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Sinta Wullur - Tagore's Fireflies

When I was asked to compose a piece to commemorate the day of Claude Debussy’s death a hundred years ago, all kinds of ideas bubbled up: music from the reservoir of eastwest cross-fertilization, piano music inspired by the gamelan, a vocal composition with texts about death or nature. In the music of Debussy you can hear nature. When I make music in the spirit of Debussy, it is also an ode to nature. In the end I chose two texts about death and a text about nature, the sea, all by a writer from the time of Debussy who is also a representative of connecting east and west: the Indian philosopher, poet, writer and composer Rabindranath Tagore. The three poems are from his collection Fireflies.

‘The first poem is set in the style of the vocal part (sindhenan) associated with a Javanese gamelan. Like the gamelan itself, the piano part is composed in a strict form with a clear multilayered pattern. The second text is sung in a way related to ornamentation (gamak) in Indian singing and a polyrhythmic technique (tihai) is integrated at the end. The piano part is reminiscent of the Javanese gamelan structure sampak, but in an uncommon metre: 11/8. The oriental singing continues in the tone of the third poem, this time inspired by the alap of Indian music, building up from low to high, and the venerable raga shree.’

Sinta Wullur’s Tagore’s Fireflies received its world premiere on Sunday 25 March 2018 in Symphony Hall, for the Debussy Festival.

Tombeau de Debussy
BCMG’s Tombeau de Debussy for the 21st century honours Claude Debussy as a founding father of modernity. In 1920, Henri Prunieres, director of La Revue Musicale commissioned a collection of new pieces by the most famous composers of the day, a tribute to Claude Debussy’s profound impact on musical tradition.

Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial assistance from Arts Council England and the following individuals as Commissioners through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme:

Christopher Carrier
Michael & Sandra Squires
Jane & Michael Yeomans