Listen to a sample of the recording of The Birth of Drupadi by Miquel Bernat
This piece is the first in my trilogy about a fascinating female character, Drupadi, from Javanese mythology. The second is a guitar solo, “the five lovers of Drupadi” and the third is “the humiliation of Drupadi” for two pianos. I am grateful to Miquel Bernat for his inspiring insights into his instrument, which has made it possible for me to write this piece.
Drupadi was born out of wrath and revenge and was destined to bear grudges all her life. She was born out of fire, in the sacred fire ceremony carried out by the king Putrakarma Drupada, ruler of the kingdom of Panchala, to take revenge against his friend Druna, who had humiliated him in front of his disciples. Hurt and resentment had driven King Drupada to hold this sacred ceremony. Drupada begged the gods to bless him with a perfect child to get even with Druna.
Drupada’s prayers were answered. From out of the holy fire came two figures, bestowed on him by the gods: a handsome male figure complete with mighty armour was given the name of Drestadyumna, who would later be responsible for the death of Druna; and a beautiful female figure, a maiden with dark skin, who was Drupadi. the element of fire remained within her during her whole life.
This apparently easy composition demands extreme control, especially when it combines embedded chords with simple melodic lines. It is important to line up the melody horizontally with the chords. These chords have to sound balanced within themselves, creating another more spread-out melodic line at the same time. This phenomenon is clear evidence of the influence of gamelan’s music on the composer.
The slow part, from bars 40 to 50, is another gamelan-style example of heterophony in which several melodies co-exist in different temporalities. The three lines should sound and be thought of as independent but complementary melodies.