Friday, March 4, 2011

Zakir Hussain and the NSO

From left, Zakir Hussain, Shankar Mahadevan, Kelley O'Connor and Hariharan onstage with the NSO.
© The Washington Post

Orchestras tend to approach crossover in one of two ways: pop-culture crossover (involving video game music, film music, or pop and rock stars like Sting performing with orchestra) and world-music crossover, in which the orchestra explores music of a non-Western tradition. Speaking very generally, world-music crossover tends to be more thoughtful.


The Zakir Hussain concerto the NSO is playing this weekend, however, merges both kinds of crossover: contrasting different musical traditions, and getting a big star to write a piece for orchestra. It's the latter aspect that trips it up. The problem is that it's difficult even for highly talented musicians to write interestingly for orchestra if they aren't trained to do so. Hussain's composition was orchestrated by someone else. I submit that a more successful approach is to have a composer versed in the ways of the Western orchestra sit down with a musician like Hussain and see what kinds of cross-pollination they could create together.

Midgette, A. (2011) Crossover: NSO goes to India, The Classical Beat, March 4, 2011.

Midgette, A. (2011) NSO review: Tabla meets West as ‘India’ concert strikes a crossover convergence, Washington Post, March 4, 2011.

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