Av Kitane Mansa is my most recent, standalone, contemporary classical composition that has been performed. Performed early 2017 by a group of independently hired professional musicians, it is one of the pieces I am most proud of to date. This time of the year was the introduction to many new things for me as a composer. The task given to us by my mentor Kevin James was to write in a style that we were unfamiliar with, and make it our own. I chose Gypsy music. This was the first time that I had experimented with prepared piano, generating something akin to the cimbalom, a hammered percussion instrument. It was the most performers that I had written for at that time (12), and was also the first time using a specific cadence in order to convey the location of the song. On top of this, my class of composers had to hire a group of musicians on own. There was quite a bit of new material, but I think it helped me to learn even more and really push the boundaries of my composing.
This piece’s title is derived from a Gypsy love chant “Av,mi Romani mal / Pawdel dur chumbas / Av kitane mansa?” that roughly translates to “Come my Gypsy friend, over the hills so far away. Will you come along with me?” This piece starts with an agitaded con fuoco section, creating a sense of imbalance with shifting meters. Once the steady guitar pulse comes in, flourishes in the other instruments pervade before introducing the odd meter bass line, and finally getting to the “chorus” of the song. The clarinet and trombone melody is later found to be the source of the lyrics, after the vocalists are added in. A stripped down section featuring dumbek and cimbalom leads to a more classically influenced string section, before building and stripping away into a cimbalom solo/cadenza. This leads to the reintroduction of the guitar pulse and, finally, the addition of vocalists into the main chorus, showing how the piece got its name. Overall, I am incredibly proud of this piece, and incredibly thankful to everyone involved, especially Kevin James, as always.