Apollo and Dionysus in Music

Anannya Uberoi
5 min readOct 10, 2017

Talking of a personal experience that has beautified the way I look at life, I would like to talk of the 6th Delhi International Jazz Festival held at Nehru Park, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, and the classical concert by The Accordion State Youth Orchestra of Baden-Wurttemberg at the Lotus Temple. Since I mostly go to concerts that involve western classical music or choirs organized in collaboration with the Austrian Embassy which I have been a part of before, or its friendly associates- the Alliance Français, the Neemrana Music Society, or the Delhi Chamber Choir, jazz was a completely new world to me I was dying to know more about.

It started with a simple Facebook post, a pleasing invite to the festival, which brought in the thought of reserving the evening to jazz. It was a fine evening in the autumn of 2016, a perfectly clear day of the 25th of October, and our mid semester examinations had ended just the day before. The evening started on an introductory note about the organizers, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), and was followed by hour-long performances by three jazz groups.

The first group, the State Jazz Music Chamber Orchestra of Olega Lundstream from Russia, is hailed as one of the oldest bands to originate in China and then later gain substantial momentum in Russia. Of all the performances of the evening, this was the one I could relate the most to, owing to my personal interest in pure theatrical art as opposed to fusion of two or more musical forms. I could feel an influx of resonant positive energy during the flute solo by one of the performers- each note brought to life in perfect unison with the piano and the soft beating of the drums on the pad, bringing years and years of disciplined practice live onto the gently lighted stage. The orchestra included musicians on clarinets, flutes, and soprano saxophones. There were gentlemen on deep-sounding trumpets and trombones, providing a firm bass to the overall sound. I was enthralled by the world of jazz brought to life by these impeccably suited men in black, the conductor dressed in a red overcoat, signaling away the tempos, moods and melodies to the ready musicians. Some of the pieces of typical jazz made me imagine myself dancing away under the pale blue moon intermingled with colorful laser lights thrown onto the stage.

The sprawling gardens were lightened with the sounds emanating from the stage, the silhouettes of trees and benches appearing most poetic and invigorated under the setting sun, as a beautiful lady in dazzling red appeared on stage to perform three back-to-back jazz songs alongside the musicians, the conductor on the exuberant piano laid out on one side and the drummer providing just the right tempo to each song, played out in its own flavor in front of the eagerly listening audiences. Fred Austaire’s “Cheek to Cheek” was the first one, and instantly put a smile on my face. In that moment, I could feel the energy, the fearless expression on the woman’s face- her ebon color and permed hair making her ever so beautiful and confident.

The following performance was by a Slovenian duo, the Igor Jazz Group, with the founder, Igor, on the lead guitar and his friend on the bass guitar. It sounded slightly different to me- I was not open to the idea of “jazz” being played out on guitar at first, since all I had thought about jazz before was music being played out on only clarinets and trumpets, so it was a whole new experience for me. What astounded me even more was the inclusion of traditional Indian tabla and the flute into the performance for the next song, and I immediately knew it was a mix of genres- something unlike my tastes, but the performance proved me wrong. With two professional Indian classical maestros on stage, performing alongside the Slovenian duo, mapping their western style to their homegrown panache, I felt a sudden surge of excitement take form inside of me. The best moment was the Slovenian man performing a jazz stroke, the tabla player emulating the same jazz style on the table, the two men taking turns in performing the beats.

I firmly believe that music has the power to alleviate the rational centers of the brain, apart from pressing its aesthetic quality upon us. Many scientists and great thinkers have attributed classical music as a wonderful way to alleviate stress and sharpen the rationale. Music does not require words and can communicate directly to the central part of the brain which elicits raw emotion. I could actually feel it in the concert- the cares and stress build-up of the busy days slowly disappearing before me.

I left the park with a delightful feeling, the blackness of the night softly setting upon the October sky. With the guitar statuette flashing with a radiant red-pink lining in the stark darkness like the moon upon the sky, I knew I had spent a good day.

I now look back at the jazz concert, a fusion of various music styles and cultures, and contrast it with the recent German Orchestra concert I went to, held at the Baha’i Information Center auditorium, Kalkaji. The jazz groups displayed a more Dionysian form of art- the music of chaos and disorder. Although the first jazz performance was more ordered, the following performances included fusion of different styles. On the other hand, the Accordion State Orchestra of Baden Wurttemberg felt more ordered, structured and well planned.

This leads me to believe that the Apollonian and Dionysian themes are very well applicable to the realm of music as well. While the Dionysian half experiments, sprouting creativity and freshness, the Apollonian half brings to stage the well experimented and metered- the language and the beauty of music.