Ragas for the Western Flute: A Discussion of Compositions and Performance Practice of Repertoire Inspired by Indian Classical Music.
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‘Western music is music without microtones, as Indian music is music without harmony.’ –H.A. Popley, The Music of India, 134.
The goal of this dissertation is to demonstrate how the Western flute can faithfully represent Indian classical music through performance of various works by important composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
One of aspects of the performance of this genre of music is its use of microtones. While the Western flute was not originally designed for the execution of microtones they can nevertheless be achieved in performance of Indian-Western fusion works for flute. What happens when we combine a Western instrument with the use of microtones, and perform music without harmony? Can we faithfully represent the Indian Classical tradition in performances of Indian-Western music for flute?
This dissertation will focus on works that are written for flute and reference elements of Indian Classical music. Since 1958, with the premiere of John Mayer’s Dance Suite for sitar, flute, tabla, tanpura, and symphony orchestra, several composers of Indian descent have created works referencing raga forms in many ways. Several techniques unique to both Hindustani music (the classical music of North India) and Carnatic music (the classical music of South India) do not translate easily to the Western flute. In fact, with the modern addition of keys, the use of microtones and slides in these ragas (melodic forms that are expanded upon throughout a work) becomes awkward. Furthermore, limited performance directions in several of these works put the actual execution of these techniques into question. In an effort to make these works more accessible to flutists interested in performing them, this dissertation will suggest an explanation of the requisite extended techniques for flute.
The recital associated with this dissertation was performed in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall. A recording of this recital can be accessed at the University of Maryland Hornbake Library.