Aryaman Joshi ’23 brought the Skoglund audience to a standing ovation after the St. Olaf Band performed his original composition “Kaalachakra, The Wheel of Time” in October. The performance was emotionally moving as it drew from themes of COVID-19, specifically the wave that hit Joshi’s home country India. Joshi composed the piece last summer under Professor of Music Timothy Mahr ’78 through the Collaborate Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.
The journey to composition
Joshi, a pianist, began his musical journey around the age of 10 years old. “I started out with this dinky little keyboard,” he said. “I used to just try to figure out tunes by myself and only played with my right hand.” Joshi’s father was in the military, so his family moved about every three to four years. Because of this, he was unable to have the stability of a teacher until his move to Mumbai. A variety of factors, including Joshi’s delayed proper training, pushed Joshi away from becoming a piano performance major.
Despite this, Joshi still felt a calling to music. It was not until the college application process when Joshi learned music composition could be a major. “Until then I always thought composition was just done by the most elite musicians ever. If you think of composers, I would think of Mozart and Beethoven.” Hearing about student compositions inspired Joshi. “Composition was my last hope. If this works, then I would be a music major,” Joshi recalled about his thought process.
Joshi notes that his biggest music composition inspiration comes from anime and Japanese composers. “Composers from Japan especially have just really inspired the way that I write, and they just made me realize how much I love music,” he said. Joshi cites Hideki Sakamoto’s string quartet compositions for the video game “Echochrome” as a particular influence.
As for the future, Joshi has a few goals in mind. For one, he specifically wants to compose for orchestra. “Kaalachakra” was the first time Joshi experienced a large ensemble. “I didn’t know anything about band. It’s not a thing in India at all,” he said, making his composition even more impressive. “I never even knew I liked writing for big ensembles until I did this project with Dr. Mahr.”
Joshi also wants to experiment with other genres of music. After attending a house party with live music, he thought to himself, “I’ve always wanted to write this kind of music.” The genres he specifically wants to explore are rock, pop, jazz, and blues.
You can listen to Joshi’s “Kaalachakra, The Wheel of Time” on St. Olaf streaming’s web page under the “Fall Tour Home Concert: …with reverence and hope.” The introduction of the piece begins at the 31:30 mark.