Anjna Swaminathan: Rivers Above, Floods Below

Roulette Intermermedium, Brooklyn, New York

Rivers Above, Floods Below is the world premiere of two new works by Roulette Van Lier Fellow Anjna Swaminathan. The first, Anandham: A Homecoming, is a lengthy solo violin work written for and performed by violinist Hyeyung Yoon. The second, We Assemble Below, is a song cycle written for an ensemble of stellar musicians and improvisers.

Anandham: A Homecoming:

“The borders of bioregions are not only impossible to define; they are permeable. […] I remember that not only is my mother an immigrant, but that there is something immigrant about the air I breathe, the water I drink, the carbon in my bones, and the thoughts in my mind.” — Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing

Odell’s words offer a reflection on the meteorological phenomenon of “atmospheric rivers,” large bodies of water which collect in the atmosphere above the tropics and later rain down in a different place entirely. Anjna Swaminathan’s Anandham: A Homecoming considers the possibility that much like these bodies of celestial water, our homes, too, are not stationary, but exist in the very possibility of our migration. Our global collective relies on a memory of homelands that have been colonized, spliced, and severed time and time again, but while we are so often nostalgic for a home that is broken, we more easily find community in new lands that don’t feel beholden to the same burdens of conflict and status quo. Much like the rivers brewing and creating movements above, Swaminathan considers the massive rivers of protestors who have flooded the streets against injustice in recent months. What if this, too, is a deluge of cosmic importance? Musically, Anandham: A Homecoming holds these mass movements in the body of a solo violinist. We journey with the violin through its own story of immigration, colonization, and subversion. Informed by Swaminathan’s training in western classical, Carnatic and Hindustani violin, her guru M. S. Gopalakrishnan’s uncanny ability to mold into and in between all three, as well as the historic effects of British colonization on the oral traditions of India, this work expresses the shared migration story of musics, communities, waters, activists, the violinist, and the composer herself.


We Assemble Below:

Blossoming from the same hopes, dreams, and questions offered in Anandham: A Homecoming, this lush and loving song cycle seeks to offer nourishment and care to those who flood the streets with such courage. We live in a time where resistance has become second nature and where rebellion is an absolute necessity for survival. It is terrifying, marginalizing and isolating, while also being a testament to the power of collective listening, organizing, and rising. Moving between orchestrated compositions, free improvisation, poetry, and collective singing, this is a song cycle of laments, anthems, and lullabies for those at the front lines. This is a call for hope, for rest, and for deeper listening.

Both of these works emerge from Swaminathan’s ongoing research into the documentation of Carnatic and Hindustani ornamentation in western classical notation, which is generously supported by Roulette’s Van Lier Fellowship.

This performance was originally scheduled for Spring 2020 but was postponed and rescheduled due to Covid-19. Roulette’s Fall season will be presented virtually and available for free on a variety of streaming platforms. Our theater is currently closed for public performances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the safety measures that Roulette has put in place to keep staff, artists, and the public safe.

Anjna Swaminathan – composer, writer, director, vocalist, violinist

Hyeyung Yoon – violin (soloist) for Anandham: A Homecoming

Layale Chaker – violin, voice Joey Chang – piano Stephan Crump – bass Jasmine Wilson – voice