The Waters' Child
Cover art is handmade paper from India
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1. The Waters 24.14
meruvina: piano, Indian bells, percussion, two tambouras
2. Child 32.57
meruvina: Farfisa organ, synthesizer, organ, clavichord, electric piano, sitar, ud, kemanche,
mizmar, kawala, hunting pipe, er hu, qu di, shahnai, piri, percussion, two tambouras
The Water's Child is an unusual album even by my own standards. After the extreme intensities of my two previous releases, Spirit Lady and Queen of Space, I felt the need to pull back somewhat, heading in a more meditative, serene, and playful direction. My title is from the ancient Atharaveda, actually referring to lightning begat by rain clouds, but here I think of The Waters' Child representing the flash of creative concepts and musical ideas. Composition began with Raga Tilak Kamod from Dhirasankarabharanam Mela as a general reference, including the Shanta (tranquil, serene) rasa of The Waters, and the Adbhuta (wondrous) and Hasya (humorous, playful) rasas of Child.
For the opening movement, The Waters, in addition to Just Intonation used throughout my new composition, I spiced an acoustic piano timbre with degrees of introspectively expressive pitch wavering, mixing it with two tamboura drones, Indian bells, and an atmospheric yet earthy percussion ostinato with a rhythmic cycle of twelve matras. This is gentler music possessing a detached feeling rather different from any of my previous works. As with other recent compositions, the sense of time is transfigured, not moving in a typical, expected manner, instead going its own enchanted way. A similarly unorthodox perception of time informs the concluding second movement, Child. There is even a sense of living in the music more so than only listening.
Child presents a colorful cornucopia of keyboard timbres voicing the main melodic voice in turn, all used for the first time here, beginning with Farfisa organ. The Farfisa is a favored electronic organ from the sixties, famously played by Sly Stone in the Woodstock film. Next comes an early synthesizer, followed by contrasting types of organ, clavichord and electric piano, all different versions than ones previously employed. The tamboura drones return for grounding and soaring at once in the manner of earth and air. A variegated Latin percussion ostinato using a different rhythmic cycle of twelve matras intertwines playfully with the ongoing melodic arabesques. There is a sense of relaxation in Child recalling athletes whose pulse remains low even during exertions.
After each keyboard voice has its say, an ancillary melody instrument appears boldly presaging the upcoming keyboard with soothing washes of color, something like a palette refresher. These timbres include sitar, ud, kemanche, mizmar, kawala, hunting pipe, er hu, qu di, shahnai, and piri, all intoning the same phrases in turn, and all sharing degrees of expressive pitch wavering spice echoing the acoustic piano of The Waters, though in this context the effect is more like a festive carousel. Most all of these tone colors have played significant roles in past compositions, here making cameo appearances while foreshadowing the keyboard entrances.
A delicious silence opens like a flower as each keyboard timbre assumes the stage alone while percussion and tambouras rest, and then the percussion ostinato and tambouras jump back in again together after two rhythmic cycles of twelve beats. Each keyboard voice is heard twice during Child, with the Farfisa manifesting a third time in conclusion. This adds up to eleven engagements, my favorite number, purely by chance.
There is something wonderfully ritualistic the way the sitar, ud, harp, mizmar, clarinet, trumpet, qu di, ching, and piri each appear in turn for Child, splitting in half the Latin percussion ostinato duration between the ending of one keyboard voice and the beginning of the next one.
And there is certainly something metaphysical about how intellectual energies manifest in more reflective, subdued, and playful modes within The Waters' Child.
It was thrilling and challenging using a version of the meruvina not touched since Lahaina Lanterns from 2013, and I expect to do so again for my next album, whatever that may be. There has not been any through-composed percussion in my compositions since Tunis Phantom, released in early 2019, and there is a distinct possibility of returning to that practice.
Perhaps The Waters' Child reflects the three gentle kitties living outside in the garden, having been more involved with them since the national virus quarantine began during the later part of the composition phase and continuing throughout the realization phase.
There are actually about five total kitties here, and I suppose I might assign keyboard timbres for each of them in the manner of Peter and the Wolf, but that's certainly an afterthought!
- Michael Robinson, June 2020, Los Angeles
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