Awarded the Benjamin Britten Composition Prize 1987
Krishna is the most popular and loved of Hindu gods. A divine cowherd, he is the subject of endless poetry, music, theatre and art. Also, he was a brilliant flautist who charmed everyone with the most amazing melody in between spells of demon-slaying. His antics as an impish child (e.g. the ‘butter-thief’) and his later romantic daliances with the gopis (cowgirls) constitute some of the finest delights of Indian mythology.
This work draws on images surrounding the birth of Krishna, and the unusual events that preceded. Legend has it that the kingdom of Mathura was in the sway of a tyrant Kans. The earth cow went to the heavens to plead with Vishnu to intercede and save the earth from Kan’s demonic violence. Vishnu, in his role as Preserver of the universe, agreed to incarnate as Krishna. On the night that Krishna was born nature herself conspired to save his life from the wrath of Kans and he was carried to the shores across the river Yamuna. As with Herod’s slaying of the innocents in the tale of Jesus’s birth, Kans then ordered all new born children to be killed. However it was too late and Krishna’s arrival brought new hope to the anguished community. In time he would slay Kans and become the just ruler of Mathura.
This is my only work that is cast within a fairly strict twelve-tone row technique. The Krishna row is G# A D# E D C C# F# Fnat. G Bb Bnat (Ex. 1). The work however opens not with this row but with its inversion, heard as a unison melody to symbolise the inversion of natural order in Mathura. The Krishna row in its prime version appears in the central section as a jagged isorhythmic cantus surrounded by a flurry of counterpoint, to signal the awakening of mother Nature as she protects the newborn infant on the night of his birth.
Programme note by Param Vir