Raga No. 1 is featured on the CD, “The Solo Percussionist”.
“Raga No. 1” was originally written for the composer’s senior percussion recital at the Eastman School of Music in 1968. The inspiration for the music came from hearing North Indian classical music for tabla (the traditional pair of single-head. closed-shell drums) for the first time. I had just been exposed to a recording of North Indian classical music featuring Chatur Lal playing tabla and I was inspired by the rhythmic complexity and energy in the music.
There were only a few solo timpani pieces available in 1968 – and most of those were included at the back of timpani method books – so a decision was made to compose an original solo piece. I had no formal study in Indian classical music, so rather than attempting to copy the music structures, I simply focused on the rhythmic energy in the music. While rhythmic intricacy provided the primary focus, there is also a sense of ‘rag’ (‘raga’) or mode created by the half-tone interval of Bb-Cb, sandwiched in-between the low and high G-natural pitches. Glissandos on the low timpano also added a sense of the vocal quality that can be heard in hand strokes on the low tabla drum (bayan). Finger rolls on the high timpano were a way of acknowledging the complex finger technique used on the tabla by imitating them, although in a very simple way.
(Notes by the composer)