Location

MELA Foundation Dream House
275 Church Street
New York, New York 10013
Location map

About this event

In Memoriam 
Marian Zazeela
(April 15, 1940 – March 28, 2024)


Two Concerts of Evening Ragas

Raga Yaman Kalyan 
“Raga Sundara” ektal (12 beats) vilampit • La Monte Young

Raga Sindh Bhairavi
Song to Guruji, “Was It The Shadow of His Feet?” dipchandi tal (14 beats) madhyalay • La Monte Young

The Just Alap Raga Ensemble

La Monte Young voice
Jung Hee Choi voice
Jon Catler electric just intonation guitar
Hansford Row electric fretless bass
..................Naren Budhkar tabla

The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD

in a setting of
Imagic Light, Marian Zazeela
Light Point Drawings Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30, Jung Hee Choi

Friday, June 14 and Sunday, June 16, 2024, 7:30 pm

MELA Foundation Dream House
275 Church Street, 3rd Floor, New York

Admission $63. MELA Members, Seniors, Student ID, $56.
Limited seating.  Advance reservations recommended.
Info and reservations:  mail@melafoundation.org   Tel: 917-603-9715


PLEASE NOTE: To prepare for the scheduled concerts the Dream House installation will be closed from June 12 until June 15, 2024. Doors open at 7:30 pm for concert seating.

Two Concerts of Evening Ragas in the contemporary Kirana gharana (style) of North Indian Classical Music will be performed by La Monte Young with The Just Alap Raga Ensemble in memorial tribute honoring the great master of the tradition, Marian Zazeela (April 15, 1940 – March 28, 2024) on the occasion of her passing. The concerts will be presented on Friday, June 14 and Sunday, June 16, 2024 at 7:30 pm in the MELA Foundation Dream House light environment, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor.    

The Just Alap ensemble will perform two compositions by La Monte Young featuring extended alap sections and sustained vocal drones in just intonation over tamburas: “Raga Sundara” ektal (12 beats) vilampit in Raga Yaman Kalyan and Song to Guruji, “Was It The Shadow of His Feet?” dipchandi tal (14 beats) madhyalay in Raga Sindh Bhairavi.

In 2004, Young composed “Raga Sundara” and two-part harmony for the ‘sthayi and for the antara dedicated to Jung Hee Choi. In this composition, Young introduced drones in two- and three-part harmony, and counterpoint in the pre-composition part of the alap. The harmony line for these compositions in Raga Yaman Kalyan comprises the introduction of two-part harmony into Indian classical khayal composition, contributing a new element to Indian classical music. The Just Alap Ensemble presented the avant-premiere of "Raga Sundara" on March 27, 2004, the eve of the first anniversary of Choi’s discipleship ceremony.

Sometime after the passing of Pandit Pran Nath, Young composed the music and the texts for Song to Guruji, “Was It The Shadow of His Feet?,” which Young stated "was totally inspired by and transmitted to me by Pandit Pran Nath as part of this unending Guru-Disciple Parampara tradition." The poetry was first rendered on December 7, 1996, and the first draft of pitches in Raga Sindh Bhairavi was conceived on July 9, 1997. The Just Alap Ensemble performed the first concert on November 1, 2003.

Zazeela, one of the first Western disciples of the renowned Pandit Pran Nath, was deeply involved in the esoteric and profound tradition of the Kirana gharana of Indian art music. Her unwavering dedication and commitment to this art form truly influenced her life's work and legacy. Zazeela wrote, “Over the years of study with Guruji, as I learned to sing raga, my calligraphic drawing style developed a new balance and fluidity, an almost inherent rhythm; I discovered a sureness and confidence in the form that had not been there earlier. As my work evolved, I believed I could feel Guruji’s teachings shaping my style, but now it seems so elusive, so much a part of me, that in trying to recall this phenomenon, I cannot quantify exactly how Guruji’s music informed my approach. It is not that there was a precise influence by Guruji that I can equate with the development of my calligraphic technique, not that he in any way told me what or how to draw.”

Young considers The Just Alap Raga Ensemble to be one of the most significant creations in the development of his compositional process in that it organically merges the traditions of Western and Hindustani classical musics with the knowledge of acoustical science to embody complementary forms in an all-encompassing, evolutionary statement. Pandit Pran Nath has said, "Alap is the essence of Raga. When the drut [faster tempo] begins, the Raga is finished." With The Just Alap Raga Ensemble, Young applies his own compositional approach to traditional raga performance, form and technique: a pranam (bow) of gratitude in reciprocation for the influence on his music, since the mid-fifties, of the unique, slow, unmetered, timeless alap, and for one of the most ancient and evolved vocal traditions extant today. The Ensemble features extended alap sections, sustained vocal and instrumental drones, two- and three-part harmony and counterpoint in just intonation over tamburas. Young, Zazeela and Choi premiered this ensemble on August 22, 2002 in a memorial tribute to Ustad Hafizullah Khan, the Khalifa of the Kirana gharana and son of Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Sahib.  

Pandit Pran Nath virtually introduced the vocal tradition of North Indian classical music to the West in 1970.  His 1971 morning performance at Town Hall, New York City, was the first concert of morning ragas to be presented in the U.S. Subsequently, he introduced and elaborated to Western audiences the concept of performing ragas at the proper time of day by scheduling entire series of concerts at special hours. Many students and professional musicians came to him in America to learn about the vast system of raga and to improve their musicianship. In 1972, Pran Nath established his own school in New York City under the direction of his disciples La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, the Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music, now a project of MELA Foundation. Over the years Pran Nath performed hundreds of concerts in the West, scores of them in New York City, and in Fall 1993, he inaugurated the MELA Foundation Dream House with three Raga Cycle concerts. He continued to perform here annually during his remaining years and on May 12 and 17, 1996, his two concerts of Afternoon and Evening Ragas in the Dream House were his last public performances before he passed away on June 13, 1996.  

Pran Nath's majestic expositions of the slow alap sections of ragas combined with his emphasis on perfect intonation and the clear evocation of mood had a profound impact on Western contemporary composers and performers. Following Young and Zazeela, minimalist music composer Terry Riley became one of his first American disciples. Fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell, jazz all-stars Don Cherry and Lee Konitz, composers Jon Gibson, Yoshimasa Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison and Allaudin Mathieu, Shabda Kahn, Pir of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, mathematician and composer Catherine Christer Hennix, concept artist and violinist Henry Flynt, dancer Simone Forti, and many others took the opportunity to study with the master.  

In The Hindustan Times (2003), Shanta Serbjeet Singh wrote: 

[Young and Zazeela] would create works like the “Just Alap Raga Ensemble” which would amaze musicians of the caliber of Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj or the Gundecha brothers were they to hear it. In fact I wish they would hear it and savour their own legacy of Indian classical music in two new ways, one, by way of the Young’s immense sadhna and two, by way of the fact that today the great art of Hindustani Shastriya sangeet has actually become so much a part of the world of music. Did not the ancients say: Vasudeva Kumutbhakam—the world is a family? A work like “Just Alap Raga Ensemble” actually proves it.

In the 2005 article, “Tales Of Exemplary Guru Bhakti / Pran Nath, La Monte Young And Marian Zazeela,” published in the SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) quarterly magazine "The Eye," it is noted: 

[Young] is a master of Hindustani classical music.… La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, founders of the MELA Foundation Dream House in New York, are responsible for having single-handedly introduced vocal Hindustani classical music to America. In 1970 when they brought renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran Nath of the Kirana Gharana to the U.S. and became his first Western disciples, studying with him for twenty-six years in the traditional gurukula manner of living with the guru, Americans and Westerners only had a nodding acquaintance with Indian music, that too, only instrumental music through the performing tours of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Also some introduction to Indian rhythm techniques through the charismatic playing of Pandit Chatur Lal, the tabla player who always accompanied Ravi Shankar through the sixties. But the deep, unfathomable intricacies of Khayal Gayaki and of the whole cosmos of Alap were totally unknown to them. Indeed, as his many American shishyas, most of them practicing musicians themselves, would say later, even unimaginable.… Young and Zazeela, who taught the Kirana style and performed with Pandit Pran Nath since 1970 in hundreds of concerts in India, Iran, Europe and the United States, have continued their Guru’s work in the most exemplary manner. In June 2002, shortly before he died, Khalifa Hafizullah Khan Sahib, Ustad Wahid Khan Sahib’s son and a great sarangi master, conferred on Young the title of Khan Sahib.

American Music, Winter 2009, reviewed the Ensemble's March 2009 performance at the Guggenheim Museum: 

The most striking innovation appeared when the ensemble returned to the beginning of the composition later on. In that repetition and each one thereafter, Young and his ensemble–in a bold deviation from traditional North Indian monophony–sang and played in two-part harmony.... In the context of raga performance, this harmonization, combined with the ethereal polytonal quality of Raga Yaman, lent the ensemble a breathtakingly lush quality with each return of the refrain.

In his LA Times Blog, critic Mark Swed wrote of the Ensemble's 2009 performance of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra in Raga Sindh Bhairavi:  

Frankly, what made me drop everything and fly to New York at the last minute for the [Merce Cunningham] memorial was the announcement of the music lineup, which was a once-in-a-life-time gathering. La Monte Young, the otherworldly inventor of Minimalism, began the program singing a welcoming raga with Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, which was pure vibratory magic.


Concert admission is $63 / $56 MELA members; seniors; students with ID.  Limited seating.  Advance reservations recommended.
Info and reservations:  mail@melafoundation.org or visit www.melafoundation.org Tel: 917-603-9715

MELA's programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and generous contributions from individuals and MELA Members.

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