Duration22 minutes

Program note:

Commissioned by the Barlow Endowent for Music Composition at Brigham Young University for the Avalon String Quartet.

The literal meaning of the Nepali greeting "namasté" is "I bow to you." A broader understanding signifies a profound acknowledgement between two people that suggests: "the divine within me salutes the divine within you." Practitioners of yoga in the West have understood and used the greeting from some time, often at the end of a practice. Regardless of its common use, the expression represents the hope that two people with distinct histories and experiences can find peace and reconciliation by recognizing the sacred and humane within the other.

Titles from each movement are drawn partly from stories featured in the Vedas, a body of ancient and sacred Sanskrit texts. The first movement, "Kingdom of Sorrows," tells the story of a wealthy merchant and a king who are respectively forsaken and left destitute by their families and ministers. In search of enlightenment, the advice of a sage is sought so that they might learn to detach themselves from worldly possessions. The first movement moves without pause into an interlude entitled "Descent," suggestive of a descent into meditation.

The second movement, "Vishnu Awakens to Destroy Madhu and Kaitabha," depicts the destruction of evil by Vishnu, the Hindu Supreme Being. According to the Vedas, two Asuras (the aforementioned demons) form from the earwax of Vishnu while he sleeps. Awakened by the Devi (the female aspect of the divine) Vishnu destroys the demons.

"The Incarnation of the Divine" refers in part to the incarnation of the Devi as she protects the faithful from the demons, and in part to the meaning of "namasté." A lush exploration of the string quartet, much of the movement is built around a conversation between different combinations of the instruments.

"Time, Matter, Light...Prana" evokes some of the visceral elements of meditation. This movement portrays a narrative of textures and colors, interspersed throughout with a descending syncopated chordal motive. The latter idea represents a diminution of the opening figure in the cello in the first movement--a figure that signifies "prana" or a ever-present life force.

"Exhileration; Reconciliation" reveals a kind of ecstacy achieved throughout the spiritual journey of the work. Note the return of the theme associated with sorrow in the first movement. In order for the journey to be complete, the material must reconcile the coexistence of sorrow and joy, yielding a new understanding.

Concert Premiere: April, 2009 by the Avalon String Quartet at Northern Illinois University and Symphony Center in Chicago, IL.

Namasté (parts)

violin I, violin II, viola, cello parts (PDF)

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