The internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan-British concert composer-pianist, Dr Tanya Ekanayaka’s third solo album of her own works for solo piano performed and produced by her titled ‘The Planets & Humanity – Piano Reflections’ was released worldwide by Naxos Records (Grand Piano), currently the world’s largest classical music label on 14th May 2021. Most of the album evolved in 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown and the album was recorded in December 2020 in Edinburgh (Scotland) during a partial lifting of the lockdown. The album was recorded by Roderick Buchanan-Dunlop of Edinburgh University. Dr Ekanayaka holds the distinction of being the first and only Sri Lankan composer to have entire albums of original music released worldwide by an international record label. All her works to date remain completely unscored but instead reside precisely frozen in her memory, once evolved.
The eight works of the album and their individual timings are as follows:
Neptune: Asháninka Kindled (16.44)
Mercury with Antarctica (5.11)
Uranus: Numbulwar Sustaining (5.50)
Venus: Sámi Traced (5.22)
Saturn: Gond Inspired (10.12)
Earth – Life (5.01)
Jupiter: Cree Cast (5.26)
Mars: Hadzabe Touched (3.58)
Overview of the Album written by Dr Tanya Ekanayaka
The framework for The Planets & Humanity – Piano Reflections whilst conceptually an extension of my previous albums, came to me in a dream in mid-2018. The majority of the works evolved in 2020 in my apartment in Edinburgh (Scotland), during the first eight months of lockdown solitude owing to the Covid-19 global pandemic, with one of the works and parts of three others having evolved in 2018 and 2019. The evolution of the album concluded on 14 October 2020.
I see a uniquely powerful and delicate congruence between ancient music which predates and forms the antecedent to the numerous musical genres of today’s world and genres to be, on the one hand, and the unfathomable infinity of the universe within which is arguably contained all existence, past, present and future. The prevailing continuity of each may be seen to correspond to a deep connection between the elements comprising each and, in turn, project a conflation of time and space into an organic ‘moment’, as it were. An intuitive reflection on this congruence underlies each work of this album and the album as a whole.
The eight works of this album correspond to reflections on the eight planets of our solar system and the seven continents comprising our home, Earth. With the exception of ‘Earth – Life’ and ‘Mercury with Antarctica’ embedded within each work are trans-created echoes of six traditional melodies belonging to six indigenous peoples of the six continents containing human habitation, namely, Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America and South America. The peoples whose music thus inspires the works, are the Asháninka, Cree, Gond, Hadzabe, Numbulwar and Sámi. In the case of Antarctica which is paired with Mercury, the work represents an imagined connection between them through a reflection on elements which may render them both similar and distinct. Earth – Life, a reflection on pain, resilience, hope and healing is dedicated to each and every human being confronted by the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Contemplating through the piano, musics which predate its birth is also connected to my own personal journey of evolving deeply autobiographical musical tapestries for the piano within an attendant creative vision. Alongside inheriting from birth, two languages of my homeland, Sinhala and English, I inherited and began to internalise, from birth, the sound and language of the piano alongside the varied indigenous musics of my homeland and a wide variety of musical genres and styles from across the world which reside within me, synergistically and symbiotically. As such, the presence in my music of trans-created echoes of the musics of communities and peoples whose music predates the piano is in part, inspired by my own personal experience and contributes to my effort to reflect within my music, a vision of harmonious coexistence amongst all individuals and all living beings as magnificently diverse as they are, whilst concurrently expanding the trajectory of the piano across time and space. Crucially, though, the echoes are a consequence of being personally inspired by these musics and are consequently an entirely personal reflection, not intended to represent the musics or their peoples.
Each work concludes in a manner which connects it to its beginning thus making it possible to repeat it endlessly. The works are also connected structurally and stylistically with recurrent techniques in keeping with the vision which unites the works. The listing of the works in this recording corresponds to the proximity and distance of the planets represented in each of the works to the sun with the first being the planet furthest from the sun, the second being the planet closest to the sun and so on – this arrangement is intended as a symbolic reminder of their interconnectedness within the universe.