Azure Miles Records ~ The Music of Michael Robinson
Cover art is handmade paper from India
1. Darbari Kanada (2006) 61.06
meruvina: clarinet, harpsichord, trumpet, wind bells, rain stick,
gamelan bell, tabla, dhol, Indonesian skin percussion, two tanpuras
All music composed and programmed by Michael Robinson for performance and recording in real time without any overdubbing or added parts.
Recorded and Mastered by Catharine Wood at the Planetwood Productions studio in Eagle Rock (Los Angeles), California.
Musicians are welcome to perform this composition with acoustic and/or electronic instruments.
Kanada, also simply called Darbari, is the central raga in the Darbari family
of ragas, which consists of at least thirteen distinct yet related ragas. Similar to Malkauns, Darbari Kanada is regarded as one of the most grand and profoundly
introspective ragas in Hindustani music. Several prominent musicians have even
stated that it is the raga they would choose to sing before passing
Darbari Kanada and Malkauns seem to be asking basic questions about existence,
love relationships, and the meaning of life. Interestingly, both ragas are traditionally
performed at midnight.
personal experiences with Darbari Kanada comes almost entirely from the recordings
and live performances of Pandit Jasraj, who I was fortunate to spend some memorable
time with between 1998 and 2001. The
Kanada family of ragas is a specialty of Pandit Jasraj, and his renderings of
Darbari are truly extraordinary. Each recording and performance of the raga
from the various stages of his distinguished career is significantly different. (Another
recording of Darbari Kanada that inspired me is an exceptionally passionate performance by Siya
one occasion during the spring of 2001, Pandit Jasraj, Kala Ramnath and I
were driving towards Los Angeles on the 405 Freeway around midnight. There was
a luminous full moon visible through the front windshield. During
a pause in the conversation, Panditji began singing in full voice a beautifully
haunting raga I was not familiar with. He sang with great passion for over a
half-hour. After he finished the impromptu performance, I learned he had sung
another midnight raga: Sohini.
Kanada possesses one of the most famous pekars in Hindustani music. It is a
phrase centered around komal gandhara and echoed around komal dhaivata. Master
vocalists most vividly render the low-pitched shrutis and microtonal melismas
associated with this pekar. Instrumentalists must find their own idiosyncratic
approach to the phrases.
I began work on Darbari, I had not written a new composition in almost two years,
having spent much of that time focusing on recording nineteen CDs consisting
of music I composed between 1985 and 1994, together with programming, recording and releasing
Vachaspati, Yaman, Nat Narayan, Shankara and Natabhairavi. It
took considerable will power for me to begin my composition, but I gradually
took to it like a fish to water. I
found myself amazed and even frightened by the powerful capabilities of the
meruvina and the daunting complexities involved. It seems like anything I imagine
may be achieved with creative concentration, and it is very challenging to find
ways of realizing my musical visions.
on how to approach Darbari Kanada, I envisioned the main melodic voice as a
prism through which the light of three different timbres emerged: clarinet,
harpsichord and trumpet. For
percussion, I reached for two different composite skin drums: One drawn from
Indonesian drum timbres, and the other composed of Indian bols.
composition begins with wind bells performing a glissando inspired by the Indian
swaramandala. This wash of sound is followed by the entrance of two tanpura
drones, after which the clarinet, echoed by a rain stick, intones the alap. The
harpsichord performs the jor, and the trumpet appears for the jhala. During
a pause by the trumpet, a brightly colored Indonesian gamelan bell presents
another view of the opening glissando using two different timbres, one open and the other masked.
first gat introduces the Indonesian skin drum composite together with the clarinet. The
second gat welcomes the Indian drum composite along with a jugalbandi of harpsichord and
a format familiar to Carnatic music, Darbari Kanadas concluding gat features
pure percussion, with the Indonesian and Indian composite drums weaving independent yet
confluent polyrhythms. Just
as the drums have finished, the shimmering wind bells return, imparting an air
of mystery and passion in ascent.
Michael Robinson, December 2006, Los Angeles
© 2006 Michael Robinson All rights reserved