The word vishwas (िवशवास) expresses the concept of fervent belief, or faith, in Hindi. Meera Bai, a celebrated saint-poet from 15th century India, is the quintessential embodiment of vishwas. Though she is forced into a traditional marriage to unite two kingdoms, she believes she is married to the Lord Krishna, a Hindu deity, and the events of her life are shaped around her fervent devotion to this intangible but omnipresent figure.
Testament is the final movement of a three part work for bharatanatyam (Indian classical) dancer and orchestra. In Meera’s stubbornness, she stages a hunger strike outside the temple of her Lord Krishna, refusing to eat until the doors are opened. One night, after days of fasting, she is extremely weak and lays down to rest. A storm brews, and the high winds begin to swing the lamp outside the temple’s wooden door, causing the door to catch fire. As the storm builds, the door burns, eventually causing the entrance to
the temple to reopen. This piece incorporates one of Meera’s own bhajans (devotional songs), in Raag Malhar, the raag that beckons rain. Krishna has used the forces of nature to show himself, and to honor Meera’s faithfulness to him. Even as the flames surround her, Meera walks calmly into the temple to honor her Lord.
Vishwas makes use of traditional Hindustani raags, which are woven through the fabric of the composition. It is fitting that all the information we currently have about Meera Bai and her struggles for self-expression are from her own songs.
This is a recording of the orchestral version of mmt 3 of Vishwas. Due to union regulations, Albany Symphony’s live recording cannot be made available publicly, but an archival version (for programming purposes only) is available upon request)
Instrumentation Breakdown (one on a part throughout)
winds: 1111 (+2 saxes Sop/Alt and Alt/Ten dbl.)*
tabla (optional, but recommended)
*to be clear: there are six woodwind players in this piece: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and two sax players
Special Performance Requirements
Vishwas contains an optional tabla part. If the tabla player reads western notation, a standard orchestral part is available.
If the tabla player does not read western notation, it is suggested that an intermediary sit alongside the tabla player to serve as a real-time liaison in rehearsal and performance. In addition, a tabla player who has not worked with an orchestra before should meet with the conductor to go through the work beforehand, playing/conducting along with the recording, so that the musical communication process is already familiar before the first rehearsal.
Additionally, this work was designed to be performed with a bharatanatyam dancer. While that is not a requirement of the work, it is certainly possible for a dancer to engage with the work in this way.
This piece was commissioned by Albany Symphony Orchestra’s sinfonietta, Dogs of Desire. It was premiered on May 16, 2014, as part of ASO’s American Music Festival by conductor David Alan Miller, at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, at Rensellaer Polytechnic Institution, in Troy New York. The first performance was accompanied by bharatnayam dance, with dancer Sisira Gorthala. (multi-camera video footage was created but has not been released.)