Most classical musicians, whether in orchestral or ensemble situations, will have to face a piece by composers such as Ligeti, Messiaen, Varèse or Xenakis, while improvisers face music influenced by Dave Holland, Steve Coleman, Aka Moon, Weather Report, Irakere or elements from the Balkans, India, Africa or Cuba. Rafael Reina argues that today’s music demands a new approach to rhythmical training, a training that will provide musicians with the necessary tools to face, with accuracy, more varied and complex rhythmical concepts, while keeping the emotional content. Reina uses the architecture of the South Indian Karnatic rhythmical system to enhance and radically change the teaching of rhythmical solfege at a higher education level and demonstrates how this learning can influence the creation and interpretation of complex contemporary classical and jazz music. The book is designed for classical and jazz performers as well as creators, be they composers or improvisers, and is a clear and complete guide that will enable future solfege teachers and students to use these techniques and their methodology to greatly improve their rhythmical skills. An accompanying website of audio examples helps to explain each technique.
For examples of composed and improvised pieces by students who have studied this book, as well as concerts by highly acclaimed karnatic musicians, please copy this link to your browser: http://www.contemporary-music-through-non-western-techniques.com/pages/1587-video-recordings
Rafael Reina was born in the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea and until the age of 13, was exposed only to African music, flamenco, Stravinsky and Béla-BartÃ³k. He went on to study jazz, West African, flamenco and Berber music, and graduated ’Summa cum Laude’ in composition from Berklee College of Music (USA). Reina’s extensive oeuvre includes three contemporary operas and ensemble pieces performed world-wide. He also co-founded two ensembles with non-western influences. After moving to Amsterdam, Reina studied Karnatic music in South India, which led to the creation of the programme ’Contemporary Music Through Non-Western Techniques’ at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, a PhD thesis at Brunel University (UK) and ultimately this book.
"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." Peter Wiegold, Brunel University, UK
"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." David de Marez Oyens, de Bassist Magazine
"Applying Karnatic Rhythmical Techniques to Western Music is an ambitious book. In less than 500 pages, Rafael Reina is able to present dozens of Karnatic techniques, explain how to practice them, and show how they can be applied to learning and creating rhythmically advanced music, giving composers, improvisers, and other musicians a great array of tools. Furthermore, Reina’s work allows readers to access all of this information without needing to become fluent in a different language or having to learn a new instrument…The second part of the book centers on applying Karnatic techniques to performing and composing Western music. The first chapter analyzes works from composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, Vijay Iyer, György Ligeti, John McLaughlin, Iannis Xenakis, and Frank Zappa, organizing them according to the rhythmic procedures featured in the piece. Although many of the excerpts were written by composers with no knowledge of Indian music, the use of Karnatic techniques to describe these works is not forced, as the similarities with the rhythmic devices explored in the first section are obvious. Here, Reina’s thesis shines by showing how the study of Karnatic music is a great aid when dealing with complex compositions, even if their relationship with Indian music is unintended. The second chapter presents three pieces by Reina’s students with commentaries from both the author and the composers. Complete scores are included for all three works and the Karnatic techniques utilized are listed and explained. This chapter showcases how the rhythmic devices featured in the book can be integrated into Western music in a variety of different ways. Each composer has a distinct approach, but none of them seem interested in Karnatic music for its exotic flavor; most listeners probably would not hear any Indian influence. In the commentaries, the students express how Reina’s program has given them a more cohesive method for working with complex rhythms, which has also improved their music’s playability". Echo: A Music-Centered Journal, Volume 15.1 (2019)
‘I am convinced that the rhythmical concepts I learned from the Advanced Rhythm programme , crystallised in the book Applying Karnatic rhythmical techniques to western music 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 programme, I found ways to dissect complex rhythms from the perspective of Karnatic rhythmical structures and make studies out of difficult passages using Karnatic improvisational methods.’ Helen Bledsoe, flute player with MusikFabriek (Cologne)
‘In my various capacities as former percussionist and also as conductor of both instrumental ensembles and choirs throughout Europe I am constantly struck by the inadequacies of the majority of western musicians in the domain of rhythm. That goes especially for all the professional singers with whom I work regularly today - to a lesser extent for the instrumentalists and to a lesser extent still for the percussionists - but even the very finest of today's European, Japanese and American percussionists still have an awful lot to learn from the phenomenal traditions in the percussive arts of India, Iran and the Middle East. In his ground-breaking book, Applying Karnatic Rhythmical Techniques to Western Music, Rafael Reina has not only provided an in-depth study of Karnatic rhythmics and its history, but he has also taken the crucial extra step in teaching it to Western musicians and composers in a way which will transform the way they think about rhythm. This revelation has the potential to bring all of us Western musicians closer to the source of that innate gift of rhythm that so many Indian and Iranian musicians seem to have.’ James Wood, B.A. Hons (Cantab.), F.R.A.M., F.R.C.O. Composer, conductor, musicologist, former percussionist - Professor of Percussion: Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt 1982-1994
‘Rafael Reina is the foremost figure in devising practical pedagogical approaches to the technical integration of Karnatic musical techniques into the performance of western music and composition. His work has not been concerned with surface stylistic features but with fundamental concepts that have universal significance. These aspirations have been cultivated by him over very many years and has greatly benefitted the many students of the Amsterdam Conservatorium through the unique programmes he inaugurated called 'Advanced Rhythm' and ‘Applications of karnatic rhythm to western music’. His book Applying Karnatic Rhythmical Techniques to Western Music (Ashgate 2015) brings together more than twenty years of experience and study in this field. It is an impressively comprehensive work with no obvious comparisons. At present it stands alone.’ Frank Denyer (composer, emeritus professor Dartington College, University of Falmouth, UK)
‘I met Rafael Reina years ago, when I was in the midst of a decade long study of Karnatic music, searching for ways to integrate the principles into my own work. When I visited Amsterdam and saw his students at work, it was immediately clear to me that he had found ways to utilize principles and techniques of Karnatic music that simultaneously respected this tradition and expanded the abilities of performers in his program. Later, when Applying Karnatic Rhythmical Techniques to Western Music was published, I gained a fuller understanding of the scope of his ambition, which is massive and ongoing. Based on my experience of 25 years of touring and teaching around the world, it is my opinion that Rafael Reina is in a singular position to advance rhythmic pedagogy in a direction that unites Western and Eastern modes of thought in a truly unique way.’ Miles Okazaki (B.A. Harvard University, M.M. Manhattan School of Music, A.D. Juilliard School, professor of guitar and rhythmic studies, University of Michigan)
‘For years I have been using Applying Karnatic Rhythmical Techniques to Western Music in my Composition Courses at Brussels Royal Flemish Conservatory and the Bornem Academy, and currently in the MUSICA MUNDI SCHOOL, Waterloo. The opportunities that Karnatic rhythms (including poly rhythmic, poly pulse and poly tempo) offer are absolutely unique. The rhythmic vocabulary generated with so many new techniques is not available in classical music. With the application of those rhythms new music is seriously enriched with great achievements. The sensations the listener experiences are fascinating and astonishing.’ Dr Jan van Landeghem, PhD in the Arts (VUB KCB Brussels), Composer – Organist - Pianist, Emeritus Professor Composition Royal Conservatory Brussels, Honorary Director Academy for Music, Theater and Dance Bornem. Professor Composition Musica Mundi School Brussels. Member of the Royal Flemish Aademy for Sciences and Arts Brussels
‘More and more young composers from all over the world with a thorough knowledge of the rhythmic traditions of South Indian music have emerged during the past few years. But it is not so much the knowledge which matters here, it is all about the know-how. The know-how of how to implement Karnatic theory of rhythm into practice, the practice of composing new music according to how it has been understood in the West. This is what makes the courses of Karnatic music taught at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and Rafael Reina’s book Applying Karnatic rhythmical techniques to western music absolutely unique.’ Toivo Tulev, Leading Professor Department of Composition and Improvisational Performing Arts, EAMT. Former Composition artistic director of the Tallinn Academy of Music and Theatre
'Rafael Reina’s book is a masterpiece. The most thorough and complete work I have ever explored in the field of advanced rhythmic concepts explained, using western music notation and language. The combination of Reina’s comprehensive knowledge of the Karnatic Rhythmical techniques, with his understanding of what needs to be explained for a musician brought up in the western music tradition (and how to explain it), places his work in a league of its own among "rhythm aficionados" all over the world.' Jonas Johansen (Denmark) – Independent drummer, composer, bandleader and educator. (Former: Danish Radio Big Band 1990 – 99 / NHØP Trio 1993 – 2004 / Associate Professor Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Copenhagen 1999 – 2016)