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MSRI/SITOC/Math Department Colloquium: A Meta-Mathematical Framework for Integrating Indian Classical and Western Music October 21, 2016 (03:30 PM PDT - 04:30 PM PDT)
Parent Program: --
Location: Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing Auditorium, University of California, Berkeley

MSRI/SITOC/Math Department Colloquium

A Meta-Mathematical Framework for Integrating Indian Classical and Western Music

Purnaprajna Bangere, violinist and mathematician

David Balakrishnan, composer/violinist and founder of the Grammy Award-winning Turtle Island String Quartet

Friday, October 21, 2016 from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Calvin Lab Auditorium at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley (Map)

This colloquium is a joint talk featuring musical recordings and a short live performance to illustrate the theoretical basis developed in the talk. Tea will be served at 3:00 p.m. preceding the colloquium.

Part One: Purnaprajna Bangere

One can obtain deep insights about algebraic varieties defined over a field K by working in a more general setting where varieties are defined over rings containing K. In particular, the behavior of a variety as it moves in a family is of deep interest, and plays a vital role in algebraic geometry. This viewpoint has yielded many interesting results. Inspired by these viewpoints and by Grothendieck’s writing on nilpotents in algebraic geometry, we are developing a Meta geometric framework for a music that integrates elements of Indian and western classical music, jazz, and the blues.

Part Two: David Balakrishnan

The study of the overtone series is well known as a foundational point of origin among western musicians who are drawn to explore the cross-civilizational integration of Indian classical music. Based on the work of Herman Helmholtz in the 1850s and further elucidated for the modern era with specific application for musicians by W.A. Mathieu’s book, Harmonic Experience, this fundamental theoretical basis led to the creation of the Turtle Island String Quartet in 1985. When Prof. Purnaprajna approached me with the idea of working together on his Meta Raga system, I immediately realized its potential. I further perceived clear congruities in his theoretical framework to not only the approach taken in W.A. Mathieu’s book, but also the work of western music giants such as Arnold Schoenberg and John Coltrane. The collaboration has yielded a finished composition, as well as others in progress.



David Balakrishnan, composer/violinist and founder of the Grammy Award-winning Turtle Island Quartet, was born in Los Angeles in 1954.  After graduating from UCLA in 1976, he quickly established his reputation as a talented young improvising violinist, appearing on many recordings and making guest appearances with the David Grisman Quartet and jazz violin legend Stephane Grappelli. Under his direction, Turtle Island has won 2 Grammy awards and David himself has been nominated 6 times, the most recent being a 2015 nomination in the Jazz composition category for his piece, "Confetti man". Several distinguished musicians have played with the Turtle Island String Quartet, including clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, guitar legends Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers, pianists Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron, Cyrus Chestnut and Ramsey Lewis, singers Tierney Sutton and Nellie McKay and the Ying Quartet. Considered an important musician/composer, in 2015 David was awarded Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program grant, supporting a full-length work commemorating the quartet’s 30th anniversary season.

Purnaprajna Bangere comes from a important school of violin players in India. He had rigorous training under the well known south Indian violinist and teacher of great repute HKN Murthy. HKN Murthy is the student of the legendary Indian musician M.S. Gopalakrishnan. Purnaprajna is a representative of his school, and plays the style of music known as the Parur system, characterized by high technical virtuosity and musicianship. In the last two years, he has been invited to give solo recitals in the prestigious music festivals such as the Learnquest Music Festival in Boston, the Cleveland Music Festival and the Toronto Music Festival. Purnaprajna has recently come up with a geometric framework (from algebraic geometry) to explore new music and is currently working on this with David Balakrishnan, the director of the Grammy Award-winning Turtle Island String Quartet. www.purnaviolin.com


This colloquium is held in conjunction with a free, public concert held the prior evening.

The Art of Improvisation
featuring Purnaprajna Bangere, violin, accompanied by Amit Kavthekar, tabla

Thursday, October 20th from 5:15 - 6:30 p.m.
MSRI’s Simons Auditorium, 17 Gauss Way, Berkeley, CA 94720

More information: msri.org/general_events/22015
*Free parking is available after 5:00 p.m.

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