ONLINE COMPOSITION MASTERCLASS

Composition and arranging techniques from Grand Union Orchestra composer/director Tony Haynes

4: If Paradise

The key to If Paradise lies in a scale or Indian raga, which dominates much of the work – especially the material of the Bengali singers Lucy Rahman and Akash Sultan and Indian sitar-player Baluji Shrivastav (see notes and previous posts below) – and which is finally and fully explored in the closing number The Perfumes of Paradise Blues.

This time I invented the scale I wanted to use first; only afterwards did Baluji point out that it corresponded with the North Indian rags Aheer Bhairav and Ahiri Todi. The 2nd is always flattened, which makes it a key feature, but the 3rd can be either flattened or natural, which provides a greater range of harmonic possibilities:

[click on image to enlarge]

I love the figure that falls from the 7th before rising to the tonic, and variations on this phrase occur throughout the number.

If Paradise opens with an invocation of the names of perfumes, short melodic phrases sung unaccompanied at this point; then at the very end (about 4½ minutes into this extract) they are strung together to create a melody that takes on the characteristics of a blues, effectively one line repeated completed by a third line (see also example 7 below):

The notes of the scale are used to create different riffs, accompanying for example the opening guitar solo:
or underneath the vocal ensemble (example 2) in the fifth chorus (about 4½ minutes in):

The scale also provides some rich harmonies, most obviously in the parallel triads and sevenths, the augmented sub-dominant chord being a striking feature:

but of course any combination of notes is possible, for example the parallel chords in the trombones in the first chorus, or the trumpets and trombones under the vocals later:

The most dense and complex voicings occur in the third chorus, in full throated big band scoring:

and following the vocals towards the end of the fifth chorus already referred to, creating the climax of the number:

(The number actually ends with a two-chorus sitar solo over the earlier riffs, which is not on this recording, but can be heard on the complete CD version of If Paradise, RedGold Records RGR316D, available via the Grand Union Orchestra website.)

I produced a conventionally-scored version of this piece for a project with the Guildhall School of Music big band in autumn 2010. This is available from Grand Union as a score and set of parts, suitable for adventurous student big bands and youth jazz orchestras.

Footnote

Lucy Rahman and Akash Sultan have been key members of the Grand Union Orchestra for over 10 years, Lucy first touring in Now Comes the Dragon’s Hour (another BBC Radio 3 broadcast, recording and successful CD) and joined by Sultan in Where the Rivers Meet at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2000. Other tracks and clips featuring them can be found on the Music and Video pages of the GUO website www.grandunion.org.uk – including Rimjhimamim, Nodir Srote Ektaratir and The Flame of Love.

If Paradise is rooted in events at the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st, particularly in the Middle East and its relationship with the West; and it reflects on relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews. It goes back in time to the common root their religions all share; but – although there is no formal narrative – running through it is the story of an Asian couple caught up in events in the volatile world of today. The music therefore likewise bridges the traditions of East and West, and Lucy and Sultan are central to its musical and dramatic purpose.

For more information on If Paradise, go to http://www.grandunion.org.uk/if-paradise.html ; the full version of If Paradise runs about an hour, and a new CD is available via the Grand Union website www.grandunion.org.uk

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One comment on “4: If Paradise

  1. Mak
    October 8, 2011

    Just checking out the blog again. Where can the big band arrangement be heard ? Was it recorded ? I know nathaniel cross told me about this project some time ago, so would definately like to hear that. Mak

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2011 by in Composition, Music and tagged , , , , , .
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