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Modal Tapestry

Ken Zuckermans' thorough training in both western and eastern music performance, composition and improvisation, has also enabled him to participate in a wide range of both classical and experimental ensembles. He has been featured in Hesperion XXI's Grammy Award nominated CD "Diaspora Sephardic", and has taken part on various cultural crossover projects, including India Meets Persia, with Hossein Alizadeh, Madjid Khaladj and Swapan Chaudhuri, Modal Tapestry I, a Zuckerman composition for an ensemble of 14 musicians from western and eastern traditions, and Meeting Two Worlds of Modal Music, with the well known medieval singer Dominique Vellard.
MODAL TAPESTRY I, composed especially for Germany's SWR (southwest radio station), had it's premiere performance at the cultural event "von vier bis vier" (from 4 to 4 - 24 hours of cultural events), which took place in Karlsruhe on May 27, 2000. The inspiration for the project came from Benno Trautmann, a member of the SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg. With a strong interest in both classical western music and experimental and improvised styles, Mr. Trautmann asked Ken Zuckerman if it would be possible to create a composition for a mixed ensemble of musicians from diverse backgrounds, which would feature a blend of both western/eastern, and composed/improvised sections. Mr. Zuckerman, a composer and performer with extensive training in eastern and western classical music, readily agreed to the project.
Tapestry - a form of textile art, woven together and decorated with different kinds of threads. Modal Tapestry I is a composition that weaves together musical threads from diverse cultures into an artistic whole. The common thread, which exists in almost all music traditions - east and west - is mode. The concept of mode is at the core of many eastern music traditions - guiding a musician through the process of making melodies, both while composing and improvising. Mode was also a very important aspect of western art music during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Although in later times (including our modern day period), the active use of modal ideas is less prevalent, the echo of this earlier practice can still be heard in many styles of music that we listen to every day.
The performance of Modal Tapestry I gives listeners a chance to hear modally conceived music in different contexts and configurations, from fully composed and arranged sections for ensemble to sections giving the musicians more space for solos and improvisation. The musicians taking part in the performance, coming from diverse countries like India, Japan, Iran, Australia, Hungary, Rumania, Italy, Germany and the USA, also add to the rich weave of the tapestry.

The Composition and performance was such a success that Ken Zuckerman was given an additional commission to compose “Modal Tapestry II”, which had its premier performance at the same festival in Karlsruhe in 2002. Modal Tapestry II both develops musical concepts initiated in the first Modal Tapestry and breaks new ground.

Once again, the central theme of Modal Tapestry II is that musical modes, existing all over the world in both musics of the past and present, can form a continuous thread which brings musicians, composers and audiences together in a special way. The juxtopositions of “composition vs. improvisation”, “ancient vs. modern”, “classical vs. popular”, “east vs. west” and “solo vs. ensemble”, all interact to make Modal Tapestry a unique listening experience!

Composer Ken Zuckerman draws on his extensive experience spanning popular, classical and early western music styles, not to mention his 35-year apprenticeship with India’s legendary master, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Ken’s compositions and arrangements for Modal Tapestry II are complimented by Christoph Grund, who has contributed arrangements and compositions for the “classical” string section of the ensemble.

In addition, guest appearances by medieval singer Dominique Vellard and Dhrupad singer Amelia Cuni add an extra vocal element to the perormance.

Modal Tapestry II has its Swiss premier at the Rheinfall festival in June 2007.



Ken Zuckerman
Anindo Chatterjee
Benno Trautmann*

Keiju Nakajima
Christoph Grund*
Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson
Felix Borel*
Markus Tillier *
Wolfgang Güttler *
Dominique Vellard

*     Mitglieder des SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg.