Another problem is of source. Western music is based on an intricate interplay of harmony, melody, dynamics, timbre and rhythm that yield texture and form. You can write these things down on paper, hand them to another musician and they will understand what you want.
Brooks says Indian classical music is more of a language-based art. So, you literally learn how to play by speaking the sounds that you are going to play on your instrument. (If you have ever listened to a couple of percussionists singing rhythms back and forth, you have a simple notion of the idea of language-based music).
"Working with high-level Indian musicians requires an immersion in that language," he said.
When asked about rhythm, he said, "In rhythm, talas, the idea is cycles -- moving towards one in the cycle. Say in a seven-beat cycle, everything is moving toward one. There is a lot of rhythmic interplay among the instrumentalists."
The thing that sounds so different about Indian classical music to Western ears is its harmony. Or the apparent lack of it.
Indian classical music doesn't have the functional or coloristic biases of Western music. You don't have a bass that grounds the music in a key, then forces it in new directions through modulation to a new one. Nor do you have the colorful, non-functional harmonic shifts of modernism (think Debussy).
Brooks says harmony is there nonetheless. "Harmony is implied or described over a series of tones. They might not resolve them in the way we are used to. With the popular music of Bollywood, [Western] harmony might be creeping in more. Things just don't resolve as fast as we expect them to."
I wanted to know how the form of a piece might work.
"There is a flow to a piece," he said. "We start with the exposition of melody, then exposition of rhythm, then of rhythm and melody together. There are a lot of targets one is going for."
"Pieces in Indian classical music can be long -- an hour and fifteen minutes. For this concert, in the first half we play a longer piece, and then some shorter works in the second half."
(If you listen to American popular music, that is long. There are plenty of pieces in concert music at that length, though, like Mahler's Fifth Symphony, for instance.)
Finally, Brooks said that the music isn't always about him fitting into the Indian traditions. His experience as a jazz musician rubs off on the others."I like to keep it fresh on stage. I like a little monkey wrench in the works now and then. My approach isn't as strict, so it loosens them up a bit."