Agartthais the name of a mystical place in ancient Vedic mythology where the leaders of the Underworld all exist and control events on the surface of the Earth. The concepts of chaos, disorder, and order all play an important role in the cycle. Also prevalent through the entire cycle is the extensive use of percussion instruments (or instruments played percussively), and the use of melodic fragments from the Gregorian Chant honoring St. Augustine.
Agarttha is scored for percussion quartet. Each player's instruments vary greatly. For example, one player has a totally non-pitched array of instruments and another has exclusively keyboard instruments. In this way, I am able to maximize and control the variety of sounds from the group. Also, the distinct timbre of each instrument allowed me to develop dense contrapuntal textures where needed and retain clarity. And despite the use of disparate instruments, there is a unity that is present throughout the work. There is a feeling that the work is complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its parts, the result of its parts and their sum; that the work is harmonious in its own way.
Agarttha was written for the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, and was given its world premiere on January 30, 1994. It was intended for John Cage's 80th birthday, because of my admiration for his percussion music and his perseverance. He is the father of the modern, American percussion ensemble and will be dearly missed. In memoriam John Cage.