VOICES FROM INDIA
(string quartet no. 1)
for string quartet
Before 1997, my appreciation of Indian music was rather superficial. While I enjoyed Listening to it, I was not aware of its compositional and improvisational procedures. It was essential to engage myself in the study of Indian music. A new world, unfamiliar to the typical western musician awaited me. As I explored the different techniques used by Indian musicians, I became inspired to compose a piece of my own. The string quartet, which represents one of the main pillars of western music, seemed an ideal medium to convey the ideas I had gleaned from Indian music.
The quartet is in three movements which are based on a typical form of Indian classical music (Northern and southern.) The Alap is a slow, un-metered movement that is based on one main raga. It can be short, or extended up to one hour long. The Alap, also serves as an introduction to the Gat. Typically, in this stage the Tabla player joins the soloist, playing a rhythmic cycle entitled Tala. In Voices from India, The Gat movement is made of a ten-beat cycle (divided 2+3 2+3). Emerging from the Gat is the Jhalla. Here, the soloist constantly uses open drone strings, accelerates into a very fast tempo which leads to a climax and conclusion.
The melodic material of the quartet is based on few ragas. The main ones are “Rama Priya” and “Shyam” for the first movement, “Jog” and “Suddha vasant” for the second and “Suddha Sarang” for the third. Nonetheless, the quartet is not an attempt to imitate Indian classical music, but rather an endeavor to bring Indian ideas and flavors into the western medium of a string quartet. Voices from India is dedicated to Dr. Peter Row who has guided me through the concealed paths of Indian music.