something in the Ravi Shankar style, 16–beats, though he agreed that I should improvise.” Sixteen beats is the greatest possible length for a tala, hundreds of which are classified by their own accent patterns. Phrase patterns normally end on the first cound (sam), representing the Indian cyclic image of time, but this is not evident here. More traditional is the idea of improvisation, as Harrison’s sitar playing answers his singing differently in each verse; note how the sitar motives shown at A were predicted by the alap.

The sitar’s jor motive of A-3 is taken up by the singer at B (0:54), where the meter changes for the first time in a Beatles composition. As in the first two Revolver recordings, ♭VII is expressed as a neighbor to I; following “Tomorrow Never Knows”, this is the song’s only chord change, as its Indian nature precludes any suggestion of harmonic movement. The sitar solo (C, 1:35–1:54) climbs an octave, concluding with the B♭2–C3 bend (C+5) previously heard in the lower octave in the alap, and continues with many rhythmic accents against the regular tala. Following the last verse, the instrumental ensemble improvises again, with the tabla player speeding up (at 2:35) as traditional. Highly unorthodox is the fade-out, as traditional practice would call for a long improvisation at this point which may, perhaps, still exist on the working tape.

Nämligen att ”the sitar motives shown at A were predicted by the alap” (observant!) samt att ”the tabla introduces the pulse in the jhala”: detta sker ju bara i undantagsfall och kan då i vissa av dessa kallas för tar-paran, något mytomspunnet, kanske till och med mytologiskt, som kanske bara bengaliska musikologer vet vad det är. Så fel, alltså, att det blir mer än rätt.

Till sist, George Harrison med sitar:

JV

8 reaktioner på ”Månadens foto, september 2012

          • För femton år sedan, när CD-eran var som värst, fanns det en skivaffär på Döbelnsgatan som hette Sweet Freedom Records och bara sålde LP-skivor. Den drevs av en långhårig hippie som skrev och distribuerade utförliga kataloger (kopierades upp, veks och häftades, har jag för mig) där han saluförde sällsynt rockvinyl från 60- och 70-talen. Avundsvärd DYI.

            En gång beskrevs ett välbevarat exemplar av Flower Travellin’ Bands Satori som ”Totalfreakout av dessa superstenade japsar!

            JV

  1. Paul McCartney holder en Vilayat Khan-sitar. De har normalt ikke tumbaer, så vidt jeg ved, men jeg kan huske forkert…

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