WijeratneWorks

the blog of musician Dinuk Wijeratne

Tag: tabla

Concerto for Tabla & Orchestra (2011)

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“The piece is fantastic, complex, and brilliant. The orchestration and solo writing are masterful. I didn’t think one could pull off [such] a concerto, but Dinuk did. I don’t know of anything like it. The audience went crazy after it for good reason.”
John Corigliano

“Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto is a breath of fresh air in the repertoire – a vibrant, colourful piece that orchestras love to play, and audiences will never forget.”
– JoAnn Falletta
 
(Music Director: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Virginia Symphony Orchestra; Principal Conductor: the Ulster Orchestra)

“Dinuk is one of the most gifted musicians I know. His Tabla Concerto is a pioneering work of musical fusion, a seamless integration of the most complex aspects of North Indian Classical Tabla music into a totally Western model.”
– Bernhard Gueller 
 
(Music Director: Symphony Nova Scotia)

“Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto is a fresh, engaging, cross-cultural, embracing and original piece, which blends cultures marvellously. Combined with Sandeep Das’ virtuosity and energy as soloist, the concerto delighted both audience and orchestra at its US premieres. To include tabla recitation in the last movement was a stroke of genius.”
– Alastair Willis 
 
(Music Director: Illinois Symphony Orchestra)

“Dinuk’s Concerto for Tabla and Orchestra is utterly spectacular. From the moment it begins, you are drawn into an evocative world where cultures have no barriers, and co-exist in a way that is completely natural. Add to that a high octane, colourful score and everyone…musicians, audience, conductor…all leave excited and looking for more!”
– Robert Franz 
 
(Music Director: Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic)

 

Listen to all three movements:

1. Canons, Circles

2. Folk song: ‘White in the moon the long road lies (that leads me from my love)’

3. Garland of Gems

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World premiere given by Ed Hanley (Tabla) & Symphony Nova Scotia conducted by Bernhard Gueller on February 9th, 2012, @ the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Recorded live by the CBC. First Canada-wide broadcast: Sunday January 27th on IN CONCERT, CBC Radio2. The Tabla Concerto was a finalist for the 2012 Masterworks Prize. 

INSTRUMENTATION:

2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo)
2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais)
2 clarinets in B♭ (2nd doubling bass clarinet)
2 bassoons

2 horns in F
2 trumpets in B♭
1 trombone

timpani
2 percussion

harp

strings

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PROGRAM NOTE:

1. Canons, Circles
2. Folk song: ‘White in the moon the long road lies
(that leads me from my love)’
3. Garland of Gems

While the origins of the Tabla are somewhat obscure, it is evident that this ‘king’ of Indian percussion instruments has achieved global popularity for the richness of its timbre, and for the virtuosity of a rhythmically complex repertoire that cannot be separated from the instrument itself. In writing a large-scale work for Tabla and Symphony Orchestra, it is my hope to allow each entity to preserve its own aesthetic. Perhaps, at the same time, the stage will be set for some new discoveries.

While steeped in tradition, the Tabla lends itself heartily to innovation, and has shown its cultural versatility as an increasingly sought-after instrument in contemporary Western contexts such as Pop, Film Music, and World Music Fusion. This notion led me to conceive of an opening movement that would do the not-so-obvious by placing the Tabla first in a decidedly non-Indian context. Here, initiated by a quasi-Baroque canon in four parts, the music quickly turns into an evocation of one my favourite genres of electronic music: ‘Drum-&-Bass’, characterised by rapid ‘breakbeat’ rhythms in the percussion. Of course, there are some North-Indian Classical musical elements present. The whole makes for a rather bizarre stew that reflects globalisation, for better or worse!

A brief second movement becomes a short respite from the energy of the outer movements, and offers a perspective of the Tabla as accompanist in the lyrical world of Indian folk-song. Set in ‘dheepchandhi’, a rhythmic cycle of 14 beats, the gently lilting gait of theTabla rhythm supports various melodic fragments that come together to form an ephemeral love-song.

Typically, a Tabla player concluding a solo recital would do so by presenting a sequence of short, fixed (non-improvised) compositions from his/her repertoire. Each mini-composition, multi-faceted as a little gem, would often be presented first in the form of a vocal recitation. The traditional accompaniment would consist of a drone as well as a looping melody outlining the time cycle – a ‘nagma’ – against which the soloist would weave rhythmically intricate patterns of tension and release. I wanted to offer my own take on a such a recital finale, with the caveat that the orchestra is no bystander. In this movement, it is spurred on by the soloist to share in some of the rhythmic complexity. The whole movement is set in ‘teentaal’, or 16-beat cycle, and in another departure from the traditional norm, my nagma kaleidoscopically changes colour from start to finish. I am indebted to Ed Hanley for helping me choose several ‘gems’ from the Tabla repertoire, although we have certainly had our own fun in tweaking a few, not to mention composing a couple from scratch.

© Dinuk Wijeratne 2011

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‘Masterworks’ Finals 2012

With much anxiety (mostly positive), I share with you the news that the Tabla Concerto (2011) is a finalist for this year’s Masterworks Arts Award.

with Symphony Nova Scotia, Ed Hanley, and Bernhard Gueller, introducing the TABLA CONCERTO at the world premiere (Feb 9th, 2012)

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Thanks to the CBC, you can now hear the entire Tabla Concerto online here.

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It is my deepest privilege to be recognized by a community to whom I enjoy giving so much, not to mention the privilege of standing amongst distinguished company for this prestigious pan-genre prize. Yes, pan-genre. Each year, nominations pour in from a wide variety of media, leading to the inevitable question that has fired-up many a debater regarding the very validity of a multi-disciplinary award: “is it even possible to judge a musical composition against a book; a theatrical play against a wooden sculpture….like a chair?” Well, I’ll leave you to form your own opinion! Hmmm, I feel another online poll coming on ;)  And to get you all fired up, here is the staggering diversity of the 2012 finalists. As far as press goes, the COAST had something to say here, and the CHRONICLE HERALD here. Results out by the end of October, eek.

Next Saturday, September 22nd 2012, I perform the 3rd movement of the concerto – ‘Garland of Gems’ – in an arrangement for chamber ensemble. Also on the program is Prismatic Qawwali Party 2012, which I’m hoping will be even more, er, Qawwali-er than Prismatic Qawwali Party 2010. It will, provided you come and clap along in true Qawwali spirit. Details here.

Another JazzFest teaser: HymnPeace ‘Re-ReMixed’

Only last week did I finish writing all the music for the brand new electro-acoustic project WijeratneWorks, featuring the illustrious DJ Skratch Bastid, which is set to debut at the Halifax JazzFest this summer. Of course, one has never truly ‘finished’, because any show containing improvised content will continue to evolve and demand alterations.

The project has become quite the roller-coaster of discovery, and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Until now, I have primarily existed in a totally acoustic world, as I can dutifully answer any questions you may have about how to make something sound good on oh, say, a flute. But change the subject to pre-recorded samples and loops on a set of turntables, and I’ll happily start pestering you with questions. Thankfully, Paul (Murphy) – a.k.a. Skratch Bastid – was kind enough to submit to my pestering when we met this week to go over all the music I’d written for the show. There were over 100 samples to go through. We hung out, we chatted, we got the laptops out, we jammed. It turned out to be one of those überinspiring sessions you spend with a musician who gets excited about the same things you do, and who also helps you find great excitement in things you have overlooked.

It was utterly fascinating for me to observe him in action up-close as he explained many technical things that sent me straight to geek-heaven: his choice of software; good attacks and decays of samples; how he visualizes the motion of the turntable in a typical 4-bar loop; ‘turnarounds’ at the ends of loops; how mid-frequency sound-files make for better scratching than high or low ones; etc.

(I have no idea whose hands these are btw)

When he spoke it reminded me of similarly scintillating moments I’ve experienced in the company of percussionists holding berimbaus, famous accordionists and tabla players among others, who have graciously and passionately demystifed the wonders of their instruments for me through show-and-tell. I find that the limitations of an instrument are just as thought-provoking as its possibilities, since both force you to come up with solutions.

DJ Shub goes forth to represent Canada in the international finals

It was certainly the kind of week to intrigue and stimulate, since on Saturday night I was at the Palace in Halifax, where Paul and DJ Jazz Jeff (yes, him!) were adjudicating for the Red Bull Thre3Style Canadian National Finals (five young DJs going head-to-head with only 15 minutes each to establish their superiority), while on Tuesday I was at C.P.Allen High School to watch Paul and students premiere a piece for DJ and wind ensemble, conducted by their visionary teacher Nathan Beeler.

Molto, MOLTO cool.

I was actually beside myself with excitement for most of the day and it wasn’t until the evening that I realized why: firstly, turntables in conjunction with live instruments is just plain cool; and secondly, I was at the inception of something so unusual and totally unexpected.

Nathan Beeler and some chap who presented him with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Getting back to JazzFest, the band and I will be playing a 60-minute set that I had originally intended to be a bunch of short pieces, but now have realized into three contrasting 20-minute epics, each with plenty of peaks and troughs, nooks and crannies, premeditated moments and unintentional ones (the best kind). In trying to imagine a good closer for the set, I thought I’d attempt an electro-acoustic ReMix of an older piece of mine entitled HymnPeace. It already exists in the form of an ‘orchestral remix’ (commissioned by the CBC for Symphony Nova Scotia and Buck 65; boy what a killer night that was), and a ‘trio remix’ which actually premiered at the 2008 Halifax JazzFest (another highly memorable evening for me, as I often feel nostalgia for the audience singing at the very end). The essence of HymnPeace is a simple melody which one can complement with whatever-else, and arrange and orchestrate into whatever-size. So maybe there will come a time for further incarnations, but for now I’m hearing a remix that goes from atmospheric synth pads through indian drum loops and tabla kaidas to a bit of headbanging euro-trance. The latter starts here:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/38482655″ iframe=”true” /]

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I apologize for the highly compressed audio quality, but that’s SoundCloud for you ;)  As I mentioned in the previous post about this project, this is only a mock-up that is done primarily to give me and the musicians something to listen to and practise with as we prepare for the show. It is a condensed exposition of material that will ultimately be embellished in performance, and is missing all the live elements, not to mention Skratch’s, er, scratching.