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Totally Acoustic ?
Trilok Gurtu at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 15 July 2006


1. "The album is titled 'Acoustic' and this doesn't prevent its tracks from employing anything but acoustic techniques."

2. "I do take issue with the definition of acoustic - Empty at the End is clearly an amped up performance."

Last night's concert at QEH in the South Bank Rhythm Sticks series, with the Misra brothers and flute, sarangi and sarod in support, was a travesty of its claim which had led to our covering the event in good faith. That would have been difficult in any case, because there was no programme nor even any announcement from the platform at the start!

The sound engineer told us that he had not expected to be required for this event, but he was instructed to amplify the proceedings - and to transmit them loudly! During the early items one of the singers repeatedly gestured to him to increase the volume, which was of course far louder than the performers on stage would have been aware.

The actual quality of the amplification was better than in some previous Asian music events, but the sheer volume inevitably distorted the character of the instruments and voices.

Gurtu obviously needed some assistance by way of sound enhancement * for his finger percussion playing; but the whole thing as inflicted on an unknowing (and apparently unperturbed) audience at QEH was so intolerable that we did not wait for him to begin deploying his drumsticks....

Ambience and sharing with ethnically mixed enthusiasts are potent pleasures in the enjoyment and appreciation of Asian music making. But, paradoxically now, we are increasingly being driven to listen in our own homes to good recordings, made by those same engineers, but retaining control of listening levels to ourselves.

The Kufa Gallery is about to close; is there anywhere in London to hear live Indian Music properly?

Trilok Gurtu will be holding a workshop at the Royal Academy of Music which we hope to attend:
31 July 10am Trilok Gurtu (alone) workshop at the AMC summer school,
Royal Academy of Music, 1 – 5 York Gate Marylebone Road
London NW1 5HT

*Enhancement (Why not amplify them?) - - My bench mark is Michael O'Gorman, the brilliant Irish sound engineer responsible for the sound design of Riverdance, who had explained his key aim to me, at a memorable Anuna concert in Greenwich. The objective is to enhance the tone without making this apparent, essentially by increasing the volume minimally, and by introducing 'delay' to create an illusion that the sound is heard as if coming entirely from the singers themselves, not from the loud speakers - -

© Peter Grahame Woolf