By combining his passions of mathematics and music, University of Kansas mathematics professor Purnaprajna Bangere has surpassed genre entirely.
Bangere has been working on a new approach to music he calls “metaraga," which shares a name with his album that was released Jan. 17. Metagara blends the musical styles of Indian classical and western jazz, but Bangere said he thinks organically and not in terms of genre.
“I think of music as beautiful sounds,” Bangere said.
When Bangere created metaraga, he used geometric and algebraic structures to build a sort of framework. Bangere also used the raga from Indian classical music, which is a melodical framework used to build sound using multiple instruments.
This is just one example of the desire Bangere has to blend the raga stylings of Indian classical music with western music and create an entirely different set of rules.
Bangere wanted to find a way to combine the two regions — east and west — musically because he said when one fuses them, “together arbitrarily, it doesn't sound nice.”
The KU Jeeva dance team is a Bollywood-fusion dance team open to all students at the University of Kansas. Dancers in the group say that the competitions have allowed them to grow both as performers and people.
He said, however, he encountered an issue in blending the styles — key changes. Western music often changes keys or shifts tempo at a moment's notice, but raga music prevents this from occurring.
Bangere also tested his metaraga theory on other musical genres. He said he tested the genre with the most versatility regarding tempo and key signatures: jazz.
Jeff Harshbarger is the lead bass player on the album and a professor in the School of Music. Harshbarger and Bangere traveled to the Mathematics Science Research Institute in California to present and discuss the new theory of metaraga.
As part of the academic presentation, the entire group performed several pieces. Harshbarger said the MSRI is like the “Carnegie Hall of math.” Harshbarger also said it was a privilege to perform for “arguably the smartest minds on the planet.”
Bangere's experience with genre mixing extends to his advice to other students. He said students who want to get in the field and perform for a career shouldn't be prejudiced and think their genre of music is the best.
“Be a person of the world rather than just identifying with one thing,” Bangere said. “Music is a pursuit of beauty.”