For String Quartet (with Banjo and Mandolin). Duration: ~10'
Commissioned by invoke and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.
Premiered by invoke on November 15, 2018, in Baltimore, MD.
Audio Excerpt from a show at the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin, TX) in May, 2019:
Featuring invoke - Nick Montopoli (Violin, banjo); Zachariah Matteson (Violin); Karl Mitze (Viola, Mandolin); Geoff Manyin (cello)
“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed... I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Brahmin, priest of Brahma, and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water-jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges” (Thoreau, from Walden, 1854).
My “India” was in Western Massachusetts, printed in Amar Chitra Katha comic books, sung on recordings of Bhakti and Sufi devotional songs. It was ancient myth after myth told in Odissi dance classes, and imagined and re-imagined in my own childhood memories, walking through the forest and wandering along the stream behind our house. Sometimes I was Prahlad, imagining that Vishnu stood, hushed and powerful, in the walls and pillars; sometimes I was Shabari collecting wild blackberries for Rama. These stories were imprinted on my childhood imagination, and I eagerly and silently made them my own.
Thoreau’s “India” was a place of imagination, of awe, of centuries passed. Yet, he brought the foreign close, intimately drawn with respect and delight. When I discovered this passage from Walden, it touched something of my own cultural experience; how we bring one thing to meet another; how fragmented philosophies take root in our imagination, blossoming into new things.
“Our Waters” was written for invoke, the Austin-based string quartet that plays banjo and mandolin as well as the traditional strings and more, for their American Postcards series. My American Postcard depicts this early instance of South Asian philosophy uniquely imagined in America. In Our Waters, I hear Thoreau’s awe as the buckets grate together in the old well, and as the Ganga River of his imagination merges into Walden Pond. Our waters are inextricable and magical.