When I lived in India in 2012, I was introduced to the work of Manav Kaul, an incredible Hindi-language playwright living in Bombay. Hindi is a language that has become increasingly anglicized in its evolution. While there is so much beautiful ancient work in Sanskrit and Brijbasha (some of Hindi’s precursors) there is no such wealth of work in modern shudh (pure) Hindi. In fact, much of the best modern creative writing by curent Indian authors is in English. Kaul’s work, though, provides a very special insight into the world of modern India through its native language. As a playwright, Kaul has a particular ear for the way words flow through time — the words he writes are designed to be heard aloud. Kaul’s poetry uses simple and direct language to express deep and complex sentiments.
Chuti Hui Jagah (छूटी हुई जगह – The Space Between) is a cycle of three of Kaul’s shorter poems. It is a series vignettes, each of which dwells in a different space between two objects, two events, two states. Ek Shabd (एक शब्द – One Word) explores the space between a single word falling onto a page, and a full play being read aloud. Joota (जूता – Shoe) explores the space between pain and numbness. And Aavaz (अावाज़ – Sound/Voice) explores the space between silence and sound.
Special Performance Requirements
This piece does not require Indian classical training to sing. While it was written with Hindustani classical vocal technique in mind, it is completely notated for western classical singers. Between the audio guides and existing recordings, Western singers should feel confident in their interpretation of the piece.
If you are Indian-classical trained and also know how to read Western notation, this piece is ideal for you — it combines the vocal techniques of Indian music with the moving tonal center of Western music.
If you are Indian-classical trained and do not read music, this might be challenging for you to learn, though still certainly possible. Movement 2, Joota, is a good place to start.
|एक शब्द…||One word……|
पन्ने पर िगरा।
कविता के सुर में कही गई और नहीं कहीं गई,
जैसी बातों में पूरी हुई।
नाटक के से सुर में मैंने उसे,
कहीं एक बच्चे ने,
थमे हुए पानी में एक पत्थर फैंका…।
और कहीं दूर,
अबाबील नाम की िचड़िया उड़ गई।
Making a thar-thar shivering sound,
Fell onto the page.
What was said and unsaid in the flow of the poem,
Was completed in those thoughts.
From the tones of the drama,
I fearfully read it.
Somewhere, a child,
Pausing, threw a pebble into still water…
And somewhere far away,
A bird called the skylark flew away.
|जूता जब काटता है…|
तो जिंदगी काटना मुश्किल हो जाता है।
और जूता काटना जब बंद कर देता है…
तो वक्त काटना मुश्किल हो जाता है।
|When the shoe bites|
Then it becomes difficult to delineate (navigate through) the world
And when the shoe stops biting
Then it becomes difficult to delineate (navigate through) time.
|लंबे चले आ रहे सन्नाटे में …|
दो बूंद आवाज़ की पड़ी।
दूर एक िचड़ियाँ,
अपना घर बनाने में…
चोंच को पेड़ पर मार रही थी।
|From the long, epic silence|
Two drops of sound fell
Far away, a bird
Making its home
Knocked a tree with its beak
This piece was commissioned by Millennial Music Festival. The original version, for mezzo and guitar was premiered on April 11, 2015, at Tenri Cultural Center in New York. Performed by mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen and guitarist Colin Davin.
The version for mezzo soprano and piano was premiered at Yale University, Sprague Recital Hall October 19, 2017 by Evanna Lai, mezzo and Liliya Ugay, piano