Shruthi Rajasekar is a rising star in the classical music world. The Indian-American composer has backgrounds in Western classical and Carnatic (South Indian classical) music as a vocalist, performing regularly in the United States, Europe and India. Her works span from orchestral to film and pop music, with her pieces Numbers and did you know being released by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain to critical acclaim.
For Women's History Month, we reached out to learn more about her composing process, inspiration and her favorite activities outside of music.
What's one of your main sources of inspiration?
My mother, musician Nirmala Rajasekar. She inspires me in every way — musically, certainly, as she's my guru, but I also look to her to learn how to be a strong leader, compassionate friend and life-loving human!
What are you most proud of, musically?
The moments when I've been able to work with performers to create sounds that neither of us have experienced before.
If you could encapsulate your music in five words or less, what would you choose?
Quirky, energetic, weighty, a question. (All of these are from performance markings used in my pieces.)
How has your relationship with music changed or evolved over time?
When I was a kid (and writing solely for myself), I would marvel at accidental discoveries of different sonic combinations. I could play a single phrase for hours and hours; I'd keep finding new things in it! Today, the greatest joy is the opportunity to work with so many other people to bring projects to life today. But when I'm on my own, tinkering with ideas, I do try to keep that childhood wonder — the joy of being surprised.
What's a piece of music by another composer/artist that you wish you had written and why?
I adore so many works by my mentors, my colleagues and the artists I admire from afar. I don't really "wish" that I'd written them myself — I'm just so glad they exist in the world! One such work that I often return to is Respiri, a string quartet by Juri Seo. It's simply ravishing — there's no other way to put it.
What was your favorite nonclassical album growing up?
The soundtrack of Lagaan (2001), by A.R. Rahman
Whom would you choose to play you in a movie about your life?
Hmm! When we have more actors in Hollywood who look like me, I'll be able to better answer this question!
Do you have any pets? If you could have a conversation with them what would you talk about?
My brother's dog, Sarabi, is our family's darling. I think anything she'd have to say would be very interesting, but I do sometimes wonder if she has ambitions that we can help her achieve! She does love music. It'd be great to know if she was a musician in a past life!
What's your go-to weekend activity?
Reading novels all day in bed. In a non-pandemic world: a big restaurant brunch with friends.
What are you listening to right now?
So many great virtual concerts, including the Live from London Festival presented by the Voces8 Foundation and tons of amazing Indian music concerts all across the internet, including ones hosted by Minnesota's stellar organization IMSOM.
To learn more about Shruthi's work and to listen to her music, check out her website.
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