Blackwing Volume 3 Ravi Shankar

Blackwing Volume 3 is here! This pencil is celebration of Ravi Shankar, with a matte turmeric finish and featuring “a pattern of ॐ (Om), a sacred Sanskrit symbol with three phonetic components that correlate to the waking, dream, and unconscious states of being.” It’s a beauty! It has extra-firm graphite.

On the box of the pencil:

“In June of 1966, George Harrison met maestro Ravi Shankar in Bath, England. Harrison asked Ravi to teach him how to play the sitar, a task Ravi agreed to only after considerable hesitation. Their collaboration resulted in an explosion in the popularity of classical Indian music and instrumentation in the United States and around the world.

Harrison called Ravi “The Godfather of World Music.” Trained in both traditional Hindustani music and classical European theatre, Ravi was an artistic genius who influenced countless artists around the world. He infused structure and spectacle into Indian instrumental music and introduced the West to Indian traditions like meditation. He was a true ambassador of India’s rich culture of mindfulness that extended well beyond the stage.”

Ravi Shankar may be quite well-known for his collaboration with George Harrison, but that was only possible after decades of incredible creative output and exploration and training and expansive collaboration beforehand.

He had a lifetime of composing, creating and performing. Shankar spent years studying and training with Allauddin Khan, composing music for ballets, popular music, radio, movies and founding the Indian National Orchestra. Shankar also collaborated with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, winning a Grammy for their work together. He taught at universities in the US, performed at Woodstock, composed for the London Symphony orchestra as well as helping to popularize sitar music in both popular and classical music, composing cinematic scores for movies inside and outside of India.

I suppose what I really love best about a pencil that celebrates Ravi Shankar is that it celebrates the possibility of what can happen when there is collaboration between radically different things, like Indian classical music and pop music. Violins and cellos collaborate all the time, but a violin and sitar can be something else entirely. Caleb, who has started learning the cello, and I (and Naomi) have been listening to West Meets East, Shankar’s collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, which has been a lot of fun.

The unexpected meeting of two different and creative things can be a fork in the road. Open mindedness, experimentation, embracing differences.

In any case, unhinged interpretations or otherwise, it’s always nice to have some yellow and sunny on your desk. I had to reduce it something so trite. I do love that each of these pencils represents a tiny slice of art and culture and writing and music and math. Maybe it’s a bit of both, and that’s what pencils are for. Inspiration, but also something disposable enough to use with abandon.

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