Traditional Indian music?
July 13, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

The Indian background music in the Beatles' "Within You Without You"... tell me more about it.

It seems like this isn't likely a pure George Harrison creation. The backing Indian instrumentation sounds like "Indian music", and I am guessing that the guys that they hired are just playing their typical stuff. Right?

So... what exactly is this song? Or what is this type / genre of music called? If I wanted to find a bunch of this sort of traditional Indian music, how would I search for it? Can you recommend specific groups / artists?

NB: INSTRUMENTAL music is what I am after, or very limited vocals and in Hindi or at least not in English. I DO NOT want any sort of modern mixup / mashup / interpretation stuff. I want this sort of pure unadulterated source stuff. (?swarmandal dilruba tabla sitar tambura?)

Much obliged for any help you might provide in advance!
posted by Meatbomb to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't know the Beatles song that you are talking about. You are probably looking for this. There are 3 genres at the bottom of the page. Check those out.
posted by zaxour at 7:12 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: It seems like this isn't likely a pure George Harrison creation. The backing Indian instrumentation sounds like "Indian music", and I am guessing that the guys that they hired are just playing their typical stuff. Right?

You're right that it wasn't "a pure George Harrison creation," but you're wrong that they just hired a bunch of Indian musicians, introduced them to the bare bones of Harrison's song, and said, "Come up with something to play under this."

Per the Beatles' usual practice when hiring outside ensembles, the instrumentation was orchestrated by the Beatles' producer, George Martin. Harrison might have had some creative input (probably along the lines of humming suggested melodies or giving general descriptions of what he'd like the music to sound like), but Martin would have sat down with sheet music to write out the music properly.

And the instruments on that song aren't just "Indian musicians." They're two separate ensembles: one group of Indian musicians, and a Western string orchestra. The East and West are brilliantly intermingled in the long instrumental interlude in the middle of the song (which, by the way, is in a subtle odd time signature).

So, the backing on this song is quite unusual and far from generic "Indian music."
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:15 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Broadly, it's Hindustani classical music - the stylistic specifics and recording details are available in Peter Lavezzoli's The Dawn of Indian Classical Music in the West.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: That said, you'd probably like Ravi Shankar.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:17 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sorry - the first link there should go to:
posted by ryanshepard at 7:18 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: As I understand it, George Martin only arranged the string section. George Harrison had been intently listening to and studying Indian music for at least a year at that point, and played sitar on the track. So while he probably couldn't write it out properly, I think his creative contribution was more along the lines of playing the sitar part for the hired musicians, and letting them work out an arrangement themselves.

It was also, I believe, originally a half-hour long.

On preview, Ravi Shankar was George's idol and inspiration, and has a side to himself on George's "Concert for Bangladesh."
posted by Devoidoid at 7:25 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: The strings bring Satyadev Pawar and L. Subramaniam to mind - you can sample their music here and here. Henry's Archive is a deep source for Hindustani classical downloads (most out-of-print.)
posted by ryanshepard at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From George Martin's All You Need Is Ears (via Amazon's search function):
George's contribution, 'Within You Without You', was, with all deference to George, a rather dreary song, heavily influenced by his obsession with Indian music at that time. I worked very closely with him on the scoring of it, using a string orchestra, and he brought in some friends from the Indian Music Association to play special instruments. I was introduced to the dilruba, an Indian violin, in playing which a lot of sliding techniques are used. This meant that in scoring for that track I had to make the string players play very much like Indian musicians, bending the notes, and with slurs between one note and the next.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

My understanding is the same as Devoidoid. Also, I'll nth Ravi Shankar.
posted by xammerboy at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks much, people, these links have got me on exactly the right track.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2010

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