solo flute, 2 harps, 3 cellos and 2 percussions

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: January 16, 1973, Concert 48 [Bruxelles], Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, Brussels (Belgium)

The series of works that share the sub-title ‘Shadows’ arose out of Aitken’s extended journey to the Far East in 1970. He recalls that “When I returned, there were so many musical ideas running through my mind that I decided to write them down. This writing of ‘ethnic’-inspired music went very much against my artistic principles at the time. I felt that a Canadian should write ‘Canadian’ music, whatever that means, and not something imitative of another culture. However, I set out to rid my mind of these shadows and planned to compose four works inspired by different places I had visited.”

Shadows III, written at the request of Serge Garant for the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, reflects the highly sophisticated rhythmic and melodic traditions of the music of the Indian subcontinent, in particular the melodic patterns and intonations of the early morning raga called Lalitá which is associated with the hymn that is sung in honour of the deity of that name: Lalitá, charming in her innocence, is bright like gold. While she holds a lute, a cuckoo perches on her lotus hand. She is seated beneath the Wishing-tree, her breasts all unadorned, a thousand times desirable. Lalitá, young and fair, and garlanded with seven-fold flowers. Her long eyes like the petals of the lotus. Sighing, overwhelmed by fate, still, at dawn, dressed for a lover’s meeting. (Chatuarimshach’ hata-Raga-Nirupanam)

The composer’s intention in this work was to create “a very intense work with a maximum of tension throughout. The flute spends much of its time dealing with turbulent effects, as do the other instruments. Occasional pauses for relaxation provide glimpses of the Indian scale upon which the work is built. The raga Lalitá only appears in its more obvious form to bring the movement to a peaceful close.”

Robert Aitken