Ahir Bhairav (Snow Leopard Meadow)
About this work:
Monsoon Clouds was completed in October 1998 and Snow Leopard Meadow was completed in December 1998. They are both being released in March 1999 for the simple reason that the art work for their covers arrived at that time. One obvious similarity between the two compositions is that they both represent my personal interpretation of Indian classical music's raga form. By doing so, beginning with Hamoa in 1995, I now realize that I have gradually and unknowingly claimed my "birth right," as the rock and jazz I grew up on was largely a derivative of Indian classical music. However, it took private lessons with Harihar Rao, the senior disciple of Ravi Shankar , Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, the renowned expert on Indian music and culture, Kala Ramnath, a leading disciple of Jasraj, and equally important, intensive listening on my own, to develop the "seeds" which had been planted earlier in my life.
Upon writing these new release notes, I realized that the two ragas the compositions are based on have exactly the opposite swaras (tones)!
Indian classical music offers a vision of immortality; a union with the perfection of nature.
The raga form has developed over thousands of years, originating in the Vedic chants for various deities and manifestations of the five elements; water, fire, earth, air and space. Indeed, the music echoes the organic laws which create the interaction between these elements.
Happily, this profound musical form has embraced and continues to welcome a variety of musical instruments and approaches. For myself, Indian classical music has been both a model and major source of inspiration for my own compositions, which are related, yet different.
It is gratifying for me to hear Harihar Rao, the senior disciple of Ravi Shankar and the Artistic Director of the Music Circle, state that my music has begun "reaching into the core of the spirit of Indian classical music," which he describes as "a spiritual yearning." Simultaneously, CDeMUSIC made special reference to the "spirituality behind the sounds" of my music. How is it possible that music performed by a computer can do this?
One possible explanation may be found in the words of jazz pianist, Bill Evans, who did not believe in copying or imitating the music that inspired him. Rather, he "tried to absorb the essence of it and apply it to something else." Recognizing that his inspiration frequently came from musicians who were not pianists, Evans added that, "Its more the mind that thinks jazz than the instrument that plays jazz which interests me."
Snow Leopard Meadow was formed out of my enthusiasm for a video taped performance of Ahir Bhairav by Pandit Jasraj. The master vocalist was accompanied by no less than three tanpuras, tabla, violin, harmonium and his own playing of the surmandal. All this results in a transcendental labyrinth of musical detail from which the voice emerges.
The subtle shifting of two swaras(tones), from komal dha (flat sixth) and shuddh ni (natural seventh)to shuddh dha and komal ni, transforms Bhairav into Ahir Bhairav, and we have entered a different world! (Of course, there are other important distinctions between these two majestic ragas.)
Here I have chosen the bowed timbre of the Near Eastern kemanche along with tabla and South American, Indian and Near Eastern percussion. There is also a prominent tanpura presence which I have used in my recent compositions.
The snow leopards of Central Asia exist at the top of the food chain, and they are in great danger of extinction from encroachment into their territory and murder for their fur. More direct and immediate action needs to be taken to enable these stunningly beautiful and solitary animals (they are almost never seen by humans until they are caught in a trap and were mythical mysteries for centuries) to survive and flourish in their natural environment on what is known as "the roof of the world."
- Michael Robinson, March 1999, Beverly Hills
© 1999 by Michael Robinson
Year composed: 1998
Ensemble type: Electronic Instruments and Sound Sources:Live Electronic Sound Sources
Instrumentation: ,1 Computer/Laptop soloist(s), ,1 Sampler (Keyboard/Other) soloist(s)
Instrumentation notes: A computer and sound module are programmed to perform the fully notated composition in real time. Snow Leopard Meadow (Ahir Bhairav) is voiced with samples of the following acoustical timbres using Indian tunings: kemanche, Indian, Near Eastern, Latin American, Japanese & Chinese percussion and two tanpuras.