Kawa Ma Gyur (The Unchanging Pillar)
Scored for: oboe, bassoon, percussion, violin, viola, cello, electronic recording
Duration: 11:30 min.
Premiere: 11/21/10, Ethical Society, Philadelphia
Commissioned by: The Women’s Sacred Music Project
Published by: Self-published, Angelfire Press
Contact Andrea Clearfield for score and parts:
See preview score pages: KAWA MA GYUR Score Excerpt (PDF)
Video for Network for New Music using Andrea’s footage from Lo Monthang, Nepal
Story in the Philadelphia Metro “A Not Quite Lost Art” by Shawn Brady
“I was blown away by your new chamber work…perfect integration of electronics and acoustic instruments…perfectly calibrated…perfectly proportioned. A complete DREAM of a piece. Kudos!”
Linda Reichert, Artistic Director, Network for New Music
Clearfield made the widest leap in her new Kawa Ma Gyur (The Unchanging Pillar), a compact piece for chamber ensemble with dire-sounding harmonies and sinister bass writing…haunted landscapes…electronically manipulated field recordings took on ghostly ambiguity…it’s among her best.”
David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 23, 2010
“daring and imagination”…Kawa Ma Gyur, displays a firm sense of confidence by Clearfield, with more sustained tempos and an even finer sense of balance within a large structure. In some of the music’s freer moments, it reaches far beyond the Asian model, recalling the energy of early Stravinsky, and even the spaciousness of Morton Feldman. This is some of the most impressive writing I’ve heard from Clearfield. Keep it coming!”
Peter Burwasser, Broad Street Review, November 27, 2010
Kawa Ma Gyur (The Unchanging Pillar) – 2010, World Premiere
Kawa Ma Gyur (The Unchanging Pillar) was inspired by my second visit to the restricted Himalayan region of Lo Monthang in northern Nepal. Under the auspices of the Rubin Foundation and The University of the Arts, anthropologist Katey Blumenthal and I embarked on a trek in late May, 2010 to record and document the Tibetan gar-glu repertoire (court offering songs) of royal court singer, Tashi Tsering. As Tashi Tsering ages, with no willing heirs to learn his music, his repertoire has been threatened; all of these songs that have been passed down for generations would be lost. With interest and support from the Lo Monthang community, we recorded Tashi Tsering’s complete repertoire, over 80 gar-glu songs that had not been previously documented. Katey, who speaks Tibetan, worked with translator, Karma Wangyal Gurung to begin translating the songs into English. We also recorded other local musicians; among these were students, Tibetan refugees, and three women in the community – Kheng Lhamo, Yandol and Pema Dolkar – who had a vast knowledge of tro-glu, common folk songs, that they learned from their elders. Dance traditionally accompanies these songs, and the women and Tashi Tsering performed dance steps to the music, adding a dynamic percussive element.
In addition to the gar-glu repertoire, we recorded approximately 50 tro-glu songs. Katey and I also initiated a library enhancement project to build a section in the Lo Monthang Community Library dedicated to local culture including not only music, art and dance but Loba history, literature, language and local medicine. It is our hope that this is only the beginning of a large and growing educational initiative in Lo Monthang to preserve and teach this beautiful, spiritual and rich centuries-old culture. It is also our hope to publish Tashi Tsering’s repertoire into a songbook and accompanying CD where it will be distributed through the community in Lo Monthang and beyond.
The music for Kawa Ma Gyur draws from the gar-glu and tro-glu melodies that we recorded as well as sounds of Tibetan Buddhist monastic ritual, rhythms of dance steps, dramyen (Tibetan guitar) and the natural sounds of Lo. We discovered that Tashi Tsering and the three women from the community all knew a song entitled “Kawa Ma Gyur” (The Unchanging Pillar), however the melodies that they remembered were radically different. Fragments of both of these versions are heard in the instrumentation as are recorded sung excerpts. Scored for oboe, bassoon, percussion, violin, viola and cello, the work is performed with accompanying electronic sound created from my source field recordings and manipulated using digital software; the live music and electronic component are intertwined throughout. The piece explores ways that these materials can influence one another; a loud blast may be followed by a series of musical reverberations that in turn give way to new material, or variations of recurring material. Kawa Ma Gyur is about pillars – what is kept constant and also what changes. “Gyur”, which means “change” is also a symbol used in notated liturgical Tibetan chant to indicate different types of undulating lines; these phrases occur with microtonal pitch variations in the winds and strings. The title of my work is an ironic reference to much that we witnessed that is changing in Lo Monthang, including the end of an era of gar-glu performance, political instability, environmental flux and new roads which will eventually bring cars and more tourists into this region, propelling Lo into the 21st century.