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Patañjali : for two keyboards and percussion, a celebration of Patañjali’s Yoga-Sūtra in music and āsana

by Michael Kieran Harvey (2015)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

Performance by Michael Kieran Harvey, Eugene Ughetti, Arabella Teniswood-Harvey from the CD Patañjali

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Work Overview

This trio is based on eight of the extant English translations of the ancient Sanskrit text as syncretised by Dr von Caemmerer in his book "Pieces of Eight - versions of Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras". The trio is a musical transliteration of Patañjali's classical treatise on the yogic understanding of mind and consciousness. A catalogue of yoga āsanas (yoga postures, the 3rd limb of Patañjali's 8-fold formulation of yoga) was performed live by Dr von Caemmerer, his tribute to Yogāchārya Sri BKS Iyengar (1918-2014).

Accompanying these āsanas is a trio of instrumentalists performing the score, which reflects on the past and possible future applications of these yoga principles and textural syntax to contemporary musical structures and materials. This is highly active, challenging music, full of drama and the logic behind these mystical and poetic yet practical texts. The music does not seek to follow any particular fashion, whether it be a postmodern deconstruction of the Yoga Sūtras or a faithful transcription of Indian music into a Westernized context, but rather is a personal response to the wealth of ideas and structural inspiration inherent in the texts.

The complete text of the Yoga Sūtras was used as a template for opening out musical possibilities that may or may not be complete movements in themselves. The proportions of the five groupings of the sūtras generate the entire musical parameters of the work, from the opening chords to the closing interference pattern.

The entire work has a duration of 50 minutes, within which the durations of the individual movements 1-4 are in proportion to the structure of the groupings of the sūtras in "Pieces of Eight". The last movement is an ecstatic dance, an active mandala or concluding meditation on the sūtras, which takes the real-time duration of the cycle to a multiple of five.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Instrumentation (amplified): Keyboard 1: Electric piano (Kawai ES7 or similar), synthesizer (Korg KROME or similar), found percussion tree – 5 distinctly different metal pipes plus hammer, heavy metal chain, large grate, Tibetan finger cymbals (1 pair).Keyboard 2: Acoustic piano (grand, not upright), organ (Kawai MP8 or similar), Trumpet (optional, can be played by another performer).Percussion: Drumkit, marimba, vibraphone, 4 timpani, 3 gongs, tam tam, bowed cymbal, Tibetan finger cymbals (2 pairs), Swanee whistle.

Duration: 50 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Virtuoso technique and some multi-tasking required

Contents note: Samadhi Pada (Meditative absorption) -- Sadhana Pada (Practice) -- Vibhuti Pada (Mystic powers) -- Kaivalya Pada (Absolute independence) -- Conclusion (Mandala).

Dedication note: Dedicated to Arjun Von Caemmerer

Commission note: Commissioned by MONA FOMA.

First performance: by Michael Kieran Harvey, Arjun Von Caemmerer, Eugene Ughetti, Arabella Teniswood-Harvey — 17 Jan 15. Baha’i Centre, Hobart

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Stockhausen's Mantra

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for/to
2016 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Instrumental Finalist Michael Kieran Harvey


Resonate article: 2016 Art Music Awards finalists - comments by judging panels by Australian Music Centre

Performances of this work

18 Jan 15: featuring Arabella Teniswood-Harvey, Michael Kieran Harvey, Arjun Von Caemmerer, Eugene Ughetti.

17 Jan 15: Baha’i Centre, Hobart. Featuring Michael Kieran Harvey, Arjun Von Caemmerer, Eugene Ughetti, Arabella Teniswood-Harvey.

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