Saturday 7 August 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the death of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore – the first non-European/American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore – a poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter – has made an unmeasurable impact worldwide in the fields of literature, music and art. An ardent humanist, he also left a legacy in politics and education. Tagore was part of the “Dartington Experiment”, which has become The Dartington Hall Trust, the summer school of which itself has become an important creative spring board for many composers as well as musicians.
Here at Composers Edition, Tagore has been a source of inspiration for many of our composers and his work has been living through their music.
Janet Swinney on composer Naresh Sohal and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore’s poetry provided a lifelong inspiration for Naresh. He made forays into the work of other poets from both West and East, but he returned repeatedly to Tagore and, especially, his large collection of prose poems, ‘Gitanjali’. The appeal of these poems was fundamental, being concerned with the human being’s eternal quest for spiritual realisation, the ultimate sublimation of the individual consciousness into the cosmic one. And though he dealt with the issue that sits at the heart of Indian Vedic and Upanishadic philosophy, he did so in a way that was neither doctrinaire, nor dogmatic. The immediacy of his work depends on simple imagery that anyone can grasp.
It is not surprising, then, that a composer who straddled two cultures should find that these poems resonated with him, and provided a vehicle for him to be able to express himself. Naresh produced eleven works based on Tagore’s poems over the course of his career (one with two different instrumentations). These range from intimate chamber works to large pieces for orchestra and soloist.
Also you can watch Patricia Rozario and Mark Troop’s performance of the first song from the Songs of Desire cycle to commemorate the composer at a concert at Wilton’s Music Hall, London, after Naresh’s death in 2018.
At the moment, Composers Edition has published five of the later scores of Naresh’s Tagore works – Songs of Desire for soprano and piano, Poems of Tagore N.3 for soprano and cello, Poems of Tagore N. 4 for soprano and violin, Three Songs from Gitanjali for soprano, string quartet and tabla, and Three Songs from Gitanjali version for soprano, strings and Indian drums.
Jack Van Zandt
Works inspired by, and using poems by, Rabindranath Tagore
On the Shores of Eternity: A Multimedia Dramatic Madrigal (2003, rev. 2021-22)
This work sets texts by the Bengali Hindu poet and Nobel Literature Prize winner Tagore that explore the twilight zone between life and death in a dozen songs and extended dance pieces, utilising video and other multimedia elements. Filming the complete work for internet streaming begins in 2022. In addition, all the individual pieces may be presented on their own in live concert settings.
At the moment, you can watch two of the arias here:
Here we have a list of individual works from On the Shores of Eternity on poems by Rabindranath Tagore, which are planned to be published between 2021 and 2022:
– Three Choruses from On the Shores of Eternity for 5-part chorus or vocal ensemble SATBarB
– Understanding for soprano, alto flute, harp, electric cello, electronics, video, 2 dancers
– A Dance Beyond Death for soprano and dancers with: version A – alto flute, harp, electric fretless bass guitar, electronics, video; version B: alto flute, harp, electronic guitar, electric fretless bass, electric piano, celeste, vibes, marimba, glockenspiel, chimes
– First Light for 2 sopranos, vocal ensemble, fixed and live electronics, video, dancers
– The Messenger for soprano, electric bass guitar, electronic guitar, synthesizers, percussion, electronics, dancers
– Living the Infinite for soprano, electric bass guitar, electronic guitar, synthesizers, percussion, electronics
– The Stars Look On for soprano with: version A – electric bass guitar, electronic guitar, synthesizers, percussion, electronics; version B – string quartet and electronics
– Time’s Ocean (madrigal opening) for dance or concert with video. Version A: electronic; version B: large wind and percussion ensemble with cellos, double basses and electronics
– On the Shores of Eternity (madrigal finale) for dance or concert performance with video. Electronics, flute, harp, electric fretless bass guitar, electric guitar, vocal ensemble
Colin Riley’s piano piece As the Tender Twilight Covers is based on a Tagore poem:
It was commissioned and premiered by Matthew Schellhorn, and performed again in a video by Italian pianist Agnese Toniutti.
Sparks will fly for voice and piano is a song cycle setting three ‘Sparks’ by Rabindranath Tagore, together with ‘Madrugada al raso’, (Daybreak), by Octavio Paz and two verses from W.H. Auden’s ‘Lullaby’. It came from a conversation between the composer and soprano Lucja Szablewska about the idea of writing a song cycle ‘tailor made’ for her voice
momentary flight for flute and piano contains many sparks that ignite; some fall, some soar but not in an obvious way. It’s almost a collection of fragments or tiny “moments musicaux”. The slow pulse stops only for a moment although, when listening, one should be unaware of measured time (one hopes).
A spark is fulfilled
By its momentary flight:
To soar and then die
Is its whole delight.Tagore, Jottings: no. 7
We at Composers Edition are so grateful for Rabindranath Tagore’s work and to all that it represents. We are so proud to be part of carrying on his legacy through the works of our composers.
Tags: Colin Riley, momentary flight, naresh sohal, Nobel Prize of Literature, On the Shores of Eternity, Poems of Tagore n 3, Poems of Tagore n 4, Rabindranath Tagore, Songs of Desire, Sparks will fly, Three Songs from Gitanjali