>>>Several compositions have been written for Amelia in various musical settings by:

CHICO MELLO : TODO CANTO (for dhrupad singer, soprano, piano and tabla 1996)

FRANCIS SILKSTONE: TO RUN AROUND (for dhrupad singer and ensemble of 2 or more instruments with optional percussion, 1997); PEACE, MY HEART (for dhrupad singer and string trio, 1999/2004)

TERRY RILEY: WHAT THE RIVER SAID (for singer, baroque violin, cello, surbahar and percussion, 1999)

ROLAND PFRENGLE: METALL (for singer, gong, tamtam and live electronics, 2000/1) . This composition is part of the music/theatre piece AN SICH - Bilder/Stille (Pfrengle, 2002) a coproduction of Hebbel Theatre and Maerzmusik/Berliner Festspiele 2003.

MARIA DE ALVEAR has written for Amelia FLORES, (for female voices, trumpet and ensemble), premiered at the New Music Festival FORUM NEUE MUSIK in Cologne 2003 and produced by Deutschland Radio. A second work by Maria de Alvear titled GRAN SOL (for 2 singers and cello) together with cellist Joan Jeanrenaud was premiered at the OTHER MINDS festival 2005 in San Francisco.


SOLO 58 from SONG BOOKS (1970)

realized and interpreted by AMELIA CUNI
premiere of the complete SOLO

co-produced by Casa da Música Porto, Handelsbeurs Gent, Megaron Athen, Other Minds SanFrancisco, Romaeuropa, Ultima Oslo, Voix Nouvelles - Foundation Royaumont, Musicadhoy Madrid, Holland Festival


Amelia Cuni : dhrupad vocals
Ray Kaczynski : percussion
Federico Sanesi : percussion
Werner Durand : drones/electronics

light/stage design: Andreas Harder
costumes: Petra Peters
music consultant: Ulrich Krieger
theatrical consultant: Cristina Tappe
production manager: Guido Henneböhl

During the 40's, John Cage came in contact with Indian music and philosophy and started applying some of its principles to his own work. Indian thought has influenced Cage's music mostly on a conceptual, theoretical level, therefore these 18 MICROTONAL RAGAS represent an exceptional and unique practical example of Cage's own approach to this musical tradition.
The SOLO FOR VOICE 58, consisting of 18 separate and independent parts, is an 'indeterminate' work. The task for the performer is to develop 'ragas' out of tonal material which had been worked out by Cage in a non-traditional context. This apparent contradiction has been the driving force behind my intensive engagement with this work for the past few years.
I first performed this SOLO during the rendition of the COMPLETE SONG BOOKS at the Theater Bielefeld (Germany) in May 2001 in collaboration with Christian Kesten and the new music vocal ensemble 'Die Maulwerker'. I then went on deepening my involvement with this unusual work, feeling that I had been presented with a unique opportunity to further my own understanding of the relationship between tradition and experimentation. As a European dhrupad singer, I am willing to explore the relationship between Indian and Western musical thought by means of a de-conditioning process. My personal history of long years of study in India first, and of collaborations with new music composers later on, seems to naturally lead to this particular work by Cage. As far as we know, SOLO 58 has never been performed by a singer specialized in raga music, therefore I have felt the urge to thoroughly confront myself with its more and less obvious challenges.

In his directions for SOLO 58, John Cage uses the word 'raga ' (melodic module) and 'tala ' (rhythmic cycle), therefore the pieces are treated by me as such, although they do not match any traditional Indian raga because of several musicological divergences. These discrepancies stimulate numerous reflections and considerations leading to a newer, broader understanding of Indian music. They introduce a qualified outsider perspective and suggest possible future developments for an ancient but still lively tradition.
Two basic concepts are embodied in this realization of the complete SOLO 58: the meaning of raga,“to color the mind” and the use of chance operations, a typically Cagean tool. Together, they will inform the sonic and visual result. Following Cage’s own instructions, other SOLOS FOR VOICE and SOLOS FOR THEATRE (with or without electronics) will be integrated or superimposed on some of the 18 microtonal ragas.
The overall outcome of this interpretation of SOLO 58 is therefore some kind of recognizable raga music, although it cannot be defined exclusively as Indian. In these scores (series of graphically notated microtones from which the performer can build up raga scales), Cage leaves open a vast range of possibilities encouraging the interpreter to reflect, question, choose and create in an experimental way.

The premiere was in March 2006 in Berlin (Maerzmusik/Berliner Festispiele). The recording will take place after that date in Udine (Italy) in collaboration with Vittorio Vella and DELTA STUDIOS/TauKay Edizioni Musicali. The CD will be on the American label Other Minds.

For updates on this project, tour schedules etc, please see under NEWS in the main menue.

...In fact, these pieces seem to be written for Amelia Cuni: a classical trained Indian singer, who is able to improvise on ragas also in a New Music context – a very rare combination indeed!

Ulrich Krieger

from the review of JOHN CAGE's SONG BOOKS –COMPLETE at the Bielefeld Theatre, May 2001:

... with Amelia Cuni, specialist for Dhrupad singing and Indian dance, there was a high calibre performer who represented both art forms in one person ...

Stefan Drees, Positionen Nr. 84

>audio/video demo available on request

> for complete program notes click here

>>>Maria de Alvear: FLORES (2003)
Ereignis für zwei Frauenstimmen, Solotrompete, Ensemble, Elektronik und Videoinstallation

sorry, this text is available only in German language!

Wunderbare Blüten — Flores — treibt die Natur in einem paradiesischen Garten aus 1001 Nacht. Der Garten ist Ort merkwürdiger Begegnungen: eine Walkuh begegnet hier einer Alge, eine Häsin einer Mohnblume, eine Bärin begegnet einer Linde, eine Stute einem Ölbaum. (...)
In Maria de Alvears Liederzyklus werden wir Zeuge elf solcher Begegnungen, die gerahmt werden von einem Prolog und einem Abgesang. (...) Jedem Teil liegt ein eigener Modus zugrunde, eine eigene Tonskala, und diese Skalen winden sich in 13 Etappen entlang dem Quintenzirkel. (...)
Geschrieben in einer für de Alvear typischen Mischung aus Komposition und notierter Improvisation, läßt der Notentext den sieben Instrumentalisten einigen Spielraum hinsichtlich der Ausarbeitung des Rhythmus und zuweilen auch der Intonation. Für die Partien der beiden Sängerinnen gibt die Partitur so gut wie keine Direktiven: Was und wie in der Aufführung gesungen wird, ergibt sich grüßtenteils erst während der Proben. Nicht einmal die Zuordnung der Rollen (Blume oder Tier?) ist vorab festgelegt und kann im Verlauf des Zyklus durchaus wechseln. Determiniert sind allein der genaue Wortlaut des Textes und das grobe Timing im Wechsel der Stimmen, die die Dialogform erfordern. Festgelegt sind ferner die jeweiligen Modi der einzelnen Teile und — zumindest bei der Uraufführung — die Gesangsstilistik: Amelia Cuni orientiert sich an klassischen indischen Dhrupad-Ragas, Maria de Alvear synthetisiert Elemente spanischer und arabischer Vokaltraditionen.

Raoul Mörchen

>>>Roland Pfrengle: METALL (1999-2001)
for singer, gong, tamtam and live electronics-2000/1 (for Amelia Cuni)


14 different frequencies inside a Balinese gong form the base of the pitches for voice and electronic sounds. The scale is non-tempered. The background sounds, representing the gong spectrum, serve as a kind of constantly varying drone. Using spectral analysis of gong and voice sounds, a direct coupling of playing/singing of an acoustical 'instrument' and synthetic sounds is given in realtime via computer. This set up can enhance the inherent acoustic of gong and voice or give them added sound context.
Voice pitches control very different musical activities, as in Indian classical music where the various intervals have specific functions and emotional contents and are not dependent on the central European tonal context. In METALL voice pitches are often manipulated by electronic modulators to increase these differences. The tone itself may influence synthetic sounds, starts or stops, or even switch to the next program part. In this way, one gets a scale of different musical values, ranging from a 'beautiful' tone to a technical 'switch tone'.
The progress of the piece is controlled only by voice and gong sounds, not by pushing buttons. Therefore in METALL, the electronic sounds depend on realtime interactions with the performer in varying degrees of intensity.
One of the main purposes of this work is to use the experience of Indian classical music without exoticism: the form of the piece reflects the musical flow of a dhrupad. Technology is not the mainstay, it is subverted to fit the musical needs.
METALL is written for Amelia Cuni. She sings Indian classical music and therefore uses non-tempered scales. She is able to communicate the physicality of such microtonal phenomena.

Roland Pfrengle's METALL premiered at NOVEMBER MUSIC in Essen:

...(Roland Pfrengle) hat (METALL) für Amelia Cuni geschrieben...Sie brachte die nötige Sensibilität mit, diese feinen Klangfelder zum Schwingen zu bringen...
DG, WAZ 13/11/2002

>>>Terry Riley: WHAT THE RIVER SAID (1999)
for singer, baroque violin and cello, surbahar and percussion

This 45' long composition was commissioned by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 1999 and especially written for dhrupad singer Amelia Cuni and Francis Silkstone's ensemble Sounds Bazaar. It was also performed at the festival Rainbow over Bath and Oxford Contemporary Music Festival. It is a suite consisting of five movements inspired by Indian music in various arts and degrees. Terry Riley's long lasting association with khyal singing and thorough knowledge of the Indian musical traditions are here integrated with his virtuoso keyboard playing rooted in Jazz and American New Music and his own experienced writing for strings, resulting in a novel and uplifting aural experience. In WHAT THE RIVER SAID Hindi and English texts are intervowen with Indian tarana and Jazz nonsense syllables. The composed parts alternate with improvised sections at times supported by backing tracks. Here Amelia's dhrupad voice and Terry's khyal singing freely interact with sitar / surbahar, violin, cello and mridangam.

Terry Riley and Amelia Cuni are presently working at some duo pieces for piano and voices. The verses consist of modern American, Hindi and Italian poetry. These compositions, mainly raga-based, are branching out from one of Terry’s projects, titled BEAT SUTRA (see his own description beneath).
Amelia and Terry are singing verses by the American beat generation as well as by Indian and Italian poets influenced by this movement or who have written in a similar spirit.

Concerts of Terry Riley’s piano solo including these duos are planned for September 2005 in Italy. For more details and updates, please see under the NEWS section.

Beat Sutras by Terry Riley:
The BEAT SUTRAS are based on texts from various sources having to do with Buddhism. Primarily the Heart Sutra and the Buddhist inspired writings of the Beat Poets such as Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Michael McClure. The works in this series completed so far include some settings for voices of portions of the Heart Sutra and 4 poems from Touching the Edge, Dharma Poems by Michael McClure. In my solo performances, the word settings is a bit misleading as only a few parameters are “set” such as the text, certain melodic, harmonic and rhythmic outlines and in some cases the tunings or Raga melody types used. With those elements in mind I set out for each performance to spontaneously evolve a form, which is threaded together with improvisation. A kind of improvisation, however, which is highly informed by techniques borrowed from the wondrous forms of North Indian Raga and the ecstatic excursions of the Muslim Kawali singers of India and Pakistan.
The challenge in this form is to create a coherent dialogue between the keyboard and vocal improvisations. This is something that has occupied a large part of my creative efforts in recent years.

Terry Riley, April 2005

>Press reviews are available in the PRESS section