Ash Madni, a native of India that migrated to the UK, has made a musical discovery that had quite an impact on him. Upon his arrival, after hearing the sound of classical music he was compelled to learn more about it, and in the process of learning guitar, began writing music, leading to his composing activities today. Along with the pieces for string quartet performed on his critically-acclaimed debut CD Mystic Thoughts, he has even more works, including a set of solo violin caprices and a violin concerto among other orchestral works. Although he also still has a day career as an integrated circuit design engineer, one would hope that he’ll be able to make a strong enough mark as a composer that this will replace that as his day job.
CM: When you lived in India, you only knew the music of India, but then you moved to the UK. Please take us through this journey and explain what was it about western classical music that changed everything for you?
AM: My parents are from India but I lived in Dubai with them. As a child in Dubai, I was exposed only to Indian music, both ragas and Bollywood music. Members of my family started listening to western pop music which sounded alien at first and then gradually I started to enjoy it. Moving to the UK from Dubai was a massive eye opener. The culture was so different to what I was used to. Classical music was totally alien to me….I just didn’t get it
at first. Sure I watched western films in Dubai and the film music was classical, but then there were images to focus one’s mind and so I never really listened to classical music. However, constant exposure to classical music changed my tastes and finally in my teens, I got it.
CM: When you studied the western music, was that theoretic system difficult for you given it differs greatly from the eastern one?
AM: This is a great question Chris. I didn’t really study eastern classical music, I just heard it. From what little I know of eastern classical music, the structure is indeed quite different. Microtonics are used extensively in Indian ragas and the notation is
different. The process of composition is also based on improvisation rather than melodic constructs as in Western Classical music.
CM: It is such a remarkable thing that you taught yourself to compose. Didn’t you have to get any further training or advice on counterpoint?
AM: No not really. I read Walter Piston’s fantastic book about counterpoint, which explained the principles. However, like in life we all have our learning methods. For me, listening to established works is a key part of my musical self education.
CM: Your compositional voice does seem to have quite a few classical-era elements. Would you say that earlier classics have a bigger influence on your style at this point?
AM: Another great question Chris (EDITOR’S NOTE: 2 for 2!). I think the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Boccherini certainly do have a major influence. The music
of these great composers had nice tunes and therefore memorable. I use their ideas and add my own ‘chemical’ to them to create variety but yet rooted in the wonderful genre of these great composers.
CM: Is there any one composer that inspires you the most?
AM: This is a tough one. I tend to listen to quite a variety of classical music, but Shostakovich for me offers all the ideas of the Classical era and his own unique contemporary concepts. My favourite piece by Shostakovich is his String Quartet in C minor, second movement. This is a wonderful piece of work where Shostakovich uses dissonance liberally and yet threads in a melody….just fantastic!! This piece inspired me to write track 13 and track 5 on my CD Mystic Thoughts.
Madni: Mystic Thoughts synopsis
CM: At this early stage of your path, who are your mentors, and do you have a source of inspiration or muse?
AM: A couple of mentors, namely Richard Howarth, director/conductor of the Manchester
Sinfonia and Marat Bisengaliev the famous Russian violinist and director of the Symphony Orchestra of India. Richard was instrumental in boosting my confidence in composition in the early days of Mystic Thoughts, and continues to give directional pointers. Marat keeps telling me to trust my instincts more and to compose by inspiration.
My partner Jo Chance is an artist and is my muse. She keeps me focused on writing commercial pieces and provides me excellent feedback.