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New York Out Loud: 5 Original Compositions

One of Arun Ruthra's series compositionsPerformance Today


NYOL Radio Feature - Arun Luthra, series composer

8:17


February 14, 2020
Brooklyn: runners and riders

Manhattan: subterranean daydream

Queens: omnijoy

The Bronx: courtly groove

Staten Island: Charlie's world of wonders

Brooklyn: runners and riders
by APM
Manhattan: subterranean daydream
by APM
Queens: omnijoy
by APM
The Bronx: courtly groove
by APM
Staten Island: Charlie's world of wonders
by APM

New York City is a place with a vibrant and seemingly ever-expanding music scene. What about the signature sounds of the place itself? The rhythmic clatter of the subway? The honks of taxis? Fire hydrants spilling onto the streets on hot summer days? Does the sonic identity of the place evolve with its music? Performance Today assembled a collection of "community-sourced sounds" submitted by PT listeners from their New York neighborhoods.

For this series called "New York Out Loud," composer Arun Luthra used those sounds in five new musical works - one for each of the five boroughs of New York.

"It was kind of analogous to the notion of a sculptor. You might say a sculptor is removing stone [to] create a shape. They create what is in their mind. But then, you know, the kind of deep Zen approach to the sculpture is -- I'm removing the excess stone to reveal the shape that's already within the stone. And I started to think of the sounds that way. I wanted to find the music in the sounds that were given to me rather than trying to kind of impose something on them."

Arun luthra and band in recording studio
In NYC studio. Arun Luthra, composer & saxophonist - Thomson Kneeland, bass - Jonathan Barber, drums - Marko Churnchetz, piano
Performance Today

Once human ears are tuned in to this kind of listening, PT Host Fred Child explains, it's hard to ignore:

 "I've gone around with a greater consciousness, and I hear people talking and I hear music now in a different way. I hear rhythm and melody because [Arun] kind of brought that to my attention in these compositions."

Arun Luthra assembled an ensemble of talented New York musicians to record his five new works; Marko Churnchetz (piano), Thomson Kneeland (upright bass), Jonathan Barber (percussion) and Luthra himself plays saxophone and provides vocals.

Some composers emphasize rhythm by writing for drums and percussion, but in his composition Brooklyn: runners and riders, Luthra explains, he chose to ground the rhythm in his voice.

Luthra (second from right) and band with producer Jocelyn Frank (center)
Thomson Kneeland, Marko Churnchetz, Producer Jocelyn Frank, Arun Luthra, and Jonathan Barber
Performance Today

"I come from an Indian family on my father's side and a British family, my mother's side, and from the youngest age, hearing my father listening to his Indian classical music records, I was just completely fascinated by the rhythmic aspect of the music, and there's a tradition of vocalizing rhythms rather than playing them on a drum."

The technique is called Konnakol. Luthra uses Konnakol like a thread, to weave together community-sourced sound samples like the rickety rattle of a Coney Island roller coaster and the cheering of crowds at a New York City Marathon. 

"It is really about having a kind of a childlike wonder at the world...and accessing that part of your brain... Here is this amazing city. And it's easy to think of a city as a mechanical or structural thing, but it's really made up of the people who who live here."

Composer Arun Luthra amplifies the music of the city through his five new works: Brooklyn: runners and riders, Staten Island: Charlie's world of wonders, Manhattan: subterranean daydream, Queens: omnijoy and The Bronx: courtly groove. New York Out Loud is produced by Jocelyn Frank.