This Piano Quintet is an incredibly special piece in my catalog. It is in this piece that I began exploring elements of Hindustani classical music for the first time.
My path to Hindustani classical music was circuitous: at the point I wrote this piece, I had been yearning for years to understand the music of my own culture, but I hadn’t quite found my way in. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, and (surprisingly) during my Masters program at Yale School of Music, that I truly began to engage in a thorough study of the music from my own culture. The minute I felt my voice make that first little gamak, something opened in me, and I knew I had no other choice but to continue peering intently down that path.
Practically, this is my first attempt at an aalap (unmetered improvisation) section for a Western ensemble. The outer two sections have overlapping melodies that are reminiscent of those found at the beginning of a performance of Hindustani vocal music. And the middle section uses a beautiful bandish (song) called Jhanan Jhanan, in Raag Bihag, about Lord Krishna as a mischievous child stealing butter. I love the intimacy of Bihag, the way it slides between the two Ma-s (sharp and natural 4) with such love and sweetness.
This piece is the first step of what became, from that moment forward, a lifelong journey into the space between these two cultures that define me.
This piece was commissioned by Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. It was premiered on August 14, 2010 in Norfolk, CT. The premiere performers were Nicholas Pappone and Zoe Martin-Doike, violins; Dash Nesbitt, viola; Benjamin Larsen, cello; Lee Dionne, piano.