3(II=afl+picc.III=picc).3(III=ca).3(III=bcl).3(III=cbsn) – 4331 – perc(5): t.bells/SD/2 conga/Tibetan finger.cyms/vib/c.bells/2 temple bowl/2 small marbles/crot/2 susp.cym/claves/slide whistle/BD/2 high bongo/5 tpl.bl/tam-t/2 tgl/boobams – harp – cel – pno – synth (Yamaha SY77) – strings (min 18.104.22.168.6)
The poems of the twelfth century Indian saint Mahadevi are a series of reflections on her life's journey. She was married unwillingly at a very early age, became devoted to a white statue of Shiva and left her house to seek the god. She abandoned all her possessions and wandered, covered only by her tresses, through the wildernesses of India. Her poems witness this closeness to nature. Eventually she found Allama Prabhu, an enlightened teacher and hermit of some repute. Startled by her appearance but impressed by her uncompromising spiritual fervour he agreed to help her find her
'Lord white as jasmine', and she thus achieves her desire. She died in her early twenties, yet her many poems are revered in India as classics.
I have taken A.K.Ramajuna's English translations of six 'vacana' poems, as they are called, four by Mahadevi and two by Allama Prabhu, to encapsulate her journey - a journey not only through mountains and forests but through the 'unlikely worlds' of 'eighty-four hundred thousand' lifetimes that came before. The state of enlightenment is represented by the two poems of her guru. The first of these transcends normal perceptions in a manner which is quite surreal, so distant from our conventional mind
is the mind of liberation. The second is a vision of Shiva's light.
The work was commissioned by the Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 29 May 2003
Anu Komsi/CBSO/Sakari Oramo
‘The most beautiful sounds of the evening were the climaxes of Jonathan Harvey’s White as Jasmine, a dramatic scena for soprano (here the sensitive Anu Komsi), which sets the poetry of two 12th-century Indian saints and mystics. The piece finds a way of realising the image of dawn breaking as a “million million suns”: a blinding burst of orchestral sound that enveloped Symphony Hall in the CBSO’s performance, as if the music had transformed into a dazzling, cosmic light.’
The Guardian (Tom Service), 31 May 2003