Over time music and instruments evolve. The craft is fine-tuned from a rudimentary form to a much higher level. This happens with time and technology. There is always the question: “What if I tried this or tried that?”
Let’s take a look at one of the most well-known and played instruments to ever exist: the guitar. The guitar has evolved since its beginnings as an oud. An oud was a short-necked, lute-type, pear-shaped instrument with 11 or 13 grouped strings.
As the oud evolved into the guitar, the instrument neck was elongated, the sound box enlarged for more volume, and frets were added to allow for easier playing techniques of the time. It eventually went from four double strings, to five strings, to the now standard six single strings and the 12 or six double-string version, the six string-guitars being the most popular.
The Indian sitar is descended from long-necked ouds and the rudra veena of Northern India. The rudra veena has a long, thin bamboo neck. The strings at the saddle break over a jawari, producing a resonance sound similar to the human voice. A sitar can have 18, 19, 20, or 21 strings.
Todd Mosby, with the help of guitar builders Kim Schwartz and Ustadt Imrat Khan, who had a major influence in the design of this unique acoustic instrument, wanted to combine a guitar and sitar together into a single instrument. Mosby, who is an acclaimed jazz guitarist, collaborated with the two on this innovative project. The Imrat guitar is a combination of the sitar and guitar, making it the newest branch on the evolutionary tree of stringed instruments.
This evolutionary instrument incorporates the jawari, movable frets bowed out over a routed-out fingerboard, sympathetic strings, and a set of three chikara strings of the sitar. Incorporated from the guitar are the standard 5-6 strings, similar scale length, similar body shape, headstock, tuning system, and saddle.
Mosby studied composition, guitar, and improvisation at Berklee School of Music, and his many live performances have honed his craft and love of innovation.
Todd Mosby & The New Horizons Ensemble will perform at Leach Theatre, showcasing the Imrat guitar, on Friday, January 19, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, go to leachtheatre.mst.edu or call the ticket line at 573-341-4219.
Art Matters is a weekly column sponsored by Leach Theatre, a division of Student Affairs, on the campus of Missouri S&T, and produced by Emily Brickler, Managing Director of the theatre and ten-year veteran teacher with a Masters of Art in Teaching from Webster University.