Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Ravi Shankar, Sitar Master Who Spread Indian Music, Dies at 92
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 10:50 PM
Ravi Shankar, the sitar player and composer who became India's most influential musician, died Tuesday evening in San Diego, CA. He was 92.
Shankar's death came after he underwent heart-valve replacement surgery on Thursday. He had been suffering from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year, said his New York-based representative.
Shankar is best known for having influenced the Beatles – and much of the youth counterculture – during the 1960s, performing at the legendary Woodstock and Monterrey Pop music festivals. He also put a distinctive stamp on classical music. Between 1967 and 1976 he made three "West Meets East" albums with the American violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Featuring the hypnotic interplay of Menuhin's violin and Shankar's sitar, the albums were critical and commercial successes and won a Grammy Award.
"Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music," Menuhin once said.
Other Western classical musicians sought out the sitar player. Shankar collaborated with the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, among other soloists. He composed three concertos for sitar and orchestra: for the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic (led by Zubin Mehta) and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Shankar also worked with Philip Glass, whose minimalist aesthetic had an affinity with the patterns of North Indian ragas. Their collaborations included the 1990 album "Passages," and Orion for the Athens 2004 Cultural Olympiad. In a 1985 interview on WNYC's New Sounds, Shankar recalled meeting Glass at a recording session for the soundtrack to the 1966 film "Chappaqua." "He was so curious," Shankar said. "He was asking questions about ragas, talas and counting. In that period of six or seven sessions I told him as much as I could."
Although his health declined in recent years, Shankar remained active in music: he and his musician daughter Anoushka had been nominated for a 2013 Grammy in the world music category. In a statement, Shankar's family said, "Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music."
Below is a video of Shankar and Menuhin performing in the 1970s.