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Flying to Kahani

pf solo; 1(picc)-2-1-bcl-2; 2-2-0-0, Str.
9/26/2004 - 5/20/2005
Peter Serkin
Carnegie Hall

KAHANI is the undiscovered “second moon of Earth” in Salman Rushdie’s novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories, of which I have made an opera of the same name.  Early on, after a translation from a nominally real-world environment (yet one, Marquez-like, of “magic realism”), to one of fantasy, the 11-year-old hero and a companion mount a mechanical bird to fly to this hidden satellite. As they approach their destination they come upon Kahani’s vast sea – It is the Ocean of the Streams of Story, from which all stories originate.

For purposes of Flying to Kahani  I prefer to think of this sea as the source of all compositions, of which Flying to Kahani is of course one.  My opera has provided certain basic materials for the generation of the present work, but both in its form and its melos, it is quite distinct from its sources.  In fact, it is a small piano concerto with a specific purpose, and while some of the soloist’s substance ultimately derives from vocal elements in the opera, most of it is newly conceived to fulfill at once a virtuoso and an integrative role.  The work is dedicated to Peter Serkin, whose poetic and brilliant pianism I had constantly in mind in composing the solo part, and which has been so impressive in my recent Fouth Piano Concerto, written for him and the Boston Symphony under James Levine.

At eleven minutes there is no time for a multi-movement design, but instead the work unfolds almost raga-like, in that slower music is usually succeeded by faster (with one or two exceptions).

Two more characteristics need mention:  given the plan of the present program, in which my piece precedes the great Mozart C minor concerto, I thought it proper to make a link to the latter work.  Therefore the central pitch of my piece is C-natural (what I call the “zero” or reference pitch); and the last five pitches of F2K reverse the first five notes of the Mozart. But I doubt whether most people will notice, and in any case such information is not necessary to understand the piece.