The Tipping Point is explores the return of light. It is set in Raag Vibhas, a Hindustani raag (p/d) that is characteristically performed at daybreak. Amy Fogerson’s text is rooted in the solstice (as metaphor for a larger social struggle between darkness and light) — exploring the return of light in yearly cycles.
And indeed, I was writing this piece both during the darkest time of the year, and through the darkest time of the pandemic. It is a mantra, designed to be sung over and over again, to somehow internalize that even in the darkest of times, light always returns.
Special Performance Requirements
This work includes a tabla, a set of hand drums that form the backbone of Hindustani rhythmic practice. In this piece, I wanted the singers and the tabla player to do more than simply occupy the same space. I wanted them to hear one another, to give them a lens to look into each other’s worlds.
In certain sections, the singers sometimes sing in taal (p/d). They use bols (onomatopoeic syllables) from two typical Hindustani rhythmic cycles called Teentaal and Deepchandi. There are also solo parts that give a few singers a chance to try a characteristic Hindustani rendering of Raag Vibhas.
Please note: this piece requires a professional tabla player. The tabla part requires long periods of very virtuosic, exposed playing at the beginning and end. While some of my other works only require basic theka (that a Western percussionist who has explored tabla would be able to handle), there is a virtuosity in this piece that demands a very experienced tabla player.
Logistical requirements: Amplification is always necessary for the tabla — it is a part of the modern performance tradition. Additionally, in most cases, a monitor will also be necessary. Even in a very live space, the choir may not be able to adequately hear the tabla without a monitor. Since rhythmic conception is quite different between the two traditions, it is vital for the singers and tabla player to be able to hear each other well and not to rely primarily on visual alignment.
excerpt of poetry by Amy Fogerson*, interspersed with Hindi and tabla bols
Balanced on the razor’s edge between darkness and light.
Darkness exults in his hold on the world.
Yet we are arrived at the tipping point.
Dha Dhin Dhin Dha
Dha Dhin Dhin Dha
Dha Tin Tin Ta
Ta Dhin Dhin Dha
Aaye savera (come, morning)
Aaye gyan (come, light/enlightenment)
And Light stands proudly, poised for her return.
She presses inexorably forward
In her journey to true north.
For light is life and
Light always returns
Dhi Na Dhi Dhi Na
Ti Na Dhi Dhi Na
*full Fogerson poem available in score
In order for the singers to feel confident entering into this language, here are extensive audio guides to give context and entry points into the Hindustani elements of this piece:
Premiere will take place on July 30, 2021 with Santa Fe Desert Chorale; Joshua Habermann, conductor; Eric Phinney, tabla