Raga Fields (2014) 27'

Soloist(s): Sarod

Orchestration: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon (all with doublings), Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion (2 players), Keyboard, Harp, two Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass

Commissioned by: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Fulcrum Point New Music Projects (Chicago) and Klangforum Wien (Vienna)

Dedicated to: Randolph Coleman

Availability: Full score and Materials available from this website. Please use the Contacts Page

" . . . almost extra-terrestial . . ." The BIRMINGHAM POST, October 9, 2014

This work received its world premeiere on 4 October 2014 with the BCMG and SoumikDatta, with Nicholas Collon conducting. For more details, see BCMG.

Stephen Burns, Conductor of Fulcrum Point with Soumik Datta and Param Vir
Photo: Conductor Stephen Burns with Soumik Datta and Param Vir in Chicago 2013

Whilst there have been many works attempting to ‘fuse’ Indian and Western music in the last forty years, a majority of these have ended up as a melange of Indian-style pastiche and simple Western diatonic harmonies, orchestrated in a manner reminiscent of Indian film music. Almost invariably it is the western ensemble that is short-changed, reduced to providing a backing band for the Indian soloist. 

My intention in Raga Fields was to eschew such obvious solutions of crossover and to write a work with a very contemporary feel, through the harnessing of many of the resources of contemporary harmony and orchestration when writing for a Western ensemble.  The result would bring contemporary Western music into a unique blend with Indian classical music.  My hope was to create a dynamic new music with a rich, contemporary feel, whilst accommodating some of the techniques of Indian raga and tala within the idiomatic writing for Sarod. Is it possible to embed raga-like material with atonal harmonic fields? It most certainly is!

There were plenty of challenges to be negotiated. Creating a harmonic language, notation and form was especially challenging as the Indian Raga has a very strong identity and tends very quickly to vanquish other musical identities surrounding it if they are in opposition. To develop and coordinate these elements I undertook the work in two stages. The work first evolved as a set of sketches for chamber quintet, in skeletal form, which were rehearsed and presented in a workshop setting to develop familiarity between soloist, composer and ensemble.

These embryonic sketches were then expanded and fleshed out with full orchestration (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon (all with doublings), French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, two Percussionists, Keyboard, Harp, two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass) and formal expansion so as to achieve full realization.