Programme Notes

Karen Gourlay - Bashraf

Bashraf – Karen Gourlay (b.1962)
The initial inspiration for Bashraf came from Arabic music and an interest in music containing quarter-tones. It is particularly influenced by the Arabic sequences of notes called maqam (plural Maqamat) many of which use altered tuning. Derived from the Persian work peshrev, meaning ‘that which precedes’ , the title refers to a piece of music that is often performed as an opening composition as part of a suite. Similarly, this Bashraf can be performed as the first piece in a recital or programmed amongst other works.

During the early stages of composition, the importance of timbral change and contrast became apparent as an important feature. Opening with three repeated notes, the material contrasts harmonic, normal fingering and multiphonic timbres combined with an increasing intensity of vibrato and tone. Utilising the flute’s potential for a wide variety of tonal colours, the performer is required to alter the sound through techniques including vibrato, alternative fingerings, embouchure changes, key percussion and singing.

Bashraf contains four sections (Khana, plural Khanat) each of which is followed by a recurring passage (taslum) as in the traditional form. Improvisatory in nature, each Khana has its own tempo and varies in character exploring related maqamat. In performance the flute player is encouraged to explore these features; metronome marks are optional. The returning taslum balances this freedom with consistency of tempo, using only one maqam throughout. Developing in complexity at each recurrence, it is as if the refrain is trying to break free of the repeating cycle, never quite suceeding, until recalling a fragment of the second khana on the last bear of the penultimate bar.

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