The Resonance Between Performers
Photo: Six Degrees

‘The Resonance Between’ Is More Than the Sum of Its Intercultural Parts

Alam Khan’s The Resonance Between employs techniques from Hindustani and European art music traditions, but it’s about more than just fusion.

The Resonance Between
Alam Khan, Arjun K. Verma, Del Sol Quartet
Six Degrees / AMMP
8 September 2023

As a category, the notion of “classical music” is often saddled with cultural baggage. Usually, the critiques are valid; endless think-pieces have made important points about the racism, sexism, and general elitism that has long pervaded conservatories and canons in classical traditions, particularly in many European-American schools of thought.

The Resonance Between, a project from sarod player Alam Khan, sitarist Arjun K. Verma, and the chamber group Del Sol Quartet, looks to change this. A collaborative original work that brings together techniques from Hindustani and European art music traditions, The Resonance Between is about more than just fusion. The sextet seeks innovative and inclusive directions for their training, working with each other not to replicate or combine sounds but to make something new and distinct without compromising musicianship. It’s a particularly important aim for a space like classical music, where traditions are often perceived as sacrosanct and immovable.

There is, to be clear, tradition at play. Each performer comes to the table with a firm grounding in their craft. Alam Khan’s father is the renowned Ali Akbar Khan; Alam’s grandfather, Allauddin Khan, also trained Ravi Shankar. Verma, too, comes from a long line of musicians and was himself trained by Ali Akbar Khan. The San Francisco-based Del Sol Quartet has spent more than two decades traveling the world and advocating for progressive approaches to art. When they all come together, it is not to stack these backgrounds atop one another but to see what comes of their encounters.

It’s a fruitful project. Each track is rich with contrapuntal interplay and affective layers, and the dozens of strings involved are remarkable for the melodic and harmonic patterns they are capable of weaving. The sprightly calls and responses that mark opener “Awaken” feel worlds away from the legato fluidity of the following composition, “Embark”, for which Kathryn Bates’ cello provides a gorgeous and subtly ferocious low end. “Soliloquy” sparkles in negative space, and “The Passage” is urgent and cinematic, sometimes almost bluesy. The ensemble floats, runs, flies, and moves in every possible way over the ten tracks here, constantly finding different configurations to bounce off one another. By the end of The Resonance Between (“The Moon and the Mountain”, clocking in at an action-packed eight minutes), the group has proven robust in individual musicianship and, more importantly, creative chemistry.

Ultimately, The Resonance Between is two main things. It’s, firstly, an intervention against strict conservatism in classical music. While it hardly stands alone in this, the intercultural dynamics between performers make this record an outstanding example of the importance of open-mindedness in musical encounters.

Secondly, and perhaps more obviously, it’s simply excellent music. Hindustani music privileges the human voice as the aesthetic toward which all other instruments in the tradition should strive. Khan, Verma, and the Del Sol Quartet often come as close as possible, gliding effortlessly between pitches, a polyphonic chorus of strings. Elsewhere, moments of more staccato articulation keep the music speeding forward, onward, and upward.

The intricacies of each composition speak to the skill of each musician (including tabla players Ojas Adhiya, Ishaan Ghosh, and Nilan Chaudhuri, whose work is indispensable in filling out the ensemble’s very soothing low end). This is no shallow imitation of any particular classical tradition. At the same time, it is accessible, the sounds at once exciting and familiar. The Resonance Between is stimulating work from musicians who know how to listen to and bring out the best in one another and signals promising paths for the so-called classical music world.

RATING 8 / 10