Springfield & Bloomington, Illinois – October 9th & 10th, 2014
An introduction can be a powerful thing. Of all the radio interviews I have taken part in, perhaps the most personally enjoyable and stimulating took place just recently: for National Public Radio (NPR) station WUIS in Springfield, Illinois. I was incredibly privileged to share the mic with tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das (of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) and conductor Alastair Willis, Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Our interviewer was ethnomusicologist Yona Stamatis, a dear colleague whom I had not seen for a decade since my student days in New York City. Barely had we all jumped out of cars and cabs and exchanged hugs and ‘hellos’ on the street, when Yona rushed us into an audience-packed studio. The mics went on immediately and she launched into her opening remarks, which served to introduce the three of us – the performer, the conductor, the composer. While we stood on three different sides of the same musical triangle, she deftly revealed our connections. And I was deeply moved by the fact that Yona had found a better way of describing my artistic motivations than I could ever have:
“Each in his own way uses music as a tool to challenge deeply ingrained understandings of self and other; to transgress cultural or national boundaries. Each uses music to offer solutions about how to deal with the conflicting and pervasive narratives of nationalism, multiculturalism, and globalization”.
I felt an immediate kinship with Yona, Sandeep and Alastair. It seemed to be the auspicious beginning of a great couple of days, during which I got to hear my Tabla Concerto come alive again (after two years of living with the recording). What a thrill. Despite the stressfully short amount of rehearsal time, this very difficult 27-minute piece came together relatively smoothly, thanks to the calibre of all the musicians involved: Sandeep (the soloist), the wonderful musicians of the Illinois Symphony, and the dynamic and meticulously prepared Alastair. While it was clearly evident and totally great that Sandeep and Alastair enjoy a jovial camaraderie (having worked together many times as part of the Silk Road Ensemble), I loved being witness to how quickly Sandeep was able to establish a rapport with the orchestra. This is one of his many gifts, as a musician, and as a person.
My unforgettable time in Illinois culminated in a fantastic US premiere for the Tabla Concerto in Bloomington on October 10th which, thankfully, was also fantastically received (phew).
As a composer, you struggle to create music that is unashamedly infused with perspectives of yourself and the world around you. There is no greater gift to the composer then, than to have remarkable musicians add a whole host of fresh perspectives.