Helen Bledsoe, flute player with MusikFabriek (Cologne)
I am convinced that the rhythmical and melodic concepts I learned from the Advanced Rhythm course gave me an advantage while preparing for the International Gaudeamus competition, for which I won the 1st prize in 1996. My private instrumental instruction with Harrie Starreveld was of course a huge inspiration, support and guidance. But instrumental instructors do not follow you into the practice room. What follows you are concepts you pick up on how to practice and approach music. Since I was deep into the ideas from the course, I found ways to dissect complex rhythms from the perspective of Karnatic rhythmical structures, improve intonation, and make studies out of difficult passages using Karnatic improvisational methods.
As a prize winner, I came to the attention of the Ensemble Musikfabrik, which hired me in 1997 and where I continue to work. There is a direct connection to the skills and concepts I learned from the course to the Ensemble hiring me as a musician. That is material evidence. However I would like to mention a different aspect which is often overlooked when evaluating education. The skills it takes to win a job are not the same skills you need to keep a job. Those who have had the opportunity to have a broad education, who have been exposed to other musical cultures and ways of thinking are less susceptible to burn-out and depression, in my view. My knowledge of non-Western music has also been a boost to the Ensemble, and has been helpful in establishing our trans-cultural projects with musicians from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Therefore, I am grateful not only to Rafael Reina for his initiative for offering this programme and opening windows for me, but to the Conservatorium for supporting him.
Jonathan Ihlenfeld Cuñado, bass player with Trilok Gurtu
The Advanced Rhythm programme of Rafael Reina was a unique possibilty of studying, training and developing my, primarily, rhythmical skills, besides that the course opens for (i think) every student a complete new world of possibilties not used in our western system.
Due to this knowledge i acquired here (what had a huge impact on me, and influenced and inspired me a lot) i got in the band of Indian tabla legend Trilok Gurtu, with whom i am working now successfully for some years and i toured the whole world.
Also i got the chance to perform with L. Subramaniam, Vikku Vinayakram, S. Swaminatham, Sivamani, Anindo Chatterjee, Al Di Meola, Gary Husband.
This course is unique and unpredicted, and necessary
Louis Aguirre, Cuban composer, resident in Denmark and recipient of a structural stipend from the Danish Culture Ministry for composers.
When it comes to composing, I separate my life in two stages: the years in which I was still in Cuba, and the period starting in 2002 when I went to the Amsterdam Conservatory to study composition and Karnatic music with Rafael Reina and Jos Zwaanenburg.
Studying the classical music of South India gave me the necessary tools to organize my musical thoughts and the musical ideas that I had already explored in Cuba. The studies of karnatic music helped me to create my own “basso cifrado” -ground bass- that systematised my microtonal way of composing. Furthermore, I was very lucky to meet over there some extraordinary musicians studying the same programme, players, that without any fear faced the increasingly complex scores I was creating.
From this initial stage in Europe I consider my work ‘Eshu-Eleggua’ (2003), for solo amplified harpsichord, my first “true” work, the piece which would mark the future path of my language and my special musical syncretism. Also from this time is “Añá: Liturgia de la Transmutación”, my first percussion and ensemble concerto. In both works, the most important elements that integrate my musical language came in contact with one another: Afro-Cuban heritage and Karnatic techniques, crystallized through my personal optics of the Western classical music, which I learned through the old Russian school.
In 2004 I moved to Denmark, where I developed a language where the brutal and ritualistic aspects of my personality, incarnated by the Afro-Cuban roots and religion, are inextricably linked to the sophistication of karnatic rhythm and developmental concepts. One without the other couldn’t exist, and without the finnese and techniques of many karnatic concepts, I feel like my music would not have become what it is now. I am totally certain that due to it I was able to create my own unique voice in the Western music arena.
Although that at the beginning I found in Northern Europe many reticences to my language and to the level of complexity I write with, step by step I have gained recognition and more and more commissions and concerts around the world, to the point that in 2015 I obtained the biggest award the Statens Kundfond of Denmark gives to composers, the “Tre-årige Arbejdslegat”, and the first given in Denmark to a non-Scandinavian citizen. Among other awards that my music has received are: Winner (1st prize) of the 2011 Martirano Award, University of Illinois, USA, for my String Quartet “Ochosi”; in 2013 the short film “Karrusel”, with my music and directed by Russian film director Maria Yaborska, was finalist at the Cannes Film Festival; in 2017 my 4th opera “THE WAY THE DEAD LOVE” was commissioned and premiered in Århus, Denmark, as part of the Århus European Capital of Culture 2017; from 2014 - 2016 I was Composer in Residence of Neopercusión & Colectivo Neo Ensembles, Madrid, Spain; in 2011 my work
Oba-Kosso, for solo percussion, was winner (3rd prize) of the 9th Italy Percussion Competition, Fermo, Italy;…
Nowadays, my music is played at the more important venues, festivals and by great ensembles and musicians such as: Arditti Quartet, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Adam Ørvad, Barbara Lünenburg, Neo percusión & Colectivo Neo, Juanjo Guillém, TANA Quartet, Melisma Saxophone Quartet, Henriette Jensen, JONDE Orchestra, Lydenskab Ensemble, Black Pencil Ensemble, Residencias Ensemble, Enric Monfort, Karolina Leedo, Sonja Lena Schmid, …and festivals and venues such as: Internationale Ferienkurse für neue musik, Darmstadt; Ultraschal Festival, Berlin; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; Nordic Music Days; Concert series "Südseite nachts", Stuttgart; Gaudeamus Week, Holland; Tallin Music Days, Estonia; Dijon Opera House, France; Moscow Philarmonic, Russia, Festival Saint-Denis, Paris, France; Auditorio Nacional, Madrid, Spain; Zavod za kulturu Vojvodine, Serbia; Contemporary Music Society of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; RE:FLUX 11. Music and sound art festival. Salle Bernard- Leblanc, Centree Culturel Aberdeen, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Boris Christoff Music Centre, Sofia, Bulgaria; China International Percussion Festival. 2017 PAS, Shanghai; Mozarteum University Salzburg, Austria; ”Arsenal” (National Center of Contemporary Arts), Nizhni Nóvgorod, Volga, Russia; Istambul Woodwind Festival, Caddebostan Culture Center, Istanbul, Turkey; Ramsey Concert Hall, University of Georgia, USA; Muziekgebow, Grote Zaal, Amsterdam; Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris Nord, France;…
Sarah Jeffery, multi-faceted Recorder winner of prestigious awards for recorder
On a professional level, the course has helped in many concrete ways. For example, after learning Rafael Reina's piece 'Liturgy of Darkness 5' (only possible after 5 years of the Advanced Rhythm programme - and certainly the most difficult piece for the recorder that I ever tackled!) I won the Nordhorn Recorder Competition, which is well known in the recorder world - and the first prize was to record a solo CD, which I will do this coming year. I have also been invited to perform a solo concert in Denmark, after a composer (Louis Agguire) heard me performing the same piece in Amsterdam. This solo CD and solo concert (and others like it) would certainly not have happened if not for theAdvanced Rhythm programme.
On an individual level, I have also been able to play many pieces utilising the techniques - both through meeting composers affiliated with the programme, and personally having the confidence to tackle solo pieces that use these techniques. The course has made me a much, much better musician both technically - it's so satisfying and useful to be able to actually see and perform rhythms accurately and musically instead of guessing, and the same goes for microtones.It has also opened my eyes to huge amounts of music outside our western classical world, which is very important for any musician.
Sven Hochseit, percussionist and winner of prestigious awards for percussionists
Rebonds has been a part of my artistic output for a while now and I have found that each time I look at it, I find new things in it. When I started my master’s degree in classical percussion at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, I chose to specialise in Carnatic rhythmic techniques. In this program, (led by Dr. Rafael Reina), I learned about a technique called Jathi Bhedam. Through this concept, I started to look at Rebonds differently and, inspired by the Carnatic ideas, found a new way to interpret the score. I was always intrigued by the way how Xenakis notated Rebonds with conventional notation and I was wondering why he chose to keep a meter of 4/4 throughout the entire piece. Through the confrontation with Carnatic music, I started to experiment with the idea that maybe there would be another way to notate Rebonds, to make the musical meaning more apparent. In the course at the Conservatorium, we learn to apply Carnatic concepts onto Western Contemporary Music. Very often, we are confronted with complex musical material of Western composers that is hard to understand because of the nature of how it is notated and we use the advanced knowledge of Carnatic music to find a way to write down complex rhythmical structures in a more understandable way.
With all this in mind, I set myself to identify the musical meaning of the notes that Xenakis wrote and to find a notation fit to indicate to the reader of the score what the intention of the notes is. At this point I have to mention that the following thesis is a construct of my interpretation and even though I am convinced that my findings are very close to the truth, I, in no way, claim that this is the only way how to interpret Rebonds by Iannis Xenakis. I do not argue that the notation of Xenakis is wrong, I merely provide an alternative to his original notation.
This research has been a very revealing experience to me in many ways. I have learned a great deal of things about music, Xenakis and surprisingly also about myself. I want to take a moment to thank a few people that helped me overcome some of my struggles and that guided me throughout the process. My engagement with karnatic concepts through the programme Applications of Karnatic rhythm to Contemporary music has inspired me to think in ways that are outside of traditional western music history. Rafael Reina has led me to understand certain aspects and concepts of indian music that convinced me that there must be a way to understand western contemporary music from a different standpoint, one that is maybe not inherent. The mind of composers is always a step or two ahead of the abilities of listeners and performers and I think that, with the help and inspiration of Rafael Reina, I have discovered something that is one part of the truth.
Hans Leeuw, trumpet player, composer and teacher of music technology at the HKU (Utrecht)
When I started the masters Application of Karnatic Rhythm to western music it was mainly to use it for compositional purposes. I had a drive to write pieces in a modern or avant garde jazz kind of way but lacked the tools to work with form in a less straight format and still keep structure in my pieces. Differently put. I was able to write 'songs' or completely free associative pieces but I wanted something in between. I thought the course could provide me with abstract tools to accomplish this. Of course I knew already some results from other composition students that followed the course some of which I found intriguing and interesting and above all I saw a great potential. I am fond of complexity in general as life itself is complex. Making complex music is in that sense a statement against the simple way in which current day problems are often presented in populist politics.
An added benefit was that the course provided an integrated playing and composition environment. In other words the course provided a testing ground. That testing ground and an iterative way of designing is what attracts me as a person. I know I can be cerebral but I believe in a more communicative way of music making as opposed to the hierarchical structures that are so typical of the classical realm. I had quite a few instances where pieces of mine were improved through the interaction with the players. I also like to provide the players with pleasure in playing my pieces so they will do a better job.
After the course I did even an extra piece just to experience that working environment. In my own band which was pretty dedicated for a jazz band I did not find the dedication that was with people following the course. So that was another reason to do the course. Very dedicated people to go new ways with complex material. A nourishing musical educational environment.
Afterwards I kept writing pieces for my own band and since the course they were all conceived applying the principals that I learned within the course. Gradually my band improved through my pieces as well!!! At the moment I do not really write pieces because I am very busy developing my own invention ‘the Electrumpet’ but I am still using the principles of the course there as well. You could say that I am composing the instrument itself. At the moment I just finished a recognition algorithm for rhythms and of course the same ideas of Karnatic music are used to recognise phrases. In fact my whole new system is based on the idea of the phrase. The additive nature of Karnatic music lets you think in that manner and with its algorithmic system in both the music itself and in its teaching it is greatly beneficial for algorithmic music made with the computer.
I am teaching the course material myself as well and I do that on the HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht, department Music Technology). Unfortunately I do not have the same amount of time for my students as I had myself when I followed the course at the conservatory but it is striking how much its fundamental principles help to give young composers a different insight in how to compose music. Some of them will use these principles in their music although I do not have the same dedicated group to let them test on each other as we had at the AHK. On the other hand they use computers and for computers understanding algorithmic music making is second nature.
Concluding. The material of the programme allowed me to take a new step in my career as composer, I use the material also to teach it to students myself and above all: The material of the course and its algorithmic nature opened up a new way of thinking about music for myself but also my students.
Carles Marigo, pianist and teacher at the ESMUC and Liceu (Barcelona)
All my life I’ve been playing and composing music that interested me. So, since my very first piano lessons I was learning both jazz and classical music. Shortly afterwards, I started to play and compose Catalonian tradicional music. But then I decided to formalize my studies with a diploma. And there started my dilema. Which direction should I take? To be honest, I tried the easy way. So, I became a pianist in the classical and contemporary worlds. I studied in Barcelona and Moscow Tchaikovsky’s Conservatoires. I won a few competitions, played a great amount of concerts. I felt I was already on the ‘beaten track’. During these years, I almost stopped to improve my skills as a composer and with the improvisation (generally jazz). During my master in Moscow I realized that the "classical pianist way" was not filling me enough. I was not happy. So, I started to improve my improvisation in a self-taught manner.
Today (34 years old) I’m teaching improvisation (classical and contemporary music) in the Conservatoire in Barcelona where I studied (ESMUC) as well as at the Barcelona’s Liceu. At the ESMUC I met Rafael Reina, who is teaching us the course on Karnatic Techniques. And there my world spun around!. Working with these rhythmical techniques and its almost infinite developmental possibilities made me discover new ways to improvise, to learn and read new music, to compose. So much that, even though I have a great position in both conservatoires and my professional life is quite full, I would stop it all for two years in order to follow a masters on the applications of karnatic rhythm to western music. I (we!) need a master where we can learn all the things we need to become complete musicians who can compose, play, improvise, teach, all in our way. The programe offers these needs and whims of musicians like me who don’t feel that belong to a particular box.
Carles Marigó i Sarrión
Tijn Wybenga, composer and recipient of structural fonds from the Dutch Culture Ministry
The master ‘Applications of karnatic rhythm to western music’ gave me all theoretical, creative and practical elements I need to create my own musical language. As a composer I am trained in a jazz tradition but my music tends to use a lot of more ‘classically oriented’ instrumentations and development. However, my jazz background is always there and I don’t really see myself as a composer following the path of the ‘contemporary avant-garde’ characteristic of the 20th and 21st centuries. The flexibility and the transversal aspects of this masters enabled me to develop my own whims and path. Therefore, I could articulate my signature in my music, regardless of any style or genre in composition.
Another aspect is the amount of time I could spend with top-level musicians to explore new ways of composing, performance and improvisation and then be able to create my music in any circumstances having a wide array of tools in my hands.
Creating a musical language derived from a foreign musical culture takes time, but it is very fruitful and therefore necessary. Examples like Stravinsky or Messiaen; they changed the western musical world by creatively implementing 'intercultural music' into Western Tradition.
One van Geel, composer, improviser, viola player
Following the Advanced Rhythm study for 4 years totally changed my musical life!
For three main reasons:
1) It introduced me to lots of concepts in South Indian music and contemporary music which we, the students, then applied in the class room and at school performances. But more important: These concepts also enabled me and other students to apply them as a composer and in the bands/ ensembles we were doing at the time. I use this concepts to this very day! It depends from composition to composition how much of these (amazing) tools I will use but they are always there in my ‘tool box’.
When I, as a player, encounter difficult rhythms, melodic embellishments or microtonality, I am also much more at at home with them now then I was before the Advanced Rhythm programme years.
Many thanks to Rafael and Jos for teaching us in such a structured and lively way!
2) Through the Advanced Rhythm programme we got in contact with amazing musicians from Bangalore with whom there are still projects happing today and some of them became friends for life!
With a group of students we went over to India and lived there 3 times for a period of more then a month. While there we where doing lots of cross-over concerts and the musical knowledge did totally get its ‘flesh and blood’.
On counter visits open minded musicians from India joined us for projects here in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.
3) At theAdvanced Rhythm programme I did meet many other curious musicians who where all, like me, on new territory. People from the contemporary and classical department mixed with jazz and improv musicians and composers. We all worked hard in exploring the many possibilities but we also were having a lot of fun since it is such rich material to explore! A lot of these collaborations are still going on today and I am thankful for it.
Mark Haanstra, composer, bass player
I belong to the first generation of Rafael’s students. His course was still in the beginning stages and not as well structured as it is now. However, for me it was one of the best educations I had. At that time I was interested in music from Steve Coleman, Aka Moon and similar artists.This drew me to the course, since there were very few sources to get information about this kind of material at the time.
Advanced Rhythm gave me necessary tools to achieve precision playing this kind of material. But not only that: Since it was one of the few places where classical musicians and jazz musicians were working on equally new ground I got one foot into the classical field in early stages of my career. I got introduced to playing complex music with conductors, I was able to work together closely with composers. All these things enabled me to achieve a better understanding about Karnatic music, New music and different styles of improvisation. To me it felt like it was a portal to a whole new world with endles possibilities. One of my first successful groups, Bhedam, came directly from the programme, gave us recognition in the jazz field in the early stages of our career.
Especially rhythmically I can say that there are few things that I cannot grasp in my current professional life. I will always have a method to work on it. But later on I discovered it was not only about the complex irregular structures. While working on this I achieved a very strong inner pulse and ability to feel subdivisions of the beat. I benefit from this with every note I play.
I became a very all round player for a big part because of CMTNWT. Because of this I played with artists such as Aka Moon, Simon Phillips, Terry Bozzio, Octurn, Nelson Veras, Oene van Geel and many others. I also played with ensembles and orchestras such as New York Philharmonic, KCO and the BBC philharmonic. I think I can safely assume this would not have happened if I didn’t get involved with Rafael Reina’s course back in 1998. I will always be thankful for this.
Peter Wiegold, composer, conductor, former professor at Brunel University (London)
"This important study provides a comprehensive view of one of the richest rhythmic traditions in the world. Built on sustained experiential learning, Karnatic rhythm provides an almost scientific investigation of rhythmic possibility, something which, through dedication and long study, Rafael Reina is especially able to convey and invoke. His is a study from a Western musician, and the double benefit of this book is that he is then able to demonstrate the efficacy and inspiration that a Karnatic approach to rhythm and rhythmic structure can bring to Western music, showing both how it can enhance performance and learning techniques, and also be a source for the composer of intriguing and reframing compositional devices."
David de Marez Oyens, review in 'De Bassist Magazine'
"It is impossible to discuss the whole content of this extensive work here, but this is unmistakably a book you can continue to read for many years with great pleasure, to either improve yourself or be inspired by new creative ideas."