Tonight at 8PM CST the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble, under the baton of Dr. Andrew Mast, will premiere my work, On the Mountains of Orphalese… I would like to invite everyone that is able to, to come to the concert at the Lawrence University Chapel, or to view the livestream.
Please press the link below to view a live webcast of the concert:
Understanding this piece can be a challenge, as it has many layers of meaning stacked on top of each other. I have attempted here to best describe how I went about writing the piece and its relationship to what I was witnessing, but I hope the listener will also hear the work in a more personal, meaningful way than through what I laid out. One way to hear this work is to understanding it in the context of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, arguably the most influential work in history by a Lebanese author, which I go more in depth about in my notes. But that is certainly not the only way, one could relate it to current events, or tie it into the Mountains of Lebanon. All potential points of reference are fair game here, the point is that I want your imagination to take control.
So with that all being said, here they are, my official program notes:
This piece was written during a difficult time in my life where I felt extremely isolated and had an intense longing to leave where I was and start over. At those times, I turn to literature and poetry to find meaning somewhere away from reality. I thought about a work by the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran, that neatly ties his entire worldview, and lays it bare for the world to witness; his book of poems, The Prophet. Orphalese is the setting of this tremendous work, where a prophet is stranded from their home in a distant place, waiting for a ship to take them back. Interestingly enough, Orphalese is not a place that exists, but it is a place where a prophet teaches, a place of holy insight far away from us.
Orphalese is only briefly mentioned in the beginning, but I was left imagining what this place would look like. Where, in this world, could exist such a place where the people can truly recognize the prophet among them and listen to what they have to say? When all around me I hear words of hatred, violence, and a refusal to hear what anyone has to offer. Where could exist such a place, where an immigrant could arrive at some unknown location and be welcome to a loving community and given the resources to learn and teach the people of that place what they know? Certainly not here, where the message is consistently becoming clearer, outsiders are not welcome.
This is also to juxtapose the actual land of the prophet, the Middle Eastern mountains between Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. A hotbed of unrest in our world’s climate as people sit down reading this, contemplating whether or not the descendants of their own lord and savior can be trusted to enter the country. As anger is unleashed and the world is demanding that art, culture, education, and social progress all be halted while we wish that the magic can return to the mountains. Currently the mountains where water was turned into wine are under fire; so I must take refuge in the mountains of Orphalese, perhaps I can still find meaning there.
I can’t wait to share this work with you all. This was easily the most enjoyable work to create, edit, re-edit, and rehearse during my time at Lawrence. Special thank you to Dr. Mast for all his work into making this happen, everyone in the wind ensemble, who I asked a lot of, and of course to my teacher at the time Andrew Cole.