Guided Listening #3: Influences from the Far East - Connections to the Far East

For this Guided Listening you will need the following:

Audio assets: Excerpts I – V from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman
Text asset: Jaya OvertureSteven Gellman (student copies)
Flash asset: Jaya Overture Student Response Sheet (student copies)

I. Building Background

  • Write on the board: Steven Gellman, Jaya Overture.
  • Share the following information with the students:

"Jaya" is the Sanskrit word for "victory" which gave rise to our word "joy". The composer Steven Gellman visited Tibet and Nepal in the summer of 1995, and was inspired to write Jaya Overture when he had a strong reaction to the oppression of the great spiritual culture of Tibet. Tibet is currently under Chinese occupation; the man Tibetans regard as their rightful spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, had to flee the country and now lives in exile.

  • Explain that Gellman deliberately incorporated far Eastern influences in this music. Gamelan music and much music of the south Asian region is held together by music cycles that are punctuated by the regular reverberations of the big gong. (Brass was first created in the region of what is now Indonesia, probably four thousand or more years ago.)

II. Listen

  • Distribute student copies of text asset: Jaya OvertureSteven Gellman.
  • Listen to the excerpts, asking students to note instrument sounds, musical devices and ideas that connect to the Far Eastern music e.g., the use of the gong.

III. Discuss

  • Compare observations. The following listening notes are added to guide your class discussion.

Teacher Reference for Jaya OvertureSteven Gellman

Excerpt I from Jaya Overture - (A section) gong sound

Excerpt II from Jaya Overture (B section) prominent use of the perfect 5th, very high register of instruments

Excerpt III from Jaya Overture (B section) use of the perfect fifth, descending and flowing melodic line in the violin

Excerpt IV from Jaya Overture(B section) similar melodic material as the last excerpt in cello, double bass and oboe solo; note the change of mood and tempo

Excerpt V from Jaya Overture (A section return) rhythmic pattern still dominates; pitch moves downwards by steps

IV. Part to Whole

  • Now listen to the whole composition at NAC musicbox. Could you tell what the musical form was? Point out that the clear ABA form is a European structure/form.
  • Read Gellman's own description of Jaya Overture in the Concert Program Notes.

Jaya OvertureSteven Gellman
Gellman, born in Toronto in 1947, was writing music at the early age of 9, and began comprehensive studies in theory, composition and piano 2 years later. By the time he was 15, Gellman had performed his own piano concerto with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. His studies in composition continued through 1973-6, when Gellman worked with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory. Since returning to Canada in 1976, Gellman has been a professor at the University of Ottawa.

Jaya Overture was written in 1995 after Gellman visited Nepal and Tibet, where he witnessed great spiritual cultures under oppression. The strong feelings he experienced resulted in a powerful wish that all beings become free. This desire is evidenced in this work, whose title ‘Jaya' is the ancient Sanskrit word meaning "victory". ‘Jaya' is also an ancient Hindu tala rhythm which appears in the piece. Jaya Overture was commissioned by the National Arts Centre and was premiered by the NAC Orchestra.

Excerpt I from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman (0:01:01)

Excerpt I from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman - Play now

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In Jaya Overture the beginning gong sound is followed by the playing of a march-like  rhythm, over which is played a melody of long, notes on low, then higher brass instruments.

Excerpt II from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman (0:01:13)

Excerpt II from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman - Play now

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This excerpt from Jaya Overture builds tension and excitement as the orchestra plays faster and louder until at the climax the orchestra suddenly stops, followed by a high-pitched, sustained, slowly-moving melody.

Excerpt III from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman (0:00:52)

Excerpt III from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman - Play now

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This excerpt from Jaya Overture has shimmering string parts, and a long, flowing, legato melody.

Excerpt IV from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman (0:01:55)

Excerpt IV from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman - Play now

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This excerpt from Jaya Overture returns us to the melodies of the first section as it begins slowly with long melody notes in the brass - then we hear the opening excerpt’s excited march-like rhythms, with timpani rolls, gong and cymbal crashes as the music builds in intensity.

Excerpt V from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman (0:01:28)

Excerpt V from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman - Play now

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This final excerpt from Jaya Overture continues with the march-like rhythms, which almost die away as the melody returns from the beginning. The music builds in excitement until the strong, powerful ending.

Jaya Overture Student Response Sheet

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio asset: Excerpt I from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman
    1995, Steven Gellman
  • Audio asset: Excerpt II from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman
    1995, Steven Gellman
  • Audio asset: Excerpt III from Jaya Overture by Steven Gellman
    1995, Steven Gellman
  • Flash asset: Jaya Overture Student Response Sheet
    Connexionarts
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