Swamiji Composes a String Quartet

David and Steve perform a duet of Swami Kriyananda’s music.

(Part 19 in our ongoing series, Swami Kriyananda on Art & the Artist.)

The stressful atmosphere created by the lawsuit, and the way it consumed Swamiji’s time and attention, was wearing on Rosanna. In November, she decided to go see her family in Italy. The decision was divinely guided: three weeks after she arrived, her much-loved father died suddenly. Swamiji and Rosanna had planned to spend Christmas together in Assisi, but now she needed to stay in Sorrento to comfort her mother and sort out legal matters. Swamiji decided not to travel, but to stay at the Village in semi-seclusion.

Years before, he had bought a computer system for writing music. It proved far too complicated, even for our resident techies. Now there was a new model that turned what you played on the keyboard into a printed score. Melodies came to Swamiji effortlessly; writing them down was the stumbling block, especially since he had recently developed a slight tremor in his hand. It didn’t interfere with typing, or playing the piano, but the fine motion of holding a pencil to write down notes was difficult. This new equipment solved the problem.

Swamiji wrote arrangements for many more of his songs, greatly expanding the choir’s repertoire. Then he began a project he had long considered: turning some of his Shakespeare melodies into a string quartet.

“Usually quartets favor the first violinist,” Swamiji said. “The others are there mainly to support him. I had too much respect for the other instruments to write that way. I had to give them all equal stature.” He had the same attitude toward some of his melodies. The song Who Is Silvia? was the theme for one movement of the quartet. “Musically, that movement is too simple. I really should have done more with it, but I had too much respect for the melody to obscure it!”

Referring to the song Thy Will Be Done in the Oratorio, Swamiji said, “The violin, cello, and voice all have equal melodies. It is very unusual to write that way. The point of this music is to present the vibration of Ananda. Working together in harmonious equality is the essence of who we are.” (1990, pp. 304-305)