Native Places — A Trio for Flute, ‘cello, and piano

I began composing this trio in Pune in 1988, and worked on it more or less steadily for about eleven months, with time taken out to work on a piano solo piece which has never yet been performed. “Native Places” references many raga motions and uses different governing structures in each movement. The score was dedicated to my composition teacher Karl Boyle.

“Native Places” refers to a commonly heard phrase in Indian English. One’s “Native Place” is the ancestral home — most probably not where one is living now, but the spot from which one’s history grows. My friends and colleagues often said things like, “I am going to my native place,” or “My native place is not Pune, but a small village close to Nagpur.”

This phrase evoked in me the notion of multiple points of “home,” which led to scale shifting, tonic modulations, and other ways of ambiguating the influence of the drone.

The piece has been performed only once, on December 3, 1993, at Cambridge’s First Congregational Church, in a concert of “New Ensemble Music,” with Matt Samolis on flute, Caroline Dillon on ‘cello, and Jin Ohtsubo on piano.

The first movement begins with a Bairagi-type “alap” which gradually introduces tones outside the raag, eventually shifting to a Saraswati-type lydian framework, then modulating up a tritone. Bla bla bla.

The second movement presents a ragamala process with a continuous return to an alternation between Jaijaivanti and a Marwa phrase which emerges through a murchhana taking Jaijaivanti’s komal Ga as the tonic. Bla bla bla.

The third movement is a chromatically extended Bhairavi with multiple pentatonic modulations and some jazz motion as well, culminating in a dense jhala-type atmosphere and an allusion to the very first opening phrase as a nod and a wink to the Myth of the Eternal Return. Bla bla bla.

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