Indra’s Paradise – Thai Music
The purpose of this recording is to make more accessible to non-Thais the melodies which have endured in Thailand for hundreds of years, not only by making Western arrangements of these melodies but also by translating the Thai string technique into an idiom suited to the Western violin so that the spirit and style in which these compositions have been played by Thai musicians over the centuries can be preserved in the modern arrangements. Many of these compositions have never been written down before and more importantly the style of ornamentation and the method of Thai string technique in general have never before been notated.
This song dates back to the Sukothai period (13th century). The tune is still often called the Sukothai Song and is one of the most enduring folk melodies in all of Thai music. It was originally a choral repartee in which the final syllable of each phrase had to rhyme. When the stanza was complete the whole group would sing a simple refrain of two syllables…“ha-hi”. This was later arranged for instrumental performance whereby sliding into the third note of the scale twice created a rarefied recollection of this joyful song sung many hundreds of years ago by farmers of this once great capital. The opening slow section is an expansion of the original tune composed by Montri Tramot, the most eminent composer of Thai classical music in the present era.
The Oracle of Light
In the reign of His Majesty King Rama the Fifth it became very fashionable for Thai classical orchestras to compete against each other at festivals and on other important occasions. They would compose elaborate codas to be attached to the ends of the major works of the standard repertoire. One such coda in the Laotian style was Oracle of Light. At first it was only an instrumental piece without a name, but it quickly became very popular and was used as part of a musical theatre production in which the words “Oracle of Light” were used prominently. It then became known by this title. Though the original words are no longer used, the melody has become one of the best-loved in all of Thai music. In the arrangement presented here, there is added a new variation of the original melody, composed in 1933 by the greatest master of Thai music in the 20th century, Luang Pradi Pairoh.
Indra’s Paradise (Suite)
This suite is a group of four pieces which are often used to accompany a famous classical dance expressing joy and the spiritual delights in the second level of heaven, where Indra resides. The first two songs of the suite are sacred melodies of the Na Pat category. Because this term usually means that the orchestra leads rather than follows the choreography, it has led some to believe that this music could be described as absolute music in the Western sense. While it is true that the purely musical structure does not derive its value from reference to anything outside itself, it is also true that these songs are meant to accompany specific actions in the theatre such as flying, magic transformations into other bodies, etc. By understanding that these associations are highly arbitrary it will help the listener begin to appreciate the dual character of this music which is both abstract and programmatic at the same time. After the song Thakoeng, which describes the happy life of the angels in heaven, comes the final piece, Dance of the Shiite Muslims, It is also sometimes called The Dance of Hussain. This refers to the demonstrations of grief made each year by the Shiite Muslims for the martyrs Hassan and Hussain during the Muharram Festival. This was the dance offered by Phya Chularaja-Montri, the head of the Muslim community, to his Majesty King Rama the Second over 150 years ago. The King was so impressed that he ordered the royal dancers and musicians to modify both gestures and melody to fit the Siamese taste, and the work has since remained a popular part of the standard Thai repertoire.
This song is an excerpt from a very long suite in the Laotian style. One might wonder how such a slow and beautifully sentimental melody could come to depict a chipmunk. However, this is an example how melodies in Thailand can express many different moods depending on the interpretation of each individual artist for specific situations. This chipmunk melody might at one time be played at a fast speed and at another time at a slow tempo bringing out its more romantic and sweet qualities.
Tales from the Waterfall of Saiyok
His Majesty King Rama the Sixth made two famous trips to the beautiful waterfall called Sai Yok, the first in 1877 and the second in 1888. A young nobleman, Prince Naris, was a member of the royal entourage accompanying the King on the first trip. He was an ardent musician who was so diligent that he practiced daily on board ship by stringing the bars of his Renat (the Siamese xylophone) between two rails of the boat. Later, in preparation for the second trip, Prince Naris composed the song Tales from the Waterfall of Saiyok. It is an example of programme music comparable to Western Romantic programme music, wherein the composer attempts to conjure up the beauties of nature through his melody. It is appropriate that his piece is arranged for violin, since in the first performance the traditional Mahori (or string and percussion orchestra of Thailand) featured an instrument referred to as the “European saw”…saw being the Thai word for fiddle. This then is one of the earliest records of the inclusion of the modern violin into the traditional Thai ensemble.
Cambodian Rowing Song
This pair of two short songs, starting with the Cambodian Rowing Song and followed by the Cambodian Lullaby, were traditionally played after the Tales from the Waterfall of Saiyok. They are the folk-songs which are the basis of Prince Naris’ compositions. The Tales from the Waterfall of Saiyok, is actually a large symmetrical expansion of these two lively folk-songs. They are not actually Cambodian in origin but are folk-songs from the North-Eastern region of Thailand which are commonly referred to as being in the Cambodian Style.
This is another example of a large composition based on a simple folk melody, this time coming from a hill-tribe people called the Ngiew. Professor Boonyong Katehong composed this work approximately twenty years ago to be performed by the orchestra of the Municipality of Bangkok. It was immediately accepted by the musical community as a composition with a special character, and has since become widely played by all the orchestras in Thailand. The artists present here not only this tribal dance, but an extended coda based on a North-Eastern folk-melody. The double stops and other virtuoso passages of the violinist create a tonal imitation of the Kaen, the most famous folk-instrument of North-Eastern Thailand.