Innova Records, 2017
Pianist Sophia Subbayya Vastek lives in the intersections – struggling to know her different cultural backgrounds, reveling in the questions, embracing the space between music now and before, and living squarely in the crosshairs of her wildest and most intimate emotional selves. Histories, her debut album, lives there.
With Sophia’s Indian heritage as a starting point, Histories is an exploration of, and homage to, the idea of our individual stories – those that make up our whole self, and which are unseen and unknown by others. These stories are often painful, and often beautiful.
Included on Histories are the first studio recordings of two works by Michael Harrison, both recorded on a piano in just intonation. The first, Jaunpuri, is a composition based on a traditional Indian raga and rare, old vocal composition. The work combines Western compositional structures, notation, and harmony with the basic structures and materials of Indian classical music, including raga (a melodic archetype), tala (rhythmic cycle), bandish (fixed melodic composition), gamak (melodic embellishments), and taan (virtuosic riffs).
Harrison’s other work, Hijaz Prelude, combines modal harmonies in raga Hijaz Bhairav (also known as the Hijaz mode in Arabic music) with a Western, arpeggiated keyboard figuration.
In between the works by Michael Harrison lies John Cage, who provides the spiritual glue, and Donnacha Dennehy’s pulsing Stainless Staining – an expansion of the overtone series for piano and backing tape. In Dennehy’s work, the repetitive structures and rhythms have the effect of creating a high-energy mantra, one that might be sung or spoken with the most ecstatic of convictions.