American Mirror (2018)

American Mirror reflects on the coming together of cultures in our society, which of many generations and descendants of refugees, slaves, and immigrants, and how intercultural collaborations are essential to the well-being of American society. Melodically, the piece draws from West African, North African, and Eastern European vocal techniques and ornamentations, in addition to modal scales. Underneath these melodies, American Mirror uses open harmonies commonly found in Appalachian folk music, and also includes drones, an accompaniment practice found in many musical cultures. American Mirror is written in two parts.

Part I asks for the audience and/or Quartet members to sing drones in two sections. This singing symbolizes the support we could give to one another, encouraging every individual to reach their full potential. Part I includes a hymn-like melody in the length of 7 measures rather than the traditional 6 or 8, which returns several times in the piece. Rhythmically, Part II uses clapping as an accompaniment, continuing a tradition practiced in many cultures around the world. Part II uses rhythmic structures found in Hindustani (North Indian) classical music such as tihais (rhythmic cadences played three times where the last note of the third time resolves to beat one of the cycle) and dumdhar chakradhar tihais (a longer rhythmic cadence that may include tihais, played three times where the last note of the third time resolves to beat one and there is a rest between each repetition). Part II also uses an eight beat cycle called adi tala, found in Carnatic (South Indian) classical music. Towards the end of the piece, the audience is invited to mark the shape of adi tala using their hands (clapping and counting with fingers), a practice found in Hindustani and Carnatic classical music.

From Here A Path draws inspiration from Husago (a piece that includes drumming, dancing, and singing) from the Ewe people of Ghana, kaval flute playing from Eastern Europe, and elements of Hindustani classical music. The piece shifts its emphasis from 6/4 to 12/8 and 4/2 and also uses different combinations of 5/8 and 7/8. The tihai (a thrice-repeated rhythmic phrase in an overlapping meter that is used to end a section or conclude a piece in Hindustani classical music) is also included multiple times in the piece. The title From Here A Path references the momentum and resistance one gathers to reach a point. – Kim Tran & Derrick Spiva Jr. (Los Angeles, 2018)