Film music acts as a cultural bridge, says UK composer

Yati Durant has studied Indian classical music in Chennai as a youngster and is a veena exponent

Yati Durant

US-born and UK-based composer, lecturer, trumpeter and conductor Yati Durant has been involved with music from the age of seven. His consequent list of achievements comes as no surprise then — he is the founding member of an experimental jazz ensemble, has had a successful stint as a TV and film music composer, his compositions and films have received many prizes at international festivals and have been performed around the world. 

Recently in the city to perform with Jagadeesh MR, director operations of The Bangalore School of Music and founder member of ‘MoonArra World Fusion’, Yati took time off to talk to Metrolife about music, music and more music.

What is the guiding principle when it comes to your compositions?

I have a lot of different styles when it comes to compositions and each one has its own unique guiding principle. In essence, the principle is to strike the right balance between what needs to be composed and what I feel should be composed. Sometimes, there is a discrepancy between the two, particularly if it is commercial music. But if it is something that I am doing for myself, then I try to stay true to those ideas I am trying to develop. 

People say jazz is boring. What is your take on that?

Well, I feel sorry for them (laughs). It has sophistication and musical complexity; there is no comparison between jazz and popular music in terms of intensity and drama. Also, the music is produced live right in front of you which makes it even more exciting.

Thoughts about Indian music?

I am really passionate about it. I have studied Indian music in Chennai in the 90s when I came here as a young man. I play the veena and know all the ragas and theory.

Despite the passage of time, I am still fascinated by how the music works its mathematical connections with. Things like ‘gamakas’ are so advanced; it has inspired me in my compositions. 

What about popular Indian music, like film music?

I know a bit of it and I have been fairly pleased with it. It is being written for a different audience so it will have a different flavour and colour. I try to listen to it with an open mind. However, the film music industry is evolving at a very quick rate and that’s impressive.

Any Indian musicians you follow or want to work with?

I am working with Ranjit Barot and we are thinking of recording something soon. Collaborating with Jagadeesh and MoonArra was also a real privilege. However, my knowledge of contemporary Indian musicians is limited, though I admire the zest in their music. It would be fun to produce something like a hybrid film score.

I used to listen to a lot of classical Indian music when I was here. I am familiar with names like Chitti Babu (one of the greatest veena artistes in his lifetime).

Does composing music for movies erode its sensibility and relevance?

This doesn’t have a simple answer but I would like to recount a story to explain my thoughts. When I finished conservatory in Germany, my professors asked me what I wanted to do with my skills. I told them I wanted to apply contemporary classical techniques to film music. And one of them replied with ‘Do you not think film music is simply rubbish?’. I responded with (and would still do) ‘Absolutely not’. Film music has a lot of symbolic intention and is a bridge between popular and classical cultures.

As for sensibility, I think that lies on the composer themselves.

What is the most common mistake music students make?

As a professor teaching music to students at various levels, I have seen many mistakes being repeated again and again. Many of them are just miscommunications, possibly coming from early music education. Some are the effects of contemporary digital computer culture, like notation for example. Music with proper notation, grammar and syntax is getting almost impossible to find. 

Also, one of the biggest mistakes that students make is they don’t trust themselves enough and that holds them back.

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