No 35 Prana (2007)
for electric guitars, female voices, percussion & ebow piano
Commissioned by: Output Festival 2007, with financial support from the Netherlands Fund for the Performing Arts
First Performance: Percussion The Hague, Netherlands Vocal Laboratory and Catch electric Guitar Quartet, September 22 2007, Musica Sacra, Maastricht
Instrumentation: 3 Electric Guitars, 4 Female Voices (double forces possible), 3 Percussion & Ebow Piano
Special Features: Performance requires stopwatch monitor on stage, sound engineer and amplification for all musicians. Piano part requires 5 Ebows. Harmonizers and various special effect boxes for the Guitars are also required.
Prana (Sanskrit, from pra ‘before’ + the verbal root an ‘to breathe’, ‘live’) was written in 2007 for the second edition of the Amsterdam Output Festival. This 63-minute work was the result of a self-concocted ‘dream-ensemble’ consisting of electric guitars, female voices and percussion and combines several texts from the Bhagavad-Gita with texts taken from St. Augustine’s Confessions. The work is written in five symmetrical parts, each lasting twelve minutes, with a central section (Tat Tvam Asi) of fifteen. The five movements are linked cyclically around three tonalities, each a Major 3rd apart and thus also incorporating one another. These basic ‘tonalities’ explore particular pitches from the harmonic series through the use of strong fundamentals and are divided over a generating group (the guitars) and a responding group (the vocalists and percussion). The job of the responding group is basically to pick up and amplify some of the potential combination tones or resultant harmonics of the guitar intervals. To obtain a relatively large gamut of fundamentals and beatings, the guitars make extensive use of harmonizers (which serve to extend their range) as well as scordatura over the harmonic third and fifth.
The choice of texts was guided principally by a search for Eastern and Western sacred texts pertaining to ‘infinity’, the ‘manifest’ and the ‘unmanifest’ and the idea of the God in the Machine. As such, the texts are a form of spiritual ‘legitimacy’ for an artistic concept.
Though inspired by the practice of Pranayama, a technique used by Buddhist monks which in essence ‘halts’ the breathing, the title was the result of being google-whacked (that extremely rare situation where a search term delivers only one answer) after filling in the elusive combination: ‘manifest/unmanifest’ + ‘Deus ex Machina’.