THE BOOK OF GODDESSES
for Flute, Harp, Percussion and Optional Choreography
Duration: ca. 36'
Instrumentation: flute, harp, percussion and optional choreography
Commissioned by MAYA with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts
Premiere: Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South (at Thompson Street), New York, NY, USA, June 8, 2010.
Publisher: Bill Holab Music
My initial inspiration for The Book of Goddesses, and the source of the title, is the beautiful, lavishly illustrated book of the same name by Kris Waldherr, a Brooklyn based author, illustrator, designer and cellist. Waldherr’s book contains descriptions and images of hundreds of female deities from around the world, some featured more prominently than others. Rather than focus on goddesses in one particular culture, I highlight a few that seem to evoke something musical, dance-related or sensual. The cultures, countries and continents I draw on for musical material and styles are India, China, Greece, Ireland, North America, Nigeria and Cuba.
The flute and harp parts in each movement are often inspired by similar instruments found in each culture. For example, the harp part in Xi Wang Mu is inspired by the Konghou, and ancient Chinese harp, and the solo bass flute movement, Estanatlehi, is inspired by the sound of a Native American flute. Percussion instruments provide an earthiness, at least with regard to timbre, and each of the trio movements uses instruments that are not common in Western music, including an Indian Gatam, a Middle-Eastern Dumbek, an Afro-Cuban Cajón and the Udu drum, an instrument traditionally played by Nigerian women.
In order to achieve the right feel for each movement, I use non-Western scales, rhythms and other elements, and I occasionally appropriate patterns and other material from pre-existing music. My goal is to merge some of the qualities of traditional music with my own sensibility, and then filter it through flute, harp and percussion.
Many goddesses are associated with dance, certain colors or creativity in general, and with that in mind, I imagine The Book of Goddesses being performed live with choreographed dance. It may be presented in its entirety, although subsets—such as all of the movements for flute and harp—or single movements may also be extracted and performed.
The Book of Goddesses was commissioned by MAYA with funding provided by the New York State Council on The Arts.