Dharmavati is the fifty-ninth mela of Karnatic music. The swaras mirror the Western melodic minor scale except for the transformational presence of tivra madhyama in place of madhyama.
For the present composition, I found the mela both gentle and poignant, heavily steeped in the sounds of South Asia and Persia.
Dharmavati is the third of nine alap compositions completed in 2009 and 2010 that share the same musical setting for the through-composed melodic voice sounded by a spare piano timbre. In effect, the result is as much Vedic Chant as music. The setting consists of a dramatic composite drone first used on Gangadhara (Bhupali) from 2002, combined with a single tanpura, Indian bells, rotating drum and rainstick.
The process of selecting which precise tone to use for shadja (tonic) for each particular raga is fascinating for me. Indian musicians use one tonal center for their entire life, but given the nature of the meruvina, I have used all twelve possibilities in my work. It is an intuitive process that filters the melodic personality of the raga together with my individual temperament, and I frequently am surprised where shadja turns up. Dharmavati is based on E flat.