Share |

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gypsy Chronicles for the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra

I just finished a new work for the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra. This orchestra that mixes instruments of the western orchestra with instruments from all over the world presents a unique challenge. Their musicians have different skill sets: some read music with great fluency, while others learn music mainly by ear. Some who read music are faster with their signs from their Chinese, Indian or other traditions using letters, numbers, and lines, rather than the notes and rhythmic notation we're used to in western music. It all makes for a great challenge to write music that the whole band can play.

My greatest challenge was to create an opening that everyone in the band could get their musical mind around, and to celebrate the great project of intercultural music making. To this end, I imagined myself on the road to Byzantium, or Constantinople, or Istanbul (take your pick): somewhere on the Silk Road, with a bunch of gypsies, who originate from Allah/God/Vishnu knows where. And they are all playing their instruments together. So the first movement (of four) is somewhat traditional in sound, evocative of some sort of imagined Persian music. The Persian 17-note mode – the tuning of the "tar" (triple-coursed gourd-resonating guitar from Iran), one of the 'guitars' in the band – is at the core of the sound of this music. (Ah yes, the sound of the music, based on this scale and an altered Chahargah mode, has wonderful resonant properties that merit a completely separate entry…) This first movement is infused with the unison melodic practice of the Middle East, yet it is mysteriously striving to compose itself, perhaps suggesting echoes of the early melodic conversions of Claude Vivier and Stockhausen, yet I unabashedly veer toward the Troubadours. All great fun to prepare you for the small monuments of the second and third movements, about which I'll say absolutely nothing – don't want to spoil the party. And in closing, the music returns to dance.

My propensity for rhythmic drive, precision, and variety make my music challenging to play. This is appropriate since the concert is all about rhythm. It's titled "Rising Beat on the Infinite Horizon" and takes place on November 28, at The Cultch featuring a 22-member orchestra with 6 guest percussionists. There is a great deal of playfulness in this piece and lots of fun with solos on Arabian oud, Persian tar and santur, frame drum, tabla, erhu, and western chamber orchestra. I hope to see you there.


"Rising Beat on the Infinite Horizon"
at The Cultch
1895 Venables St, Vancouver, BC, CA
November 28, 2010, 8 pm