In 2017, when I was in Berlin as part of the Border Movement Residency, I visited the Red Bull Music Studios, where I had the opportunity to develop music on a piano, again. This was after some years of not having access to one, and many years of using my laptop as my starting point,” says 29-year-old Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes, a few days before her latest collaborative performance, “Hand of Thought”, at Liberty Cinema in Mumbai. On Sunday evening, the Mumbai-based producer and composer will take her place behind the piano (with electronics), and will be accompanied by instrumentalists Shirish Malhotra, Rhys Sebastian and arranger Neil Waters as orchestrator, for a show that combines her love for integrating studio and the stage. Excerpts:
How has Kosho Uchiyama’s book, Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (2004), informed this performance?
‘Opening the hand of thought’ is a beautiful and simple technique that had plenty of timely application within the world of these numerically devised, generative piano motifs that I was composing. Somewhere between muscle memory and flow state lay my ability to play these passes. But my point of access to them was only in a very present state of mind. It felt like these seed ideas were sort of ensconced in some version of my hand of thought — and to play them, I had to do the work of opening the hand.
Did you think of a minimalist sound at once or did that happen gradually?
I worked on an audiovisual project called Different Trains 1947 in 2017 — my headspace had really soaked up piano minimalism then. I’d been thinking about programming music and it took several months for the ideas to actually take shape, but they began coming together through repetitive, incremental piano phrases, almost like rudiments, to be practised as finger exercises.
When did you conceive this show?
In 2016, we had the opportunity to film a performance video at the Red Bull studio in Berlin; I performed one of the piano pieces that I’d been working on, and it forced me to prepare the particular piece to be as performance-ready as I could get it. I began to get a sense that this was something I would certainly love to bring together with a horn section, potentially string quartet, more synth players and in the future, even an orchestra.
What are we going to hear on Sunday?
Music that is cinematic, sparse, dense, electronic, and acoustic all at once — and one extremely talented horn section.
How much did Berlin play a part in these compositions?
Quite a lot. Each time I was in that city for various projects, the music had an opportunity to be incubated a little further. The inception, and a significant chunk of its development, all happened at various stages of time I spent there. Most memorably, at my friend Nora’s, on her parent’s Steinway grand.
‘Hand of Thought’ will be held at Liberty Cinema, Mumbai, on October 20, at 7 pm
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