Composer: Bob Becker

Title: Mudra

Number of players: 5 (solo plus 4)


  • 1. solo snare drum with crotales
  • 2. glockenspiel and concert bass drum
  • 3. songbells (or vibraphone 8va)
  • 4. vibraphone
  • 5. marimba

Approx. length: 13 minutes

Composer’s note:

Mudra consists of music which was originally composed to accompany the dance UrbhanaMudra by choreographer Joan Phillips. Commissioned by INDE ’90 and premiered in Toronto in March, 1990 as part of the DuMaurier Quay Works series, UrbhanaMudra was awarded the National Art Centre Award for best collaboration between composer and choreographer. The music was subsequently edited and re-orchestrated as a concert piece for the percussion group NEXUS during May, 1990. Mudra is scored for marimba, vibraphone, songbells, glockenspiel, crotales, prepared drum and bass drum.

UrbhanaMudra was created, for the most part, using the “dance first” approach, in which the music is composer to fit pre-existing choreography. Thus, the rhythmic structure and overall form reflect the episodic and gestural character of the original choreography, which dealt with the conflict of traditional and modern issues in a multi-cultural urban society. The term Mudra refers in general to the narrative use of torso, facial and hand and arm gestures in many Indian dance forms.

The instrumental ensemble in the original piece had a role similar to that found in traditional Indian dance concerts, where a solo drum is the principal voice. However, western instruments were not used to imitate an “Indian” sound. In response to the choreographic approach, classical Indian musical structures were allowed to influence the formal, rhythmic and harmonic aspects of the music. The interval relationships of the raga Chandrakauns (tonic, minor third, fourth minor sixth, major seventh) were used to determine both melodic and harmonic content throughout the piece. Rhythmically, Mudra is based on two important and common features of North Indian music: 1) motivic development (palta) and 2) rhythmic cadence formulas (ti hai). These structural devices are used most systematically in the final drum solo section of the piece in which rhythmic, rather than harmonic cadencing is used to create tension and, ultimately, accord.

-Bob Becker

Posted by SZSolomon