Raga Fields (2014) 27'

Programme Note

Raga Fields

Three Spaces for Sarod and Ensemble

        I         Void

      II         Tranquil

     III         Vibrant

Raga Fields interlocks contemporary Western music with classical Indian musical tradition, forging a sound world capable of projecting, with intensity, the power and energy of two very different musical traditions. The diverse sides of the mix must stretch their comfort zones to reach to the ‘otherness’ of their counterpart, and to both reflect and confront each other in impassioned and sometimes jagged exchanges. Within the ensemble, modal, tonal and atonal harmonic fields embed and merge into fleeting Raga-like allusions, all encased in contemporary counterpoint and orchestration. The three spaces of the work offer the sarod soloist the opportunity to articulate a unique pathway in every live performance, with his music moving in a seamless stream from notated passages to improvisatory areas of space inhabited by traditional Ragas.

In the first space Void, the sarod music is entirely improvised, with the ensemble gradually drifting in with free-floating mobiles, spontaneously triggered by the musicians in four or five waves. The ensemble music is almost all in the higher registers, and functions as an extended and enriched idea of a drone. 

In Tranquil, the sarod alternates between playing within atonal harmonic fields and traditional ragas, and offers a rich counterpoint to the ensemble, which in turn reflects and mirrors the sarod’s phrases. In the final space Vibrant, the sarod music fuses into a dramatic and high-octane mix, diving into a plethora of harmonies and tempi, and fully integrating its music within the ensemble.

The work is a mirror to the contemporary world – where monolithic cultures have given way to a melting pot of possibilities drawn from everything and everywhere. In this sometimes distorting mirror of ever-present otherness, we are challenged to view one another in new light, thereby discovering our common ground and embracing our differences. 

Raga Fields was commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Fulcrum Point New Music Project and Klangforum Wien. It is dedicated to my friend, the composer Randolph Coleman.