A Thali for Trombone


A Thali for Trombone


A Thali for Trombone is an Indian meal of four short movements served within two very short outer movements called Silver Pots, which is after all what thalis are often served in. The trombone imitates a sitar in ‘Dall and Dosa’, while the piano plays tabla (Indian drums). The remaining ‘dishes’ are Lamb Bhuna, Bombay Aloo, and Pickles and Pops, which includes the traditional popadom-smashing ritual!

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This piece, for trombone and piano, is for players around Grade VIII and those on their way to it. It’s all supposed to be fun, six short pieces of different flavours and textures to be enjoyed either as a whole or as individual items, according to taste.

Once the title had been suggested, in an inspired throwaway comment by Helen Vollam, I had to write this piece. A collection of four very short movements, semi-depictions of various Indian dishes, topped and tailed by an even shorter movement with two different endings, called Silver Pots, which of course are what many thali dishes are served in.

The four elements of the thali are Lamb Bhuna, Bombay Aloo, Dall and Dosa, and Pickles and Pops, but how on earth do you go about writing pieces about food? Lamb Bhuna, traditionally described as having a thick sauce, is therefore slow and stately, it is a royal dish, and the rhythm is dictated by the two words: a minim followed by two crotchets: Lamb, Bhu-na. Similarly, ‘Bom-bayaloo’ suggests a jauntier rhythm, so I used that. The first ‘spicy’ section comes in this movement, as the dish is often quite hot. Dall and Dosa is comprised of two separate tunes. This is very much the Indian movement, and the first tune has the trombone playing in the manner of a sitar, accompanied by the piano pretending to be a tanpura (or tambura depending where you are in India), the drone behind the sitar melody. Then the pianist becomes a tabla (Indian drums) player on the actual wood of the instrument in the lively second section. Pickles and Pops took me many attempts to produce a tune which I’d decided should be quirky but happy, just as pickles, chutneys and raitas are interesting complements to any Indian meal. The pops are of course popadoms, so some music for the traditional (British) popadom-smashing routine had to be found. What fun!

The two outer movements, in which the meal is served, are bright, gleaming Silver Pots, with a few bars of slower majesty for the Moghul banquets. Namaste!

Mr. Dan. April 2022.

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