(CNN) -- "Beauty" seemed somehow insufficient a description for the sounds that came from Ravi Shankar's sitar in a concert hall. It was as if nature itself were being replicated on the stage, whether it was gentle summer rain or late-autumn wind having its way with the landscape. There would be intense engagement between Shankar and his ensemble as they summoned into being tempests of interlocking phrases that seemed to coil and unravel at will. The audience would be enraptured, transported, energized into enthusiastic applause.
And this was before the actual performance started.
"If you enjoyed the tuning up that much, I hope you enjoy the music even more," Shankar can be heard saying on the recording of the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh addressing the appreciative, if nonplussed crowd at Madison Square Garden. It wasn't the first, or last time he gently (at times, not so gently) reproved audiences who, even with the benefit of his warnings, took the preliminaries for the actual recitals. Some learned, some never did -- and then there were those who really did enjoy the tuning-up as much as what followed.
Whatever his audience's reaction, Shankar, who died Tuesday at age 92 after undergoing heart surgery, seemed to accept it all with benign imperiousness and regal warmth. As emissary for a classical tradition of Indian music, Shankar was winning over global audiences for that music in greater numbers than could have been imagined when he started learning the music of raga almost 70 years ago.