In Between the Notes is a 28-minute documentary film on the life and times of North Indian vocal master Pandit Pran Nath (1918-1996). Lensed on video tape in 1986, it captures a few moments of the elder singer near the last decade of his life. Interspersed with interviews, performances, and scenic shots of his native India, the brief biopic spans Pran Nath’s 60-plus year pursuit of purity in sound.
Pandit Pran Nath began singing at age 13. Since his parents did not approve of this life path for their son, he was forced to leave home. After wandering around for a spell, Pran Nath eventually became a personal assistant to Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, who was the early 20th century master of the Kirana vocal style, which had been passed down from one generation to the next since the 13th century. Pran Nath served Khan for a nearly a decade, savoring the occasional music lesson morsel from his master, then spent five years with his body covered in ash singing to God in a cave near a temple in Tapkeshwar. Pran Nath may have stayed in that cave forever, had his guru not ordered him to take the Kirana style of music out into the wider world to keep it alive.