Shalimar, Op. 177 - Alan Hovhaness

Exploring the Mystical Echoes of Shalimar, Op. 177 by Alan Hovhaness

Shalimar, Op. 177, is an enchanting solo piano piece composed by Alan Hovhaness, one of the 20th century's most prolific composers, known for his synthesis of Eastern and Western music. This piece, reflective of Hovhaness's interest in mysticism and nature, offers a glimpse into a sound world that is both tranquil and introspective. Crafted with a unique harmonic language, "Shalimar" stands out as a testament to Hovhaness's innovative approach to composition, blending modal melodies with rich textural landscapes that invite the listener on a journey through serene musical vistas.

The Creation and Influence of "Shalimar"

History Behind the Masterpiece

Alan Hovhaness, an American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent, composed "Shalimar, Op. 177" in the latter half of the 20th century. Hovhaness's extensive oeuvre is marked by his fascination with Eastern music and philosophy, which profoundly influenced his compositional style. "Shalimar" is no exception, drawing its inspiration from the famed Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan, symbolizing an earthly utopia or paradise. The piece was crafted during a period when Hovhaness was deeply exploring the integration of mysticism, nature, and music.

The release of "Shalimar" contributed to Hovhaness's recognition as an innovative composer who dared to diverge from the atonal and serialist trends that dominated the contemporary classical music scene of his time. Instead, Hovhaness chose to embrace melody, tonal harmony, and modal frameworks, making "Shalimar" resonate with listeners who sought spiritual and contemplative experiences through music.

Decoding the Enigma: Music Theory Analysis of "Shalimar"

Harmonic and Melodic Structures

"Shalimar, Op. 177" is built on a foundation of modal harmonies and melodies that echo the mystique of Eastern music traditions. Hovhaness employs a variety of scales, including the pentatonic and lydian modes, to create a soundscape that is at once familiar and exotic. The piece's structure is characterized by a free-flowing, improvisational quality, with melodies that unfold in an almost rhapsodic manner.

The harmonic language of "Shalimar" eschews traditional Western practices, instead embracing intervals and chord progressions that evoke an ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere. This deliberate choice reinforces the thematic concept of the piece, drawing listeners into a realm that transcends the ordinary. The use of drone tones and ostinato patterns throughout the piece further enhances this effect, providing a stable harmonic foundation over which the melodic lines can soar.

Unveiling the Charm: Why "Shalimar" Captivates Listeners

The Appeal of Mysticism and Nature in Music

One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of "Shalimar, Op. 177" lies in its embodiment of mysticism and nature—themes that resonate deeply with many listeners. Hovhaness's ability to transcend cultural and musical boundaries through his compositions allows "Shalimar" to appeal to a wide audience. The piece offers an auditory escape to a serene, mystical landscape, making it a favored choice for those seeking solace and introspection through music.

Furthermore, "Shalimar" serves as an exemplary showcase of Hovhaness's unique compositional voice. The piece's accessibility, coupled with its depth and subtlety, has led to its frequent inclusion in the repertoire of pianists around the world, both in recital and recording settings. Its capacity to connect with listeners on an emotional and spiritual level has cemented "Shalimar's" status as a beloved work within the solo piano literature.


"Shalimar, Op. 177" by Alan Hovhaness is more than just a piece of music; it is a portal to a world brimming with mystical allure and tranquil beauty. Through its innovative harmonic language and evocative melodies, "Shalimar" presents a unique auditory experience that continues to captivate listeners and performers alike. As we explore this masterpiece, we are reminded of the power of music to transcend boundaries and invite us into realms of unparalleled introspection and peace.

Publication date: 23. 02. 2024