for Piano Trio (Violin, Cello and Piano)
Premiered on April 3, 2016, Smith College, Northampton, MA
by Nick Whittredge, violin, Akshaya Avril Tucker, cello, Cara Hudson-Erdman, piano
This piano trio is inspired by two uses of melody: melody in Hindustani music and melody in the chamber music of Brahms. In Indian Classical music, sometimes a second melodic instrument will accompany the featured soloist. This accompanist generally imitates the improvised solo line slightly behind, creating an interesting tension and release. “Meru” uses this concept of overlapping call-and-response melodies, following patterns of tension and resolution when the lines diverge from each other or dramatically converge to play a melody in unison.
The piece is not set in a particular “raga,” but it remains faithful to one collection of notes while moving the tonal center around modal keys, especially A natural minor and F lydian. The drive to repeat melodic fragments and delay the resolution of important melodic pitches (like B to A) is a shared trait of both of these highly expressive genres, as well as Minimalism. As I played with the original melody by developing it from the perspective of both styles, the long phrases that emerged reminded me of Seattle. As I walked in different parts of the city, I watched the surrounding mountains suddenly come into view and then disappear. In “Meru” (whose name refers to the sacred mountain in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain philosophy) I wanted to capture the longing that kept me staring, the drive to follow them and find another, better view — to continue imagining the vast and compelling distance between us.