• Param Vir
  • Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva (1988)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta Voices

  • 6 solo voices (2 soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass)
  • 6 solo voices (2 soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass)
  • 21 min

Programme Note

This is a setting of Tagore's poem for six solo voices, accompanied by crotales. I was drawn to it not only for its direct and dramatic account of creation, preservation and destruction, the principle attributes respectively for the three gods featured in the poem, but equally for its pointed and vivid imagery involving sound and music. The musical references in which the poem abounds are not all surprising, coming as they do from a poet who was also a renowned musician.

The dramatic shape of the poem is that of an inverted arch. The most active and frenzied passages of Brahma and Shiva at the beginning and towards the end form the pillars which cradle the central Vishnu section, where the "roar of Creation" subsides to quietest expression in a passage for crotales, organised polyrhythmically to give metaphorical allusion to "the discipline of metre and rhyme".

I have used, for this setting, the English translation of the poem by William Radice. To frame Tagore's poem, and also to offer it an oblique commentary, I have super-imposed on it the ancient Rig-Vedic Creation Hymn (Nasadiya) which, because it is removed from the epic, cataclysmic drive of Tagore's narrative (maintaining instead the quiet, serene presence of a Sanskrit chant) directs us to more fundamental and searching questions about the nature and origins of Creation.

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva is dedicated to my mother, to whose early inspiration and example I owe my music.

Param Vir, 1988