Henri Tournier — Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Art of Improvisation
March 18, 2022 (No Comments) by Ganved14

Gratified by the response by Flute Journal readers to our review of the Raga Guide, we are pleased to recognise another product which essentially represents a sequel to that work, one that is of equally high quality and even more relevance to flutists.

Henri Tournier played a vital röle in the production of the Raga Guide, as it was he who produced the transcriptions that go a long way to lay bare the structure of the ragas, particularly for Western musicians who are more dependant on music notation than their Indian counterparts. In Tournier‘s case, however, as he himself is a flutist, and a distinguished one, he focuses exclusively on these ragas as applied to the bansuri, the North Indian bamboo flute, with particular reference to his main teacher within this genre, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Hariprasad Chaurasia

Pt. Chaurasia is one of the four artists employed to demonstrate the ragas in the Raga Guide. He is responsible for 18 of the 74 ragas included. For Tournier‘s book he also supplies the demonstrations but for only seven ragas and, as a result, in much greater depth. For five of these, on Disc 1, he unfolds the various aspects of each raga which, along with Tournier‘s transcriptions and diagrams, opens up each one to greater understanding. In Disc 2, he gives complete performances of two ragas, one a serious classical form, Raga Gujari Todi, the other a slightly lighter, “semi-classical:” piece, Raga Mishra Pilu. The overall effect is a deeper insight into these forms from the perspective of the bansuri performer, or, to some extent, the Western flutist re-inforced by Tournier‘s introductory essays on Hariprasad Chaurasia, Improvisation in the Music of India and the Art of Flute Playing in India.

Henri Tournier

I ended my review of the Raga Guide with: “This method book, with its profound insight into one of the world’s major flute traditions, will be essential reading for listeners and conoisseurs, students and scholars.” This applies equally to Henri Tournier‘s book especially for flutists. In fact, both of these books, including over seven hours of music on two CDs, belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in one of the most significant and vibrant music traditions in the world.




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