New Release: Something to Say!

Announcing my first online release! Tawnie Olson's Something to Sayfor tabla and fixed media. You can download a full-quality WAV file of the recording for only $1.49 (Canadian funds), and for each purchase, we will be donating 50¢ to Equality Now! Click here for Something to Say!
Tawnie Olson is a talented Canadian composer, currently living in New Haven, CT, USA. Something to Say was composed in early 2014, and it has quickly turned into my most often performed piece of the year! I premiered the piece in Montreal on February 15, and since then, I have presented it in Montreal (again!), Bangor (Wales), Hartford, New Haven (USA), and Belo Horizonte (Brazil).

A photo from the premiere performance of Something to Say, at the Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur, Montreal.
In order to create the electronic part for the piece, Tawnie had me record a number of phrases on tabla, which can be heard in the background; it's as if I'm performing a duo with myself, with one tabla tuned to A and the other to C. The composition itself is set to Jhaptaal, a 10-beat cycle commonly heard in North Indian classical music. The tabla part is fully composed, however there are a number of sections where I must perform English text, re-interpreted on the tabla. "WHAT?!" you say?

In the Indian tradition, all tabla sounds are represented by bols, vocal syllables that represent each sound of the tabla, like solfège. Every tabla composition is first learned by reciting and memorizing the bols. The bols of any composition can be seen as a sort of drum poetry. More literally, there are compositions called bol paran, which are in fact Sanskrit and Hindi poetry, which are first spoken, and then played on the tabla; the tabla imitates the sound of the voice. In Something to Say, Tawnie has taken this idea and translated it to English. In numerous sections of the piece, I am imitating the sound of the spoken word on the tabla. Tawnie did not specify how this should be done; rather, I determined what to play based on my experience with bol paran, just that in this instance, I am imitating the sound of English speech, rather than Hindi or Sanskrit speech.

The tabla isn't just speaking on its own, but it is imitating the speech heard in the electronics part. What is this speech? The text is made up of things that were said to the composer. Silly things, rude things, insensitive things, hurtful things. Perhaps the people who said these things meant nothing by it, but yet their words were hurtful. Of course, Tawnie hasn't been walking around, recording all her conversations with people. We had to get our friends to re-enact the statements (and of course, they do not believe the words they are saying!), and recorded them doing so.

Tawnie dedicated the composition to Equality Now. Founded in 1992, Equality Now is an organization that advocates for the human rights of women and girls around the world by raising international visibility of individual cases of abuse, mobilizing public support through their global membership, and wielding strategic political pressure to ensure that governments enact or enforce laws and policies that uphold the rights of women and girls. With offices in New York, Nairobi and London and presences in Amman, Jordan and Washington, DC, their areas of focus include Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Trafficking. Combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy, we envision a world in which women and men have equal rights under the law and full enjoyment of those rights. 

So, do you have something to say about human rights? Something to say about equality? Then, lend a helping hand through your purchase of Something to Say!

New music is music of the times, the music of today. Art is a reflection of society and art makes society reflect. Please help by sharing Something to Say with your friends and family! 

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THANK YOU for your support!

Tawnie Olson and Shawn Mativetsky after the premiere performance of Something to Say.

(Concert photos by Nick Hyatt)

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