William Allaudin Mathieu (b. 1937) is a pianist, composer, teacher, recording artist, and author. He has composed a variety of chamber and choral works and made numerous solo piano recordings. He has written three books on music - The Listening Book; The Musical Life; and Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression.
Allaudin was a disciple of North Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath for 25 years. He studied African music with Nubian musician Hamza El Din, jazz with William Russo, and European classical music with Easley Blackwood.
In the 1960s, he spent several years as an arranger/composer for
Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington, and was the musical director for the Second City Theater in Chicago (which he helped found) and for the Committee Theater in San Francisco. In the 1970s, he served on the faculties of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Mills College. In 1969 he founded the Sufi Choir, which he directed until 1982.
The past two decades Allaudin has devoted to composition, performance, recording, teaching, and writing from his home near Sebastopol, California.
Gourds have a fond place in my heart. When used for musical instruments, they provide a resonant space that amplifies the sound and reminds you of hollow growing things. Two instruments that rely on gourds to speak for them have changed my musical life: the tamboura of India and the mbira of Africa. A tamboura is a long-necked instrument with a large gourd resonator, strung with four strings and used for the ever-present drone of Indian music. Mbiras, which are played recessed within the cavity of a large gourd, are thought of by some westerners as a kind of hand-held piano-indeed we have named them "thumb pianos." I sometimes think of my piano as a large mbira with the sound-box acting as a giant gourd: a grand mbiano.
Indian music has taught me the harmonic (and melodic) essence of modal and tonal music, even such music played on a piano in equal-tempered (modern) tuning. And African music, especially the Shona mbira music of Zimbabwe, has taught me harmonic cross-rhythms and their ecstatic sense of suspended time.
For 25 years I had the golden opportunity of studying North Indian vocal music with Pandit Pran Nath, one of the greatest performers and teachers of the Kirana school, a style that enters into the deepest mysteries of singing in tune. Living inside the sound of my tamboura for decades has given me a sense of the vast harmonic theater that arises from a resonant drone. When combined with the modulatory practices of European music, the result is "modal modulation," which is at the core of my harmonic style.
When you're making art, both creative and destructive forces appear unexpectedly and blend into one another like changes in the weather. The title is a bow to Shiva, god of what arises and of what falls away.
A Wedding Sonata for Two Pianos
This piece was written for two young pianists who, while practicing as a duo piano team, fell in love. On their wedding day, they premiered this piece and then had the ceremony. As in the other pieces on this album, mbira-type cross-rhythms and modulating modality are prevalent here.