Many consider being a recurring composer commissioned by multiple orchestras a miracle, says Upamanyu Kar | Kolkata News

“The journey of music is breathtaking, adventurous and enriched with both beautiful and terrible experiences, because ‘impossible’ is no longer an option to consider,” says Upamanyu Kar, after being invited for his fifth orchestral commission from around the world. In an exclusive interview with CT, he talks about his life, his inspirations and his music.
You have just been invited for the fifth orchestral commission in the midst of the pandemic. How did you get there?
Well, although people might consider this a “miracle”, I never thought it was. In fact, in my opinion, nothing is really impossible in life as long as you don’t think it’s “impossible”. For me, it came very naturally, just as I wake up every morning and have a cup of tea, while watching the sunrise from my balcony in my rented house in Santiniketan, Birbhum.
What does it feel like to be a commissioned composer, also by orchestras? Isn’t that a very rare opportunity that most songwriters can get?
Yes it is. Around the world, the greatest dream of most composers is to have their works performed by large ensembles, such as orchestras. And, in most cases, their wishes remain largely unfulfilled due to the composers’ inability to hire musicians and organize an orchestra concert. When an organization, ensemble or orchestra commissions a composer, it also pays them fees in addition to taking on all financial responsibilities for the organization of the concert. It usually occurs to commend a specific occasion, specialized event, or purpose, and composers who are exceptionally skilled in their craft are invited to be commissioned to write music for said occasion or purpose. Between 2016 and 2019, I was commissioned by Calcutta Chamber Orchestra, Kolkata Youth Orchestra, Pioneer High School Orchestras (for the first time) and Indo-European Orchestra (Budapest). This is only my fifth orchestral commission internationally, and at 33 years old I can say that many more are yet to come. I repeat, people might consider it a miracle to be a recurring composer commissioned by multiple orchestras, that too from India, but I don’t really consider my musical identity to be any different at all.
What are your inspirations? How do you get the energy to be consistent with musical innovation?
My inspiration is life itself. I’ve learned to challenge myself to bring out the best version of myself in everything I do. Most people in our society survive. But if we wish to live an adventurous life, we must be ready to face the greatest challenges in order to explore ourselves. Once we can fully accept this truth and learn to take responsibility for every massive failure in life, we can also enjoy massive successes. We can’t deny the possibilities of getting knocked down in life from time to time. For that, I believe we will have to keep the judgment to ourselves to decide what becomes good for our own lives. If we leave the judgment to be placed in the hands of an authority, then the biggest problem arises. In this way, my musical journey has become breathtaking, adventurous and enriched with both beautiful and terrible experiences, because “impossible” is no longer an option to consider as much as I want.
How did you feel after being invited for your Fifth Orchestral Commission? Do you consider this a feat?
Honestly, I don’t prefer to call it a very big achievement. So far I have grown, and as I move towards pursuing my goal and living my life to the fullest, I let my emotions flow very often looking back for a short time after each success to measure my growth. . The musical journey is breathtaking, sometimes as difficult as it is deadly, akin to climbing a mountain with many disasters and dangers along the way. In the past, I have been deceived by my “own” people, who once encouraged me on the journey, later tried to stop me from accomplishing the same. Unfortunately, that includes my parents, my family members, and later my wife as well. All of these betrayals have helped me become even more confident and determined to move this journey forward; and as I progressed, I discovered that being emotionally indifferent is the best way to deal with such issues. When I received the invitation, I once again found myself one of the luckiest people, to have been able to chart my path to success in the midst of all the challenges. The email read: “Over the past month, our orchestra students have explored the music of 52 composers and have now narrowed our list down to those we would like to work with. Congratulations, you are one of those composers! As I was going through the mail, I stood in front of the mirror again, observing every minute detail of the scars, which were just a part of my existence. In my hands I held firmly the official letter of invitation from the Pioneer High School Orchestras, Michigan, to work as a commissioned composer for the four orchestras for their first concert in 2022; I was the only composer to have been chosen in India; As I closed my eyes for a short while, I could recall memories of my dreams of studying composition abroad that were shattered almost nine years ago, thanks to the betrayal of my parents and members of my family. I felt the tears flowing and once again accepted their existence. Then, as I opened my eyes, I found myself face to face with my inner self and my destiny; firmly, this is just the beginning of my journey of carrying out the lessons given by my former “parents”, in the highest way. As I realized that despite every betrayal, I had managed to fight my way through success, I remembered my father’s past words: “If you excel at making music so high, I will reward you.” Remembering all the incidents that have happened to my life in recent years, I smiled indifferently; and I thought, am I flowing like the waters of a river, adoring all the sounds that come? Should we still have expectations in life if we want more such “miracles” to happen?

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