Tibetan Tears (Nagamani)
About this work:
I had been planning the music for Tibetan Tears for at least six months, putting it aside while I composed the four compositions found on Lunar Mansions and Luminous Realms. The challenge I was readying myself for was to compose a one hour alap (no jor or jhala) with sustained musical interest.
When I was finally ready to begin, the actual composing and programming took about three weeks. It turns out that the swaras (tones) I used are identical to an obscure South Indian raga (Nagamani) which translates to mean jeweled snake or cobra. But that was after the fact. My actual musical inspiration came from Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the bansri master, who has raised the art of flute playing to previously unimaginable levels.
Realizing that some degree of contrast would be necessary for such an extended piece, I decided to set-off the main voice, a Near Eastern kawala timbre, with the gentle struck-wood sound of an African balafon, slightly punctuated with a Japanese hyoshigi, a wooden percussion instrument. Together they swim within the prominent expanse of male (low) and female (high) Indian tanpuras.
Most often, my compositions are named after they are completed. I gravitate towards poetic titles which somehow reflect the nature of the music. The situation in Tibet was not specifically in my thoughts while composing Tibetan Tears. However, the rightness of this title leaped out at me soon after the music was finished, as did the poem, Oil and Blood, by Yeats, printed below. The title came to me after I had a vision while listening to the music that the kawala was a Tibetan mother mourning the loss of her child, and the balafon was the spirit of the departed child.
In tombs of gold and lapis lazuli
Bodies of holy men and woman exude
Miraculous oil, odour of violet.
But under heavy loads of trampeled clay
Lie bodies of the vampires full of blood;
Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.
- Michael Robinson, July 1998, Beverly Hills
© 1998 by Michael Robinson All rights reserved
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. Tibetan Tears (Nagamani) is voiced with samples of the following acoustical timbres using Indian tunings: kawala, balafon, hyoshigi and two tanpuras.