So much of my work with brass instruments has come into being because of incredible and intrepid brass players who have shown me new windows into my own music. Hence the title: khirkiyaan means ‘windows’ in Hindi, and this brass quintet is made up of three ‘windows’ into my work. Each movement is a transformation of another piece of mine for another instrumentation, reimagined for brass quintet.
Tuttarana, the third movement of this piece, was commissioned by The Brass Project, a brass ensemble formed from graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music. It was originally a piece for women’s choir. The title of this movement is a conglomeration of two words: the Italian word ‘tutti’, means ‘all’ or ‘everyone’, and the term ‘tarana’ designates a specific Hindustani (North Indian) musical form, whose closest Western counterpart is the ‘scat’ in jazz. Made up of rhythmic syllables, a tarana is the singer’s chance to display agility and dexterity. While the brass version of this piece doesn’t have the actual syllables that the vocal version does, it does aim to showcase the brilliant virtuosity of the ensemble.
The other two movements were added later, as a commission from Kansas State University‘s faculty brass quintet. The first movement, Jog, is a movement of my string quartet, Ragamala. Though not entirely in the purest form of the Hindustani raag called Jog (I was still learning it at the time), it does use the characteristic raised/lowered 3rd that switches between the Western perception of major and minor.
The second movement, Joota, comes from my song cycle for guitar and mezzo soprano, called Chuti Hui Jagah (The Space Between). The title, which means ‘shoe’ in Hindi comes from a tiny couplet by poet Manav Kaul, which translates to: “When the shoe bites / Then it becomes difficult to navigate through the world / And when the shoe stops biting / Then it becomes difficult to navigate through time.”
If I had set out to write a brass quintet, I am sure it wouldn’t have been this piece. I would have started with my own limited, preconceived notions of what I thought a brass quintet should be, and worked outward from there. But it was through working with brass players, being shown the seeds of what was already there in my existing work, and then transforming it for these instruments that allowed these windows to be opened in my work.
Though there is no audio guide specifically available for this piece, performers might wish to look at the Tuttarana instructional video for the choral version of Tuttarana for reference.
Tuttarana was commissioned by The Brass Project and premiered in spring 2016 in Philadephia, PA. The other two movements, filling out the suite of Khirkiyaan, was commissioned by Kansas State University Faculty Brass Quintet, by trumpet player Craig Parker. It was premiered November 2017 at Kansas State University.