Showing posts with label Delaware composer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware composer. Show all posts

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mark Hagerty inspired by India

Alla rāga is the third of five movements that make up my third harpsichord suite. Many pieces of music historically have been given similar titles or indications — Marcia alla turca (Turkish March), Alla danza tedesca (like a German dance) —which inform the listener of the inspiration or intent of the piece and give the performer an indication of how it should be played. In this case, the type of music referenced is the classical music of India, typically executed on sitar with tablas (characteristic Indian drums).

The incongruous Indian-inspired music in a harpsichord suite is a take-off on the Baroque tradition of including different national styles (and sometimes exotic elements) in pieces. Often, past composers’ understanding of the music of other cultures was incomplete, and the result of their borrowing was more an expression of the composer’s native style than a close approximation of the admired (or parodied) model. But that very misunderstanding is often productive, and the result offers something new.

My fascination with and affection for Indian music goes back decades. On the occasions when I have traveled to India, I have made it a point to spend at least one night at a sitar performance. I wanted to take my Western ears’ impressions to develop a wholly new kind of piece for the harpsichord.

Two essential characteristics of the sitar are its (by Western standards) complex tuning and its bending of pitch for melodic, ornamental and expressive purposes. Because the harpsichord, tuned and played normally, cannot produce either of these effects, I developed some new “ornaments” (additional rapid notes that embellish the melody) that seem to give the effect of bending pitch in the piece.

Another essential characteristic of the sitar is the droning pitches, which do not change. This harpsichord can accomplish this effect, and by giving the drone pitches rhythmic motion as the piece progresses, I was able to provide some of the rhythmic drive supplied by the tablas. Both sitar and harpsichord are plucked (one by hand, one mechanically), and both have an insistent tone.

So while they are widely separated by geography, design and tradition, they do have some common traits, which is what suggested this music.