3(=picc)-3-3(III=bass cl)-3(III=contrabsn)/ 4-3-3-1 / timps / 3 perc / pno / hp / strings
Commissioned by Kim Williams AM in partnership with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Guitar Festival
First performance by Zane Banks (electric guitar), Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey, Adelaide Guitar Festival, Town Hall, Adelaide, 13 August 2016
Raga was a finalist in the orchestral category of the 2017 Australian Art Music Awards.
for electric guitar and orchestra
Raga is a concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, consisting of two structures superimposed. First there is the Western concerto that combines a soloist with an orchestra, mostly (in my piece) co-operating, occasionally in opposition, and with an improvised ‘breakout’ section or cadenza before the final big conclusion. Then there is the classical Indian raga of the title: a slow, exploratory Alap leading to a more melodic Jor, followed by a strongly rhythmic Gat in two parts, fast and faster.
Behind the piece lies my childhood memories of a moment in musical history (the late 1960s), when Western pop discovered the centuries-old music of the Indian subcontinent, made explicit not only in the intermittent appearance of a sitar in songs by the Beatles and others, but also in the way that bands such as the Grateful Dead explored long-form ‘jams’ that resembled ragas. So while my Raga sounds neither Indian, nor like rock and roll, the soloist might best be thought of as a combination of Ravi Shankar and Jerry Garcia.
Raga was commissioned by Kim Williams in partnership with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Guitar Festival, and written for its dedicatee, Zane Banks.
An unsuspecting audience was treated to a bag of surprises and finally a sonic bombshell at this year’s Adelaide Guitar Festival . . .
After a magical performance of Ravel’s Mother Goose suite from the ASO came the night’s bombshell, Andrew Ford’s new Raga for electric guitar and orchestra with soloist Zane Banks. It is a clever and riotously enjoyable piece that fearlessly reinvents the classical concerto with injections of classic and experimental rock: everything from Pink Floyd to Frank Zappa. Not for the faint-hearted, it pits the electric guitar against a psychedelic canvas of orchestral sound consisting of pounding percussion and grinding rhythms.
Serene to begin with, the guitar gradually cranks up in sound and energy levels to the point where it screams out over the orchestra in full distortion. At the end it is pure rock ’n’ roll mayhem. The Town Hall erupted in thunderous applause.
Graham Strahle, The Australian
Raga captivated from beginning to end. The soloist, Zane Banks, was terrific – the perfect choice to embody a role that the composer described as 'a combination of Ravi Shankar and Jerry Garcia'. Often malevolent, sometimes dreamy, the work seemed charged with an inner pain, both muscular and exotic. Indian influences were subtly interwoven into the mix, the balance often intoxicating. There were brief moments of incoherence, where clarity and ideas were lost as the orchestra grappled with the taxing demands of the work. Raga evidently needs a little more time to really show its best, but this was an impressive premiere nevertheless. As the cadenza fired up and the beat of the drum kit escalated the intensity, some members of the orchestra worked hard to suppress a smile. Some of them failed. But they need not have worried. The audience smiled too, and it was quite clear by the end that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed this exhilarating new composition.
Dylan Henderson, Limelight
Andrew Ford’s Raga was an even rarer beast – a concerto for electric guitar and orchestra, with Zane Banks as the excellent soloist. Inspired in equal measure by rock and classical Indian music, while sounding like neither, it is colourful, dramatic and, in the faster sections, exhilarating. It’s a kind of musical fusion cuisine, bringing together ingredients from diverse cultures in a heady mixture of Indian spice, raw rock and roll energy and sophisticated classical orchestration.
Stephen Whittington, The Advertiser