I feel a sudden void in me to think Professor David Reck is no more! Such simple and great men will no longer be with us. Just this thought makes me very sad. But they remind us that we need to continuously recognize and nurture simplicity, genuineness, honesty and love for humanity in the future generation following their trails. David had lived such a beautiful life!
Little did I know what was in store for me when Mr. David Reck came to see me in the early seventies with a desire to learn vina! I was a lecturer in English at Vivekananda College then, living opposite to Veena Balachander’s bungalow. I learnt he was a student of Ethnomusicology doing his Ph.D. at Wesleyan University on Thirugokarnam Ramachandra Iyer’s vina playing and was immensely interested in the Karaikudi vina tradition. I gladly accepted to teach him. I was amazed at his passion for vina and the Karaikudi vina tradition!
It was David who suggested that I should study at Wesleyan University. It was a challenging entry though. But for David I would not have stepped into Wesleyan in 1975 for my Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology. After the Wesleyan experience, my perspectives in music got a sea change through learnings in various types of world music. I finally returned to India with a rootedness and conviction in the Karnatak tradition and the necessities for new ways of teaching and preserving in order to make music available to everyone. In this journey there were several great masters of music and musicology both from the East and the West who impacted on my understanding of traditional music of the world’s cultures. But I hold Prof. David Reck dearly in my musical life as the source of great inspiration and opportunities in expanding my musical horizon. He helped me get the Copeland Fellowship to interact with experts in different disciplines such as physics, anthropology, cybernetics and a prestigious Valentine professorship at Amherst College and teaching assignments in the Five College Consortium in Massachusetts.
After his retirement he seemed distanced from everything but the chaste music of the vina, learning from none other than the purest of the purists of the Karaikudi tradition –Ranganayaki Rajagopalan. I could see the contentment and happiness of his inner soul. He is in the making of Brhaddhvani in every respect. I feel grateful that Brhaddhvani got honored in honoring Prof. Reck with the title “Sangita Sethu” in 2004.
There is no parallel for him for the combination of scholarship, uncompromising love for vina, egoless demeanor, helpful nature and a loving silence deep inside him holding the wealth of benevolence to share his resources at all levels – family, friends and colleagues. He was somewhat like the “Man in Black” of Oliver Goldsmith!
He breathed his last peacefully at his home environment in Amherst on the 30th of September 2021 leaving his footprints on the sands of time with his selfless work in the world music space. He is survived by his wife Carol and his children, Nina and Dan – very simple and unassuming people who variously impressed me. Carol was particularly so caring and supportive throughout his life and career.
V.R. Devika has done immense service to music through an article in the Hindu as a homage to this great man: https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/david-reck-the-cultural-traveller/article37558701.ece
Prof. David Reck at Brhaddhvani
COMET graduates perform Prof. David Reck's cross-cultural composition on Shakespeare's "The Tempest".
Prof. David Reck on the evaluation committee of COMET presentation (2002).