The Language of the Soul
|Available as low resolution pdf|
Sri Chinmoy was the featured performer at 777 concerts on six continents — from Argentina to Russia to Zimbabwe; from New York's Carnegie Hall to China's Great Wall; from the Carrousel du Louvre (right) to The Vatican. Sri Chinmoy saw music as a universal language of the heart, a potent force that dissolves barriers of race and religion and unites humanity into one world-family.
Through the power of music, he drew tens of thousands of people together in an unforgettable experience of inner and outer harmony for a period extending more than 20 years. He gave command performances for President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, President Havel of the Czech Republic, President Tabone of Malta, President Kovac of Slovakia, President Premadasa of Sri Lanka and President Trajkovski of Macedonia.
In an odyssey that has spanned four decades, Sri Chinmoy composed a monumental total of 13,000 songs in his native Bengali and 7,000 in English. Since 1964 Sri Chinmoy steadily increased his compositional outpourings decade by decade, composing an average of nearly 500 songs per year — many hauntingly prayerful, others powerfully dynamic.
Setting his own words to music rapidly and spontaneously, Sri Chinmoy composed dozens of songs in a single session — from two lines to nearly two hundred lines — using his native Bengali notation. Yet he also composed with great care and attention to nuance and articulation of specific vocal slides that seem to pull directly from the heart strings with throbbing intensity. These add overall richness, subtlety and specific attributes to each song.
A number of these compositions are tribute songs dedicated to world luminaries that have been performed specially for them during concerts and in private meetings by the Sri Chinmoy International Choir. Such world figures include President Mikhail Gorbachev, President Nelson Mandela, UN Secretaries-General Kurt Waldheim, Kofi Annan, Pérez de Cuéllar and Mother Teresa; music greats Ravi Shankar, Paul Horn, Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Roberta Flack, Sting, Quincy Jones and Narada Michael Walden; cultural greats, Jane Goodall, Rory Kennedy, Peter Max; and sports greats Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Carl Lewis, Bill Pearl and Frank Zane.
Sri Chinmoy performed his compositions typically on over 20 – 30 instruments, specializing in the esraj, cello, Western echo flute, Indian harmonium, piano and violin. Added to this are any number of unique string and woodwind instruments, including the exotic: a New Zealand triple bamboo gourd flute with added drones, a Chinese gong, a Moroccan cittern, an African steel drum, as well as modern electronic instruments like the vibraphone, a Midi keyboard tuned to simulate the Japanese koto, samisen and shakuhachi sounds, Viscount digital pipe organ and any number of tubular bells and chimes. He performed on as many as 170 such instruments in one concert.
Sri Chinmoy’s voice is strikingly stirring. He sang his compositions both in Bengali and English, a cappella or with keyboard accompaniment (usually the harmonium, an Indian bellowed keyboard instrument). Unique to Sri Chinmoy’s performance style is his singing with bowed stringed instruments, such as the viola, cello and esraj. On rare occasions he sang extemporaneously in an Indian classical tradition. Choosing from his thousands of compositions for each performance, he sang up to 400 compositions during a single concert.
During his instrumental performances, Sri Chinmoy often began with a ‘proem’, brief preludes of spontaneous musical runs or flourishes that bring forward the inner tonality of an instrument that flows uninterrupted into melody. The results on the echo flute are rich, elevating and serene. Sri Chinmoy also performed extemporaneously for longer periods, improvising freely on other woodwind and stringed instruments without any recognizable melody but not yet unleashing the thunderous grandeur of his keyboard improvisations. Weaving in and out of these various styles are the occasional traditional Indian ragas of repetitive but unusual scales. He also loved to ‘pluck’ on stringed instruments, play staccato on the winds, or drum playfully on the marimba in a more lively, percussive style with childlike simplicity and joy.
Keyboard, Violin and Esraj Improvisations