Siddhartha Fragments was composed between 2009 and 2012 as a 20th birthday present for Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble and to show off the keyboard talents of accompanist Sharon Lee Kim. This new SATB version was arranged at the request of Nathaniel Lew for Counterpoint.
For the text and inspiration when composing the piece, I returned to Hermann Hesse’s 1922 novel Siddhartha that I read in an English translation in high school. At the time, the book made a big impression on me, and I was especially struck by the river that the main character continually encounters throughout the book on his path to self-discovery. In the novel, the river appears at turns beautiful, mysterious, strong, tired, mocking, suffering, yearning, sad, and joyful. For the choral cycle, I culled several text passages describing the river, which becomes a metaphor for the sum and unity of all human experience in the novel.
The order and arrangement of the text fragments attempt to convey the journey of self-realization the main character encounters with the river. The musical materials are derived from an ever-expanding interval set (minor 2nd, major 2nd, minor 3rd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, tritone, etc.) meant to represent the infinite, omnipresent and all-encompassing oneness represented by the river. I did not set out to write music imitating the North Indian tradition (the implied setting of the Siddhartha novel), but was inspired by some of its instruments and musical techniques. This is particularly apparent in movement four “The River Has Many Voices” in which the bowed piano part suggests the drone of the tanpura and the wood block rhythms and piano ostinati suggest the tabla. This movement also features an invented scale which in structure and melodic unfolding suggests an Indian raga.
Jude J. Navari