Classic misunderstandings - Eastern tunings

The 85 year old Ravi Shankar's music making at his Proms debut last night was fabulous. It reminded me of a little story that goes back a few years...

The 1971 Concert for Bangladesh was the original superstars-saving-the-world event that predated Bob Geldof and all the others. Shankar and George Harrison put together the gig after Shankar, his musical mentor on the sitar, had alerted him to the plight of millions of starving and flood-afflicted Bengalis who were then locked in a short but bloody fight for independence from Pakistan.

When Shankar came to start his set there was rapturous applause for the first sounds from his sitar. "If you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you will like the playing even more" he told the audience in a deadpan voice.

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Anonymous said…
I have my own favorite tuning story from a live concert. Pianist Anton Kuerti gave a recital in New Bedford a few years back, and following the intermission, he delayed resuming the concert while he fixed the tuning of the concert grand (the pre-concert tuning had been suitable for one's living room but was too soft for the concert hall.)

When he had finished his tuning work and tossed the heavy wrench off to one side, the audience applauded--and he quipped, "No one applauds a violinist who tunes his instrument on stage."

After the concert he met with attendees in the entrance foyer of the hall, and I explained to him: "Violinists don't need to use big wrenches to tune up"--that's why the audience was impressed.

As an aside to my comment, he had also introduced a piece by Czerny by explaining the composer's links from Beethoven (as Ludwig's student) to Liszt (as Liszt's teacher), making Czerny a sort of "universal joint in the history of music". I could visibly see men in the audience sit up with renewed interest in the recital, as if to say, "Hey, this guy can also talk cars!"

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