Performing in one of the Proms Plus concerts in London earlier this week was contemporary music pianist Zubin Kanga. A graduate of the University of Sydney, Zubin currently lives in London where he is undertaking a PhD at the Royal Academy of Music..
the Proms Plus are introductory events held each day, prior to the featured concert, to give audiences a context to the music and artists featured in The BBC Proms season.
Zubin Kanga’s performance was part of a portrait concert of British composer Param Vir, who moved to the UK from India 29 years ago. The concert featured solo and chamber music by Vir including his new solo piece written for Zubin, called Intimations of Luminous Clarity. The piece uses material from the orchestra piano part of Cave of Luminous Mind, which was premiered in the evening concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Zubin says “PV (as he is known) was very late finishing the orchestral piece, and so only really started working on the piano piece a few weeks ago. I only got a finished form for it about 6 days before the concert, with further adjustments/corrections done over the weekend before the ocncert on Wednesday. Like a lot of my work with composers, there were several collaborative workshops, where I suggested the order of the fragments he’d composed, as well as giving him suggestions on techniques to use, especially the muting and piano harmonics, which he hadn’t used before.”
Param Vir writes that “Luminous Mind is inspired by the meditational journey of the Tibetan saint Milarepa.” A subject like this is at odds with the harmonic devices of the European style, and detracts from the uniqueness of the philosophical concepts they express. So, he dispenses with European constructs such as diatonic keys and their chromatic extensions.
For example, Param Vir writes “The central atonal field in the fast movement of Cave of Luminous Mind is constructed to avoid the (minor second) interval, and it seems to produce a remarkably spatial effect, devoid of the tension that a surface with minor seconds generates. I suppose it is akin to a kind of atonal pentatonic material, only obliquely related to pentatonic scales.”
Click here to listen to the concert and interview in which Param Vir talks about the genesis of the piece. Zubin’s performance starts at 37.25