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a composer with a story to tell

a composer with a story to tell

Goddess Triptych

I. Durga Battles a Buffalo Demon (excerpt)
II. Lakshmi Sits on a Lotus Blossom (excerpt)
III. Ganga Cascades from the Heavens (excerpt)

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Stéphane Denève, conductor. Used by permission.

3333 4331 harp, piano, timpani, 3 perc, strings



The League of American Orchestras with generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation

Theodore Presser Company
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The Hindu religion has a very ancient and rich history involving a wide array of gods and goddesses. My interest into Hindu stories began with my orchestral work Shiva Dances in which I musically portray Shiva, one of the principal gods, performing the Cosmic Dance in which he destroys the universe to allow a new universe to be born. When the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra approached me for a new work, my initial thought was to write a companion piece for Shiva Dances, but this time featuring the tale of a goddess. Over the course of my research, however, I discovered such a wealth of goddesses with fascinating stories that I decided to present three goddesses instead of just one. While researching, I came upon pictures for each of these goddesses that correspond with what I wished to represent musically; it struck me that I was building a musical “triptych,” to borrow the term from the art world.

Movement 1: Durga Battles a Buffalo Demon
Durga was created by the gods for the purpose of slaying a powerful buffalo demon that could not be killed by any male mortal or deity. She is typically pictured riding a lion, with her ten or eighteen arms carrying an assortment of weapons given to her by the gods. The movement begins with Durga issuing her battle cry. We hear the buffalo demon charging to meet her. The two engage in battle and ends with Durga slicing off the buffalo’s head.

Movement 2: Lakshmi Sits on a Lotus Blossom
Lakshmi is the goddess of beauty, fertility, and fortune (both spiritual and material). She is often pictured sitting in the middle of a lotus blossom (a symbol of purity), while holding additional blossoms in the upper two of her four hands. This quiet movement opens with Lakshmi sitting calmly and blissfully on a lotus blossom. In the middle of the movement, Lakshmi opens her lower two hands, and gold coins spill forth from her palms. The movement ends as it began when she returns to a blissful state.

Movement 3: Ganga Cascades from the Heavens
Ganga is the personification of the sacred river Ganges. The final movement opens as Ganga flows cheerfully around the heavens. She continues doing so until the god Vishnu (another principal god) kicks a hole in heaven’s wall. Ganga suddenly finds herself gushing through the hole and plummeting down uncontrollably towards earth. When Shiva realizes that Ganga is approaching with such force that she will destroy all that lies below her, he positions himself directly below Ganga to catch her waters in his hair. Shiva’s tactic succeeds; when Ganga reaches Shiva’s head, she becomes eternally tangled in his tresses. Shiva’s body breaks Ganga’s mighty water column into numerous streams that gently flow down his limbs to lightly fall upon the earth.

Goddess Triptych was commissioned by the League of American Orchestras with the generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

  • HELIOS • 4’30” • 2 tpts/flugelhorns, hn, tbn, tba

    In Greek mythology, Helios was the god of the sun. His head wreathed in light, he daily drove a chariot drawn by four horses (in some tales, the horses are winged; in others, they are made of fire) across the sky. At the end of each day’s journey, he slept in a golden boat that carried him on the Okeanos River (a fresh water stream that encircled the flat earth) back to his rising place. The cyclic journey of Helios is depicted in this short work for brass quintet. The first half is fast-paced and very energetic, while the second half is slow and serene, representing day and night.