Galen Passen (Sitarist and Composer)

2017 Gala

“Araga” is a piece that aims to dissect the concept of what is ‘authentic’ and in the process bring musicians closer to the intimacy of a relationship with an instrument and creative practice. The graphic score allows for the instrumentation of any duo to relinquish the cults of tradition and pedigree and find a new vocabulary of expression through a process of interpretation and response. Through the living document of this exploration that is created live through the loop stations we can be reminded of the organic nature of the development of artistic traditions that we all benefit from.
The composer created this piece from his perspective as a white man immersed in an Indian art form and yet forever unable to become one with the social, cultural and political contexts provided by cultural arts. Originally composed for sitar and cello, two instruments that have iconized two forms of classical music (Hindustani and European) that are both representative of specific historical and cultural frameworks. “Araga” asks the performers to forget that for a moment and explore what can exist through the sonic possibilities of an instruments.


Galen Passen is a sitarist and composer originally from upstate NY. Between 2009 and 2017 he lived in New Delhi, India where he trained intensively in the study of Hindustani Shastrya Sangeet (North Indian classical music). He developed under his Guru, Shri Gopal Krishan Shah and now continues his studies in the United States, playing and training with members of the Brooklyn Raga Massive and others.
It was through the life forming process of studying an Indian art form as a white man that led him to develop a compositional practice outside of the training of hindustani music. This manifested through his core participation as a member of PULSEnsemble, a Delhi based collective devoted to the intersections of music and movement and to the founding of process-based composer’s collective, Hidden Foundry this past winter.
As sitarist and composer, Galen aims to create musical experiences that show his love of music and people through provoking the darker and often far more interesting questions.
Shoji is a New York based jazz violinist from Japan. He has studied  with world renowned jazz violinist Matt Galser and Christian Howes. He is the creator of the group he leads, “Mental Scenery”.

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