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Samsara, concerto for tabla and wind ensemble, 2008 :

Samsara is in five parts, and is roughly in a rondo form.  The repeated section is based on a common tukra used in solo tabla drumming.  A tukra is a fixed composition (no improvisation) that has a body of material followed by a three-part rhythmic cadence (a tihai).  The other sections use common kaidas and relas found in most styles of solo tabla drumming.  Kaidas and relas theme and variation compositions in which the variations are improvised using a complex and highly codified system of permutations.  I learned all of the compositions in this piece from my guru, Pandit Sharda Sahai.  The solo part may be realized on tabla or a Western percussion setup or various hand drums.

In a traditional tabla solo a melodic player accompanies the drummer, playing a melody that repeats over and over (a lahara).  The purpose of this melody is to outline a rhythmic cycle so the audience can better appreciate the structure and nuance of the tabla compositions.  In Samsara I have used a few traditional laharas, but I have built them up in a way that is only possible with Western music notation.

The title of the work is a Sanskrit word that refers to the cycle of birth and rebirth.  It expresses the idea of flowing together through transitional states.  I wrote this piece during the time of the birth of my daughter, as well as Shawn Mativetsky’s marriage.  Shawn and I have a long-standing relationship as composer and performer, and he has performed my concertos for tabla and percussion ensemble many times.  This is the first piece I’ve written for him for tabla and large ensemble, and is thus a transitional work for both of us into new musical territory.

Samsara was written for and is dedicated to Vicky Shin, Shawn Mativetsky, and Alain Cazes.