I’m excited to announce a new recording project in progress, dedicated to the Indian drone instrument, the tanpura. Here is a very special selection from the album:

The tanpura has an important but seemingly thankless task: to produce a steady, continuous, and basically unchanging sound for hours on end, as the background for a vocal or instrumental performance, or for meditation. What could be interesting or special about a tanpura album?  For one, I’m playing what I believe to be one of the best tanpuras in the world, made by the late Hemen Sen; further, I am exploring many of the beautiful but uncommon ways of tuning the instrument. The most common tuning has one string playing the fifth of the scale (Pa) and the other strings playing the tonic (Sa), but other possibilities abound, and to my knowledge they haven’t been amply recorded. There is also a big difference between getting a tanpura acceptably in tune, which can take a few minutes, and getting it “radiantly” in tune, which can take hours of searching and adjusting, and on some days proves entirely impossible. I have been recording my tanpura in many different playing sessions to capture the very best of what it can produce. I’ve written a bit about the tuning process in the album notes and will be posting some blog entries on the topic as well. While the tanpura usually fades into the background, I am recording it up close here and am performing it with more variety and expressiveness than the typical detached playing style demands.

This project began with the goal of creating some tracks that I could use as accompaniment in my own singing practice; I then thought that these tracks might be useful to other singers, and later realized that some of them might be useful also as a tranquil background for yoga, meditation, and so on.

The track I’ve posted above in Pa Ni Sa Sa tuning captures a very rare moment where the instrument seemed to come alive and put me in a trance.  Listen to up to 4.20 to hear the full session, which is repeated several times to create an extended clip. ■

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