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Param Vir

Publisher: Novello & Co

The Theatre of Magical Beings (2003)
Commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
29 Minutes
Programme Note
Param Vir The Theatre of Magical Beings (2003)
Four beings manifest in an internal theatrical space. The music has not been approached through narrative - rather I was seeking to express my sense of the archetypal voice that speaks through each. There are no illustrative stories to be dramatised - the theatre lies only in the play of energy.

I GARUDA A creature drawn from the Vedas, half man and half bird, he is the vehicle for Vishnu, preserver of the Universe. This inspired a Ritornello form in which opening music for a string sextet fans out to the rest of the ensemble and enfolds a dramatic episode.

II UROBORUS An ancient European symbol of a coiled serpent eating its own tail, it denotes renewal and self-sustenance. The music is cast on a symmetrical fixed-pitch grid and unfolds over a gigantic polyrhythm of six against seven. Over this circular apparatus appear several epiphanies that delineate empty spaces for meditation.

III ELEPHANT comes from legends surrounding the Buddha’s birth. Queen Maya had a dream in which she saw a magnificent white elephant with six tusks enter her womb. The dream was interpreted by wise men as foretelling the birth of either a great leader of a great Teacher. As we know, her son Prince Siddharth was destined to become the Buddha...

IV THE SIMURGH The image of this bird of paradise is drawn from that gem of Sufi literature ‘The Conference of the Birds’ by the Medieval poet Farid ud-Din Attar in which he describes the journey of the mortal birds to meet the great Simurgh. When the mortal birds reach the journey’s end they behold the shimmering mirror of light in which they see themselves reflected. It is an image of self realisation.

Preview the score

Written for and premiered by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, The Theatre of Magical Beings is one of the group’s most ambitious achievements.... Unusually for a contemporary work, the string section lies at the heart of the ensemble and Vir writes especially inventively for them, creating a wealth of exciting sonorities. The lower end of the score’s register is subtly enhanced by the addition of a contrabass clarinet. Unquestionably one of the finest international new music ensembles currently before the public, the BCMG plays superbly well in this virtuosic and hugely enjoyable, life-affirming work.
Paul Conway, The Independent,16/05/2003
An extraordinary new work, dazzlingly well performed.
Geoff Brown, The Times,08/05/2003
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