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Track(s) taken from 1EMHDUS

Raag Gezellig


Duo Bohêmes
Recording details: February 2012
L'espace Jéliote d'Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France
Produced by Jérôme Hallay
Engineered by Jérôme Hallay
Release date: May 2014
Total duration: 11 minutes 36 seconds

Raag Gezellig was composed at the request of Mark Solé-Leris and Frédéric Chauvel as the compulsory contemporary work for the sixth International Piano 4 Hands Competition 2011 in Valberg, France. 'Gezellig' is a Dutch word with no precise English translation—the closest is probably 'cosy'—as in atmosphere (for example, with friends and a glass of wine around a fire). I've always liked the word and it seemed appropriate for an intimate piano duet. The piece becomes increasingly virtuosic—designed to test the professional duos' technical and musical skills to their limits—and stylistically draws heavily from the classical sitar raag (or raga/rag) tradition of Pakistan.

While Raag Gezellig is entirely through-composed, a traditional sitar raag is a semi-improvised form within a structure of three (or arguably four) sections:

1) the slow, pulseless Alaap introduction that gradually unveils the notes and melodic patterns of the raag over some low drone notes,
2) the pulsed, medium tempo Jhor section with its pre-composed melody (gat) that is interspersed with improvisations and variations, followed by a second gat at a faster tempo which leads into
3) the Jhala—the short, final section—very rhythmic and energetic with repeated high octave drone notes (the sitar’s strummed chikari strings)

Raag Gezellig opens and closes with a gentle cascade, imitating a typical raag’s opening gesture—a descending glissando of the sitar’s sympathetic strings. The rhythmically-free and quasi-improvised melody of the pulseless Alaap actually requires some rather complex-looking rhythmic notation—western notation is designed for music with a regular beat!

The regular pulse and tala—a seven-beat rhythmic cycle—are introduced in the Jhor section (starting at 5'19"), when you also hear the gat for the first time. One important feature is the tihai—where short phrases (of various lengths) are repeated three times before landing heavily on sam (beat 1 of the tala). There are numerous examples: 5'32", 5'51", 6'07", 6'22", and so on. The second gat (9'29") is related to the first gat but with a faster tempo and different tala (seven quaver beats rather than seven crotchet beats). The final Jhala-inspired section gets going shortly afterwards (10'06") at the same faster tempo.

from notes by John Pitts © 2014

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