“MOTHER EARTH” Program Notes

RAJASTHAN is an example of Gypsy (Romani) folk music from Rajasthan, India’s largest state. Although the Romani people migrated from northern India to Europe over a millennium ago, the culture they left behind in geographically isolated northern India remained relatively untouched for centuries. Many of their ancestors living in the region today, some still members of nomadic tribes in the Thar Desert, are musicians and entertainers.

KHANGAI gets its inspiration from Namdziliin Norovbanzad’s recording titled Praise Song of Khangai Mountain. An example of the Mongolian urtiin du (“long song”) and xoomii (“throat singing”), this traditional folk tune is a mainstay in the concert repertoire of many Mongolian groups, and variations on the song’s melody abound. In Tibetan Buddhism, which is practiced in Mongolia, mountains are held to be sacred and are frequently worshipped and praised in song.

NAGCHU is a nomad’s song from Nagchu in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The ornamented melodies and improvisations reflect the stark beauty of the mountainous landscape and the isolated, contemplative lives of the Tibetan nomads living on “The Roof of the World.” In its original form, the song features two melodic phrases comprised of five pitches repeated four times. The MOTHER EARTH rendition features a single statement of the melody, which provides a foundation for the soloist’s extended improvisation.

CRADLE SONG is a traditional Swedish lullaby titled Ro Ro Till Fiskeskar, a song with origins in medieval France and one that is still popular in numerous variations throughout Scandinavia.

APPALACHIA is based on Cluck Old Hen, a traditional American bluegrass tune, played on banjo or fiddle, that dates to the early 19th century. Popular in the eastern Unites States’ Appalachian Mountain range, the music features a banjo string’s idiomatic upbeat snap or a fiddle’s snappish pluck, each imitating a hen’s cluck and giving the simple two-part song its identity. Bluegrass has roots in Irish, Scottish, and English traditional music, as well as American blues.

SAGARI HA (FALLING LEAVES) and OHARABUSHI are traditional Japanese folk songs. Sagari Ha is usually performed on a shakuhachi, an end-blown flute made from bamboo. This version features a repetition of single pitches, amidst crescendos and decrescendos, that are meant to create the sound of dried leaves blowing through bamboo bushes (symbolizing life’s impermanence). Like many forms of Japanese traditional music, Oharabushi is also meditative. The melody and implied modal harmony are both drawn from the five pitches of the pentatonic scale that connect the song to many other indigenous musics around the world.

MOTET is a 13th-century French motet (composer unknown) titled Ne m’oubliez mie (Domino) and numbered 236 in a collection of 336 works known as the Montpellier Codex. (Currently preserved at the University of Montpellier, the Codex was compiled in Paris around 1300.) In its simplest form, a motet is a musical work with words incorporating several different parts. The earliest motets arose from a tradition known as organum, in which one singer performed a notated melody and another improvised.

RAINFOREST incorporates a beautiful, ritualized dance melody created by the Mbuti Pygmy tribe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recorded in the Ituri Rainforest in the mid-1950s, the source music was largely unaffected by influences from outside equatorial Africa. Members of the tribe played self-made percussion instruments that emphasized a recurring three-beat rhythmic pattern, and all members of the group sang imitatively in response to the leader’s solo voice.

ROUND DANCE (KOPANITSA) is a round dance from western Bulgaria with a meter of 11 beats per measure. Typically, musicians count the pattern 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2, and dancers count in “quick” and “slow” patterns, resulting in the steps QQSQQ. The original name kopanitsa derives from the verb kopam, which means “to dig” or “to hoe,” referring to the sharp up-and- down kicking motions unique to the dance.

SENECA borrows the melody from a Native American dance that is more than 400 years old. The Seneca people were part of the Iroquois League of Nations, a confederation of six tribes living in the northeastern United States. Iroquois songs are highly rhythmic, often using large, wooden-frame drums that are played simultaneously by groups of men circled around them. Like most Native American songs, Iroquois melodies are monophonic (characterized by a single melody without accompanying harmony) and draw their pitches from the pentatonic, or five-note, scale.

DIDJERIDU derives from the indigenous Aboriginal music of northern Australia. Aboriginal songs often have natural and environmental themes, and Aboriginal singers and dancers are known for their ability to imitate the sounds and movements of Australian wildlife. Ritual singing and dancing are typically accompanied by the constant pulse of ironwood clapsticks and the rhythmic drone of the didjeridu, often said to be the world’s oldest wind instrument.

LIBERTANGO is one of Astor Piazzolla’s most famous works of tango nuevo, combining traditional Argentine tango dance with modern elements. This arrangement is adapted from Sturm’s eight-movement suite, TANGO NUEVO: The Music of Astor Piazzolla, commissioned by the HR Big Band in Frankfurt Germany, at the 2001 Rheingau Festival, and recorded on the CD, Libertango, Hommage an Astor Piazzolla.

RIVERSCAPE, by Fred Sturm, was commissioned and premiered by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Jazz Ensemble, directed by David Milne, for the 1998 UWRF Commissioned Composer Project. Riverscape combines minimalistic straight-eighth grooves with folkish lines, warm chorales, and multiple counterpoint.

ASHOKAN FAREWELL, composed by Jay Ungar in 1982, is a tribute for the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps in the Catskill Mountains of New York.  Ashokan Farewell is a gentle waltz written in the style of a Scottish lament, and was featured as the title theme of the PBS series “The Civil War,” by filmmaker Ken Burns. Ashokan was the name of a Catskill Region village that is now mostly covered by the Ashokan Reservoir.

44 DUOS FOR TWO VIOLINS was composed by Béla Bartók in the early 1930s, at the request of Erich Doflein, a Freiburg violin instructor seeking a set of pieces both didactic and distinctly modern. Similar to Bartok’s MIKROKOSMOS, much of the work is based on folk music of Eastern Europe, and are engaging for their brevity, such as the uplifting “Maramarosi Tanc” (New Year’s Greeting). From the dance-like “Ruten Kolomejka” (Runthenian Kolomeika) to the meditative “Arataskor” (Harvest Song), Bartók employs folk-like rhythm, subtle dissonances, canonic writing, and a wide range of violin performance techniques.

CORDOBA, written by pianist and composer Laura Caviani and arranged for the Four Voices String Quartet, was inspired by the composer’s experience as an artist-in- residence at in Cordoba, Argentina, in 2007.

SEA OF QI, composed and arranged by pianist and composer Mary Louise Knutson, is featured on her second CD recording, “In the Bubble.” The composition features a flowing ECM-inspired style, of which the composer remarks, “I can hear the breeze and the ocean waves, seagulls, clanging metal, and it gives me the feeling of being carried and swallowed by waves.”

WITCHI-TAI-TO, was composed by Jim Pepper, a jazz saxophonist of Native American descent, from the Kaw and the Cree tribes of the American Plains. Witchi-Tai-To is a chant-like song that Pepper learned directly from his grandfather, and one he recorded multiple times during his career. It has been recorded by pioneering artists Jan Garbarek, Paul Winter, the acoustic improvisation group Oregon, and has become an anthem for artists combining jazz, classical, and world/folk traditions.