Composer, alto saxophonist, and band leader Rudresh Mahanthappa creates music that combines the intensity of post-bop jazz with the Carnatic music of his South Indian ancestors, Hindustani classical music from North India, and sometimes also Western classical music. Over the past decade, support from New Music USA has enabled him to branch out into collaborations with dancers as well as with a hip-hop poet and an animator.
Rudresh discusses New Music USA’s impact:
“New Music USA has been invaluable for both my own career as a composer/performer and for the greater community of music creators. Until only recently, NMU sponsored a program that exclusively funded composition for dance and theater. To my knowledge, no such grant existed bearing this specifc focus. For many of us, this was a godsend as the vitality of music utilized in this sort of interdisciplinary fashion is often viewed as more of a utilitarian service than a creative and collaborative endeavor. Clearly, NMU is a proponent of the latter perspective.
With specific regard to my work, I was able to create Song of the Jasmine with Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance Company. The music was scored for a hybrid ensemble of Western and South Indian instrumentation and eight dancers. This work was not “simply” music set to dance or dance or to music. Song of the Jasmine was created from the ground up in real-time collaboration facilitated by regularly occurring intensive work sessions over the course of a year. The end of the result was a seamless and unified performance of sound and movement unlike any other. This production would have been impossible without the support of New Music USA. In the interim, NMU has substantially expanded their funding model to provide support for a greater number of composers across a wider spectrum of genres and artistic backgrounds. The second NMU-funded project in which I participate is Shake the World. This work-in-progress is a collaboration between myself, a hip-hop poet, and a zoetrope animator that celebrates the work of Gandhi and his immense influence on non-violent protest. While this project is still somewhat in its infancy (mainly due to the Covid pandemic), I am grateful to New Music USA for seeing value in both the mission/message and the possibility of partnership between makers of seemingly disparate disciplines. NMU’s support of my projects is a microcosmic example of their broad vision and definition of New Music and its global cultural impact.
Beyond project support, New Music USA has avidly taken on a mandate of promoting diversity with the aim of ensuring that inclusion is embedded into the ecology of musicmaking in general. This is evident in programs such as Amplifying Voices and the Reel Change Film Fund as well as various Covid-relief efforts. Changing the all-pervasive paradigms of exclusivity in all aspects of the music world is imperative going forward. NMU is clearly on the forefront of this change. While I consider myself blessed to have garnered support from New Music USA for my own projects, my greater sentiment is one of pride to be associated with such a forward-thinking and generous entity.”
Explore Rudresh’s Work Funded by New Music USA:
Rudresh Mahanthappa on NewMusicBox
Rudresh Mahanthappa on NMBx