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Robert Frederick Jones: Sangeet (1990)
for voice and piano

Note by the composer:

Sangeet was commissioned by Meg Sheppard and alcides lanza and first performed by them on 24 April 1990, in the Pollack Concert Hall, Montreal. The title is the Sanskrit term for devotional vocal music.

  1. amaram ham, madhuram ham (immortal am I, blissful am I) is the mantra (prayer formula) taught by Swami Shyam of Kullu, India. The voice repeats a two-note phrase with imperceptible variations while the piano supplies a background of stars coming out at night.

    The movement was conceived, in part, as a memorial tribute to Morton Feldman (1926-1987). The piano part consists entirely of whole-note octaves, marked extremely slowly, pppp, not coordinated with the singer, in the background, sempre Ped. At the rehearsals for the premiere, I told alcides lanza, "It's a Morton Feldman piano part", and he instantly captured the correct style.

  2. asato ma sat gamaya is an ancient Sanskrit prayer quoted in the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, one of the earliest of the Upanishads (8th-7th century BCE). The voice repeats a pentatonic tune while the piano weaves a tapestry of variations. The text:

    asato ma sat gamaya,
    tamaso ma jyotir gamaya,
    mrityor mamritam gamaya.

    From the unreal lead me to the real,
    From darkness lead me to light,
    From death lead me to immortality.

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