* please note: there are TWO versions of this work.
The first version, written in 2013, is for string quartet only (ca. 19 mins).
The second version, written in 2015, is for string quartet with Hindustani vocals (ca. 25 mins).
Each has a separate score and parts.
I. Intro – Fantasie (Bihag Overlay)
II. Intro – Scherzo (Malkauns)
III. Intro – Recitativo (Basant)
IV. Intro – Rondo (Jog)
Melanie Clapies, violin
Jessica Oddie, violin
Ksenia Zhuleva, viola
Chang Pan, cello
During the year I spent in India, I began to notice a beautiful thing that would happen at concerts. When the artist would announce the raag to be sung or played that evening, immediately, and almost subconsciously, many of the cognoscenti in the audience would begin humming the characteristic phrases or ‘pakads’ of that raag quietly to themselves, intoning with the drone that was already sounding on stage. It had a magical feeling – as if that raag was present in the air, and tiny wisps of it were already starting to precipitate into the audible world in anticipation of the performance. It felt like a connection between the audience and the performer, as they prepared themselves to enjoy what was to come. Each movement of this quartet opens in exactly the same way, and it is inspired by those quiet intonations.
After the opening phrases, each movement diverges into its own distinct character. The first movement is a Fantasie inspired by the beautiful raag Bihag which layers phrases over one another to create large shapes separateed by the silence of pure drones. The second movement is a vivacious and rhythmic setting of a Malkauns taan, which to the western ear, always seems to be pulling to a dominant rather than a tonic. The third movement is in the contemplative Basant – a raag that signifies the season of spring in Hindustani music. And the fourth movement is in the complex and multi-faceted Jog, a simgle raag which seems to contain western notions of both ‘major’ and ‘minor’ within it.
In Hindustani music, the elaboration of a single raag can often take an hour. I didn’t mean for this piece to exhaust these raags, but rather provide little snapshots of particular features and characters of each raag that I find beautiful and special about each one.
A video of a 2015 performance of Movement I of the quartet by Salastina Chamber Music Society, in a new version with me singing: