piano, four hands

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Bhayanaka for piano, four hands is the second in my as yet uncompleted series of pieces based on the Hindu doctrine of affections, known as the "rasa theory." Rasa-s (literally, "juices" in Sanskrit) are various affects identified in drama, dance and music, and, like the Greek humors, they correspond to and are denoted by various hand positions (mudra-s), stances (asana-s), and bodily chemicals. The nine rasa-s have a wider spectrum of emotional connotation than our own set of affects; rage (raudra), disgust (vibhatasa), and terror (bhayanaka) take their place beside of peace (shanti) and compassion (karuna).

Bhayanaka was the second piece composed in the series, written in 1977. Its "horror" and "awe" is somewhat "bracketed," as it reuses certain kinds of textures and moves found in "classic" grade B (or worse) "horror movie" scores of the 1940s and 50s. But despite its character, the composition, like all of the other rasa pieces, is based on a seven-note motive possessing select order properties that allow it to generate special large arrays of pitches that guide and condition the musical form.