While we’re performing two major classical masterpieces on Saturday night, we’re thrilled to include a modern Canadian composition in our repertoire. Glenn Buhr’s Jyotir (Brilliance) is one of two title pieces the HPO performs this Saturday for Brilliance: Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Like any classical work, knowing the inspiration behind a piece can help listeners better understand the music. So…we decided ask Glenn about his inspiration behind the creation of Jyotir.

1) What is the impetus behind your composition Jyotir? Is there a story behind this piece?

I was interested in creating a high energy work with a steady pulse and rhythm. I was also very influenced by classical Hindustani music, which uses only one scale with no modulation, and a regularly recurring beat cycle.

2) Do you incorporate Indian instruments in your work?

No, I don’t use east Indian instruments; most performers on those instruments do not read western music notation.

3) In your biography, you include that “although [you] admit that [you] did not understand many of the exotic techniques of Eastern music on first hearing, [you were] drawn back to these fascinating sounds nearly two decades later.” Why did you come back to Eastern music 20 years later?

When I was 19, I studied classical Indian music at York University with a Hindustani master – Shambu Das. This was very technical training on the sitar – learning only a few compositions/ragas. Later, as a composer, I studied the principle of raga in more conceptual detail; so I was able to distill the principal of raga in some of my compositions separate from the principle of improvisational performance

Side note: A raga, which literally means both colour and hue as well as beauty and melody, is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music. 

4) You also talk about the importance of the emotional state of the audience. Can you explain this concept a bit more and talk about how it relates to Jyotir?

A central principle of classical Indian music is musical affect. Each raga has a different affect that’s often associated with a time of year and time of day. Jyotir is associated with an ecstatic ‘brilliance’ – it’s full of orchestral colour, and danceable rhythms.

5) You’re also a jazz pianist. What kind of bands do you play with?

Well, right now the strict jazz is on hold. I have a new band, in which I play guitar and sing. The next show is at the Jazz Room in Waterloo on 16 January; then a short tour in South Western Ontario after that.

Just to show that Glenn isn’t tied down to just one musical genre, check out this performance of his newest song These Wishes. He’s the one on the guitar: