for Hindustani Vocalist and Orchestra
premiered on December 9, 2009
by Meena Shivaram and the Yale Philharmonia
Yang Jiao, conductor
Sprague Concert Hall, Yale University

Program Note:

Even though my heritage is Indian, my musical training has been solely in western classical music. It is only recently that I have begun to learn about and explore Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, and incorporate its elements into my work. Though the combination of the unique resultant sounds of these two types of music are interesting to explore, it is the differences between the cultures and traditions from which these sounds emerge that interest me the most. My aim is not to create music that sounds “fused” as much as music that builds on the values and principles from both cultures and musical traditions, and that can function in both.

Aria is my third and largest piece in this style (preceded by a piano quintet and a bassoon solo) and is my first attempt to incorporate a Hindustani classical musician into my music. An aria is a form found in western classical opera, in which a solo singer, accompanied by an orchestra, expresses a sentiment to the audience while demonstrating vocal virtuosity. In this instance, I have used the setting of an aria to create a small window into the world of Hindustani vocal music. The orchestra follows the singer through the beginning of a Hindustani aalap (vocalise) section in Raag Todi, which falls away to a western-style orchestral tutti on the themes of her phrases. She returns for a series of taans (fast virtuosic passages using sargam, or solfege) in Raag Yaman while the orchestra echoes the mukhra (head of the tune) which in a traditional Hindustani setting, she would have sung after each taan. She eventually begins to sing the antara (B section) of the traditional Hindustani bandish (composition) “Sakhi Eri Aali Piya Bina”. She then has a western-style solo cadenza, and returns to sing the sthaayi (A section) of the same composition. As she sings in Yaman, phrases of Todi seep through in a duet between the oboe and english horn.

Aria — full piece (13:15)

Excerpt: Aalap — Tutti (1:02)

Excerpt: Antara — Cadenza (1:48)

Excerpt: Taans (1:07)

An excerpt from Aria, cut for use during my talk at The INK Conference, in Jaipur, India:

** a note to listeners: it is very difficult to hear a lot of the quiet sounds in this piece with the speakers on computers/laptops

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