Program notes:

It remains of utmost importance not to submit to the empirical opinion of post-modern conservative classicism in the aural-temporal medium of sound. Therefore, I shall not refer to the following as “program notes” as such would lead astray the mind to  more conservative ideals. Rather, with these artistic muses expressed in the neo-written fashion, I aim at defining a peak objective with which my aural interdisciplinary landscaping may provide a resolution to the anxious sound capturing systems (ears) of radical tonalists. It’s an a priori truth that the lack in performance mediums for the viola was not without purpose. Yet my goal is concerned not with the arrogant classicism found in the capitalist based structure of harmonic gestures centered on the tonic and dominant vertical sonorities (or tonality, as some pre-contemporaries would call it) but instead with the anti-structural archaic fashion of numerical expression within hyperbolic introversion. Which is why I decided to feature the viola heavily in this piece.

One might say this is a “piece” written for “string quartet” with added “percussion”, yet I’d prefer to think of it as a philosophical practice in aural sectarianism and contemporary cyclical post-numeral enhancements. The sound scape begins with a series of modular post-rhythmic anomalies which superimpose each other in a manner which can only be determined by the use of intermediately aggressive numerical processes. Each rhythmic block contains something I would like to call and anti-block which mirrors its own actions and thus doubles the outcome. As the aural movement of the work continues, one can hear a clear structure in the metronomic pendulum of the division of form.

This piece is, without a doubt, one which follows the anti-post-modern abnormality of the mortal composers of early history (even going as far back as Messaien) and it’s not divided by form but instead through a numerical pyramid of increasing and decreasing frequency and pitch, with clear divisions of moments determined by the sounds of aural attacks.

The process continues until the peak of the piece, in which I invent a convention I would like to call suspenseful post-quintal-a posteriori- instrumental and asexual divisions according to the division of sound with dramatic increase in frequenticity leading to a climactic quantal tension of note movement. Some might call this a chord progression, but again, my goal is to free the audience from the constraints of illuminati controlled tonal pessimism.

The work proceeds to end with an interpretation of the ontological proof that God exists. One may find that the ending, much like your life itself, is nothing but a series of meaningless events trapped in a cycle of neo-post-cyclicism.

Hello All,

This coming week is the premiere of a very exciting art song. Kathleen Baudendistel, Derrick Hahn and I have been working very hard to present this piece on Thursday and to start the anticipation, I thought I would give you all the program notes right here.

When I was in Lebanon, I was confronted with many different speculations as to what it means to follow God. I lived in a village with a very religious family, and there was an array of theological interpretations regarding all different aspects of life. I was there to visit my family, but I was also on a spiritual journey. My community here in this country takes a radically different approach to theology than the same Abrahamic religions I explored this past summer. My freshman year of college was marked by the realization of just how many people here are spiritually lost. Not to say that they just don’t know what they’re doing, but lost in the sense that their institutions have failed them to the point where they can’t get the spiritual fulfilment they desire by remaining in the system. This has led to the identity of being “spiritual but not religious”, and that is an aspect I explore in this piece, taking from my own personal journeys these past couple years. This is not a theological treatise, but a personal inflection on the issues of modern faith.

The piece is in five movements. Sacrilege, Heirophany, Reconciliation, Credo, and Crucifixus. It takes a journey from the deepest pits of hell and keeps ascending upward, attempting to reach a higher truth. If it ends with truth, and the first movement is Sacrilege, one can guess that the piece starts off with a lie. Indeed it does, it begins with my own interpretation of a commandment that, from what I’ve witnessed, has caused some confusion. The first movement is an example of using the lord’s name in vain. In this case, it’s calling for the annihilation of those of a different faith simply because they are a different faith. I have never worked harder to make music sound raunchier, more dissonant, and emblematic of those most gruesome sin. Being from the Middle East, living in a Christian town going to a liberal arts college, I’ve heard a lot in the name for and against various religions, and it is because of this manipulation of the faith to fulfill a political goal that we have an increasing disparity between those of faith and those without, and some of us end up getting caught in the middle, and do not have a community that can provide the safe space they need. Which is why, at the very end, I stick in a quote translated from the Qu’ran itself which clearly states an openness to people of all faiths, so long as there’s faith and they work righteousness (atheists, don’t worry I’ll get to you in a minute)

The three middle movements are a journey moving on from the chaotic beginning. The second, Heirophony, is just that, we take the human voice as a reference to humanity and its many different struggles with what may be beyond, and I use the piano at certain points to represent that beyond, as if that movement is a divine intervention for what came before and an opportunity for our sinner to repent. After that, the reconciliation comes with the “heaven” motif playing in the piano, but also deep octaves and a painful Db. The feeling I was trying to capture was that of a sinner atoning for their sin. Some people like to think that one can commit a crime, repent, and things would be better, but it’s actually a process. Should one person apologize to another for something horrible they did, it would take time for that pain to heal, and that’s what’s happening in this movement. It becomes lighter and more confident, and after going through a sequence (a literal sequence) of reaffirming their faith, not in God but in bettering them-self, only then are they washed off the their past.

But then comes doubt. The questions of what is moral, what is ethical, what is sin and what is not? All are infinitely complicated and I haven’t been able to answer them. Then there’s also the existential dread of the fact that we could just be doing this all for nothing. Sometimes one may want to cry out to the void in hopes of an answer to the question “why don’t you reveal yourself?!” and that only brings up the question of free will. There is no divine intervention in this movement, it is only for voice, and mixed speaking and singing at that. The scene has changed now, to that from Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” which is a chapter in his novel Brothers Karamazov. [the rest of this paragraph is spoilers, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know] In this scene, Jesus Christ comes back during the inquisition, and is captured by a grand inquisitor. While the lord is chained, the inquisitor states why he captured him, and revealed that he believes that the lord has done wrong in granting them free will. He mentions how people want to be slaves, that they don’t want to wonder for themselves, they just want to know for sure. In other words, if the lord won’t grant them security in abandoning their free will, the church will.

Then I do something odd. The singer, knowing well that she is a soprano and doesn’t fit the classic descriptions of Jesus Christ becomes the Messiah reborn. For the first time in this piece, I attempt to actually reach the divine, and seriously ask the question “what would Jesus do?”  Slander goes around all corners of the globe over the prophet yet few have the same view I do. God to most resembles a father, but to me, I have seen more of it in my mother. I’m not here to tell the story of the rapture, I wanted to create that moment when I pray, when I’m with my mother in Lebanon, inside the temple, when I feel I’m with the divine. Sometimes we forget that there is a spiritual element to faith, and some people have it and other don’t, to everyone its different.

So the last movement is really timeless, yet stuff happens. She starts by going down the last 7 words of Jesus Christ, going back in bible translation, a reminder that we must remember to look at scriptures at the root as well as in the modern era. Before the last words, she quotes the Qu’ran. There is so much animosity between the two major religions that we tend to forget that Jesus is a prophet in both religions. Here is the message that I believe Jesus Christ would bring to the world should she arrive today. “Indeed those who have faith and do righteous deeds. The all beneficent will endear them. Indeed we have made it simple in your language. So that you may give good news to the God-weary.” (Qu’ran Book of Mary, translation by Ali Quri Qu’rai) Same message from before, but now it’s just faith, not faith in God, and I do believe the two are different (the Qu’ran may say something else but I’m actually referring more to a personal statement here). I believe faith can come in many forms to many things. Some of us concentrate it into a god, but sometimes faith in yourself can be enough, and if you do righteous deeds, then you’re already God-weary. After that she is crucified again, and I’ll let you play out why we ourselves would kill the Messiah again. The piece then ends with a prayer, which i will actually not talk about and just let you witness for yourself.

There are a couple stories which really shaped this piece. One being my reaction to Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan. We were huddled around a small TV in the front porch that evening and they were broadcasting the “celebrations” of this holiday from many different Imams, Priests, and Sheikhs, and I was frustrated at all of them. I was furious because instead of actually paying attention to the purpose of the holiday, they made the decision to take the opportunity to rally against everyone that’s not them. They called for the blood of their enemies both in the East and South, and spoke with a tone that’s deep with anger, and devoid of spirit.

At the time, I was also reading the Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, and it was life changing. It taught me about the nature of doubt, why we desire a divine force to lead us, along with exploring the idea of free will. Of course, I am talking about the Grand Inquisitor, which I suggest you read in full, but it is quoted in the piece.

Most importantly however, was my own faith journey which I took with my mother the entire time. I am grateful to have her in my life, and willing to join me on any spiritual path I wish to explore and always willing to sit down and explain the stories of past prophets and preachers. It is through her I learned the story of Moses, Jesus, Rabi’a, Joseph, and Abraham. She always put them from the aspect of our religion, but I was curious about how all these prophets related to each of the Abrahamic religions, what are the similarities and differences? I’d ask her and we’d read the scripture together, and go through each individual line, and with the understanding of how much weight each word carried, we made the most universal interpretation as much we could. It is through these moments I have come to the opinion that the Abrahamic religions are much more similar than we think, and in many ways, almost the same.

So, in case you didn’t get it, there is a lot in this art song. It’s very dear to me and contains everything I learned through my journeys of faith. As always, my views are my views, and I’m not here to preach, but I am here to share. Art can do so much good, and there has been so much music in my life that has reshaped what I thought about people, about God, about history. The only one that has been more helpful in teaching me about the world was my mother, which is why I’m dedicating this piece to her (hi Mom!).

See you Thursday, 8pm Harper Hall, Lawrence University! (yes, of course there will be a recording)

UPDATE: The concert happened and it was absolutely amazing. Thank you Kathleen Baudendistel and Derrick Hahn for your incredibly hard work on this piece! You both are the best!

And here’s a recording

[bandcamp width=400 height=307 album=2084871061 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=ffffff artwork=small]

Hey everyone.

So I know I didn’t post on here for a really long time. That’s for 2 reasons.

1. the term started and I had basically no time until it ends next week

2. I decided to wait until I get the recording of my orchestra piece so I can add it on to my post talking about the premiere to you!

So I didn’t anticipate that the recording would take this long, but it finally arrived this afternoon!

Before the concert I had the honor of meeting Eric Shimelonis, a composer from the area who interviewed me for the pre-concert talk. In the interview I ended up talking about my influences and how my faith plays in my music. I quickly learned just how much curiosity was raised by the fact that I’m Lebanese. Looking back at the piece, I don’t recognize any “Lebanese” aspects, I’m really not one for conveying natinalist themes in my music. I’m much more intimate than that, I prefer to center around philosophical and theological influences, but even then, it’s an influence, not quite a programmatic aspect. This piece is absolute music in that sense, there’s not story behind it, but in my program notes I lay out what was more of an allegory for the journey gone through in the piece based on my own spiritual journeys that were inspiration for when I wrote the piece. As you can imagine, I was being very careful talking about faith and arab culture and I think I was able to give enough information without pushing some sort of opinion, since frankly, that’s almost the opposite of the piece.

Then came the performance.

The orchestra was amazing, and the conductor, Victoria Gau, was phenomenal. She took the piece to a level of beauty and intimacy that I didn’t know existed.  In the one rehearsal I sat in, I was amazed at how much they were able to do in the couple run throughs, and at how much Maestro Gau was able to communicate through her hands. Then the concert came, and I was just completely blown away by their performance. I tried to be professional, I really did, but by the end I was just jumping everywhere, thanking everyone, unable to get over the unforgettable performance I just witnessed.

I just want to thank those who were at the concert, you all were amazing and I definitely was not expecting such a warm reception! I had people coming up to me congratulating me, asking me to sign their program notes and some even wanted my picture! On one hand I was honored, on the other I’m a poor son of a baker.

Anyway, enough talk, here’s the piece!

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=458911611 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=ffffff tracklist=false artwork=small]

I’m a mess, sorry, I should’ve told you I’m not very organized. I’m doing my best to get these in everyday.

So, today was a special personal day for me, I’m settled back in at Lawrence! I’m ready to start my sophomore year and do all that fun college stuff (mainly comp, oboe, and organ).

Anyway, here’s today’s Vaughan Williams piece,

[spotify id=”spotify:track:20VJUFnB5yOv2pLWclmRFC” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

I would like to dedicate this post to those who have suffered as a result of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon 13 years ago this day. I would like to dedicate this post to our friends and family who have stuck together through those times and hardships and to those heroes who took action to protect their friends and family here. I would like to dedicate this post to our troops who have bravely defended our nation these past 13 years. I want to dedicate this post to the Arab families and communities who have had to endure the wrath of those blinded by corruption. I want to dedicate this post to the Muslims that follow the Qu’ran with their heart, and to those who do the same with the bible, and to anyone else who was able to see past the corruption of their leadership and refused to let it affect their spirituality.

These are scary times we are facing, it gets scarier when the reality gets closer to us. With threats coming from halfway around the world, it can seem like they’re a long way off, it can be easy to ignore them. I am Lebanese myself. I spent this past summer there as ISIS continued to grow around Iraq and Syria. They even attempted a skirmish on the border of Lebanon but thanks to the brave soldiers of the Lebanese Army, they were not able to get past the border.

In the face of trouble ahead. When dealing with violence, hatred, and blood, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, and sometimes, you may forget to question morality.

Some people have asked me for my word on what we should do in the Middle East, this is all I have to say.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGrGxVBaSfE&w=640&h=390]

Well friends, I’m going to have to be honest, I think I may have to skip a couple days this month to make time in my schedule. I hope that’s alright with you. 

Well, today i’ll give you another short one. This piece really doesn’t need much of an introduction, the music really speaks for itself on this one. I’ll just say that I want to quote this piece when I write my opera on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (it’s gonna happen, I know it’s overly ambitious at this point, but I’m gonna make it happen) I will quote this piece. Mainly because of the story of Lazarus and its connection to both these pieces. So, instead of giving you my deep analysis of this piece, I’d like to hear what you think. How does this piece compare to the story of Lazarus? Lazarus, for those that don’t know, is a biblical story where a sister and mother were grieving for this dead man in a tomb, Jesus went down and kissed him and he went back to life. Other than Dives and Lazarus being the theme, do you think there might be more to this piece? This is a case of I-haven’t-studied-this-piece-enough-but-would-like-your-opinion which I have quite often actually. So here you go, 

5 Variants of “Dives and Lazarus”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEIJ873QItw&w=854&h=510]

Well, we had Symphony 4 on Day 4, Symphony 5 on Day 5, guess what we have today? I do see these symphonies as a trio. Before, During, and after World War II, these symphonies all characterize everything that is Vaughan Williams, and it also characterizes the war. Vaughan Williams never wanted us to associate the music too much with the war, but art is influenced by the world it lives in, and the entire world was completely engulfed in the war. The fourth movement is my favorite in this one, all I can say is that is a musical representation of a nuclear wasteland. This entire symphony is in four linked movements, so there’s no break, I will give this piece a much shorter description than the last one. In fact, I have one word per movement. Desperate, chilling, menacing, haunting. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Vaughan Williams 6

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVIngApm7cg&w=854&h=510]

Wow posting every day takes a lot more energy than I thought…especially when I’m just starting this. Ok, enough excuses let’s get down to business. 

This next piece is my absolute favorite. Ever. I have fallen in love with this symphony from the minute I heard it. It has become my best friend, the piece I go to whenever I need a hug, the piece I listen when I need to reconnect with my soul. It has been with me through every moment of my life. It was there to calm me in tragedy, and there to calm me from anger, and there to humble me from conceit. 

Vaughan Williams Symphony no. 5

I love this piece. I bought a score my junior year of high school, after listening to it for a couple hundred times. I bring that score with me everywhere I go, and I ask every composer I meet to sign it.

I still remember every version of that piece I have listened to. I started with the version by the Toronto Symphony, conducted by Peter Oundjian. I remember hearing the original recording conducted by Vaughan Williams. I remember the day I decided that Vaughan Williams’ tempi were wrong and so was his conducting (I’ll make a blog post on conductor/composer things later, don’t worry), I remember hearing the version by the London Symphony, the Columbia Symphony, and the Scottish Symphony. But for sure my favorite recording is by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, who, in my opinion, conducts Vaughan Williams’ music better than any other conductor I’ve seen. (totally waiting to see if Simon Rattle makes a recording that would change my mind though)

First let me talk about the Symphony for a bit. 

This piece could not have been written at a more perfect time. It was in the middle of World War II and Britain was suffering. This was not the time for a loud aggression, people were hearing bombs exploding over their head the whole time, their loved ones were either dead or dying, hope was dimming and being alive was turning into not dead yet. What everyone needed was hope, love, sincerity, love. 

Love was indeed what Vaughan Williams had. I remember watching a documentary called The Passion of Vaughan Williams by the BBC. (you can watch it here)

I don’t want to go too deep into analogies because this piece is definitely not programmatic in anyway and this piece should go straight to the heart, not being pestered by images it creates in your head. 

When I hear it, I think of it like getting four different kinds of hugs. The first movement is so passionate, yet light. It’s a huge splash of color that calmly invites you to a hugging embrace. Listening to this first movement gives me the same feelings I get when I see my family after I get off my plane at the end of the school year. It’s beautiful, inviting, warm, and loving. You may have noticed that this piece speaks to me in ways which are beyond words. 

The second movement, the Scherzo, is more like the kind of hug when you see a friend walking down the street and you sneak up behind them and surprise them with a hug. 

The third movement, is beyond words. I’m listening to it now, and I’m holding back tears. I hold back tears every time. I think Vaughan Williams put it best when he was considering (and eventually decided not to) put this quote above just that symphony. I apologize I’m not able to find it out for sure, but I think this might be it. Spoken by Pilgrim from his opera, Pilgrim’s Progress. 

Save me, Lord! My burden is greater than I can bear

 

Where the Romanza is like a hug to help someone through grief, the fourth movement is when that person hugs you bit longer, so that you get over the grief. I usually relate the Romanza to losing a loved one while the Passacaglia is gaining a loved one. 

Click here for a more thorough analysis of this work

Forgive me if I seem like I’m too crazy for this piece. No, I take that back. I never need to ask forgiveness for something I love. Music has the power to enter your soul and transform it, and if anyone finds it obsessive or worthy of nothing more than being mocked, then I’m sorry for you, because you have yet to witness the power of art, and I invite you to join me, and release that cage, and let your heart roam for a bit. (read my last blog post, with the program notes about my piece if you didn’t get it

Here you go friends. 

[spotify id=”spotify:user:nmaysaud:playlist:4ZybupRfn9kykvB28dDRXW” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

and here’s a pic of my score and the place where every composer I meet signs! Yes, I just taped the program from Roomful of Teeth, for those that don’t know, Caroline Shaw is a Pulitzer prize winning composer who composed this treasure

Displaying photo.JPG

yes, I know it’s after midnight, I’m sorry, my brother kept me up with a terrible romance movie (people, take note, hooters is a terrible place for a first date). Anyway, here’s my submission for the 4th day of Vaughan Williams month. I’ve shown you the beauty, glory, and passion of Vaughan Williams, now for the rage. 

Vaughan Williams symphony no. 4 is probably his most aggressive piece, and is one of the two symphonies of his that ends loudly, and only one of them is good  the other being the eighth symphony (well, I’m not really sure about the 9th but I’m sure anyone is) . I’d like to imagine what it must have been like being at that premiere, probably expecting something like his 3rd Symphony, which is profound, beautiful, and subtle. It’s about his recollections from World War I, but not the war, but of the soldiers themselves, paying tribute to those who died. What soldiers felt in their hearts after battle. But that’s for another day. Today, you get the Symphony no. 4, a piece of absolute music, and also a huge influence on William Walton. I’ll let you make the comparison. Yes my dear reader, today you get two pieces! Because of the connection Walton had with this symphony and his own, I couldn’t help but also post Walton Symphony no. 1. I view the two pieces almost like siblings, and this would make a great pairing for a concert conductors (please please please someone let this concert happen, please, that would make my life)

interview from BBC again, pieces starts at 3:07 if you’re too impatient. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2BmRfQ5txM&w=854&h=510] 

and here is Walton1, enjoy! 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dsiDa5RQOk&w=854&h=510]

Ok I have 7 minutes before midnight, here we go!

before I get on to Vaughan Williams, I would like to make an announcement. As you may or may not know, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will be performing my piece, O Great Mystery on September 27th at the Schlesinger Center at the NOVA Campus. It is a huge honor to get such a rewarding premiere from such an amazing orchestra, I really hope all of you can make it. If you’re in the area, you can buy tickets here!

Meanwhile, here are the program notes so you can get an idea of what the piece is about (sorry, not posting a MIDI for this one).

Most of my music can be broken down to one essential question, Where is God? O Great Mystery marks the start of this musical quest. In essence, this piece can be split into three parts, the first part being an introduction to the motif of conservatism. When I wrote this part, I imagined a line of monks chanting in an ancient, grand cathedral. It’s beautiful and mystic, but has a sense of darkness inside. The theme of this introduction goes back to when I was in choir in high school, and my teacher handed out a piece she was considering for us to do, and then played us a recording. The piece was “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomas Luis de Victoria. I quoted the first two lines of the piece and included a translation from its original Latin.

O magnum mysterium,                                            O great mystery,

et admirabile sacramentum,                                    and wonderful sacrement, 

The piece has such a beautiful mysticism to it, and the color of the words themselves, even without the music, gives off the perfect sense wonder yet it has a slightly ominous quality to it. What is this great mystery? It’s beautiful, yet ambiguous.  

While this piece is not programmatic, nor is it sacred, I believe this metaphor will help make this piece as understandable as possible. By this point, one of our monks decided he would leave the comfort of his church. He went out of the dark enclosed church and entered a strange world. Our monk here never really questioned anything he’s been told, and sort of followed what he was told almost blindly. Now he realizes that outside of home, he’s free. He lifts the rusty cage from his heart and lets it roam. This middle section, to give it a broader sense is about liberalism. It’s about leaving your mind and letting your heart roam free. But, absolute freedom can be overwhelming, and our hearts are wild. It’s almost too much, to be out into a free world and eventually, the freedom turns into fear, and you wish you were caged again.

Here is where our monk returns to his church, but like Plato’s philosopher coming back to his cave, he cannot help but feel the emptiness in the prayers of that church. So he fills it, he realizes that his heart and his mind don’t need to be separate and neither the old and the new, rather, they should both be embraced, and only then can there be passion, foundation, and unity.

It should be noted that I don’t write for myself, nor do I believe my music comes from me, therefore, please do not treat this analysis as an extension of the piece, but rather a way of seeing it from someone who loves the piece, but is indeed separated from it. Therefore your view of the piece is no less important than mine, nor does it need to be similar.

This piece is a journey, I wrote it when I first started to hear the world I was witnessing, and I hope you enjoy my sharing of this mysterious voyage with you.

I hope at least some of you are as excited as I am for this premiere, it’s going to be a spectacular.

Now for Vaughan Williams. This time I’m going away from his choral works and focusing on a piece that almost no one knows of. This right here is the second movement of the Vaughan Williams piano concerto, which has been performed like, almost never. I admit, this is not his best work, but this second movement is so rich and luscious, filled with that classic Vaughan Williams passion that we’ve all come to love. There is practically no history on this piece other than the fact this is a really hard concerto. It’s still a beautiful movement, despite being so hidden in the repertoire. Here’s the second movement with a scrolling score! (yay!)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypnZ3MNZ6es&w=854&h=510]

Hello all, so I guess my schedule’s gonna be to post these at the last minute of everyday. 

So today’s piece is the introduction to Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony. As far as first symphonies go, I got the same impression as I got from almost every other composer on their first symphony, which was, “I like the rest more” although I will admit, this beginning is fantastic and this doesn’t sound like a composer’s first symphony. It sounds like he’s already mastered crafting enormous universes before tackling his first, and right away, you see the universe he creates by setting these poems by Walt Whitman (who, by the way, happens to be my favorite poet). Once again, he reaches into the poems and digs the music out of them, creating a strong link between the lyrics and the notes. 

Also, I’m wondering if anyone might know any history behind this piece? Mainly, who had that much faith in a rising composer that they asked him to compose such a huge work for chorus and orchestra without anything remotely that large in his name? 

This video shows and interview by the conductor and the piece starts at around 5:40, enjoy! 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp4G5vtdSWc&w=854&h=510]

In a quest to stop being afraid of this blank space I would need to fill and fear that people wouldn’t like what I write, and to do something with this blog, I shall bring to you Vaughan Williams month! Each day I will post a piece I adore by him and also put up a blurb about why I love the piece. I got this idea from a blog post a friend of mine wrote. A while ago she tried this with Mozart and now she’s doing poetry. here’s the post, please do check it out, she has exquisite taste! I’m very tempted to go on a long rant on why I’m upset there’s not enough collaboration between writers and composers and how literature and art music are so much more similar than we tend to think but that’s probably something I should write later on. Meanwhile, I suppose I shall start! 

Today’s piece is the Turtle Dove for Baritone and Mixed-or-male chorus (I prefer mixed). Vaughan Williams loved poetry and he had an extraordinary  sense of the music portrayed between the words of the poems he read and composed a perfect combination of language and music that work together to create a beautiful and heart-wrenching farewell. 

Since I can’t find a good recording on Youtube, here’s a Spotify track. Please let me know if this doesn’t work, I didn’t even know Spotify could be embedded until now. 

[spotify id=”spotify:track:0XzIDlgbCvXrwVvnsMkZYS” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

I am currently sitting on the balcony of my uncle’s house in Southern Lebanon as my cousin is blasting Lady Gaga inside and the country is still calming down after the world cup game. My uncle just got married and now we’re trying to decide what to do for the rest of the month. 

A lot has happened here so far, musical and personal, but I think I want to focus this post on how the people here reacted to my music. The thing I noticed right away was that people were much more interested in me as a performer than a composer. We only had one night where I showed my closest relatives recordings of my music, and I was able to give them a quick run down of how I wrote my music, why and how the performers liked it. They nodded and thought it was ok, then asked me to take out my oboe and play for them. 

The only piece I know well enough I can just take out my oboe and play would be Pan, from the Metamorphoses after Ovid by Benjamin Britten (fantastic piece if you don’t know it). I played Pan so many times for so many people I’m getting pretty close to mastering it…and getting sick of it. Due to my own stupidity, I decided that I should learn two new pieces this summer, both so ridiculously contemporary your brain will ooze out of your ear and start scratching its head. They’re both fantastic pieces, but not at all appropriate as an introduction to classical music. Although I was so surprised by peoples reactions, they may just get it. 

You see, people actually loved it! Not the obligatory “oh, that was nice” after a performance. These people, the ones who listened to Lebanese folk music all their lives, music that is extremely lively and rhythmically driven, loved the cute little pictures Britten wrote for solo oboe! My uncle loved them so much, he asked me to play in his wedding. 

I was completely bewildered by his request. Calming oboe music? at a wedding? at the night party for the wedding? In this culture, night weddings are eerily similar to frat parties, we’re just a bit more stylish in our clothing. To give you a proper picture, they had 7 speakers blasting at full volume when the bride and groom came down, they were accompanied by a full set of dancers, 2 drummers and a shawm. the drummers and the shawm were louder than the seven speakers laid out across the virtually indoor (it was more like a tent) dance floor. They had a full bottle of Red Label Whiskey and Arak (arab vodka) on each table and people were determined to drink it all. Each table also came with a couple hookahs, and a complete feast. I played right after the bride and groom sat down. 

I decided I would play 3 movements from the Metamorphoses. Pan, Narcissus, and Arethusa. I figured they were appropriate (My uncle did remind me and Narcissus). I was micd. I had to be. It was too loud, and they weren’t all going to fall silent to listen. This is just supposed to be pretty background music. They set up the mic for me, there was no time to adjust it. They put it in a perfect spot for speaking….my bell was quite high up. I had to be really far away from my stand, it was dark, I could barely read the music! It was an embarrassing performance. I finished, gave my congrats to the married couple, and was met with a thunderous applause. People throughout the night congratulated me on my playing, invited me to dance with them and I met some very lovely people who wanted to learn more about western music. My uncle told me there was a professional singer who wanted to meet me (Unfortunately I couldn’t find him). 

Now I’m afraid I must go, my hour of internet is up. to be continued…

Hello people,

I noticed that this website is actually starting to attract people and I figured that you might as well have something new to look forward to other than a new piece every once in a forever, so I made this blog… I’ll be honest I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, there’s a reason I write notes instead of words. I guess I just talk about myself here and what I’m doing?

I’ll just talk about what I’m writing.

So, first off, you are looking at the winner of the 2014 Allen Kluge Young Composers Competition! That means that the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will be premiering my work, O Great Mystery, on September 27. The piece is a short, 7 minute work, which quotes O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria, a beautiful piece from the mid Renaissance. The piece deals with the mysticism of the old and romance of new ideas. The beginning reminds me of a cathedral, with 500 year old monks chanting an absurdly high bassoon solo. The piece transforms into new themes, getting more romanticized and expressive, until they are used in counterpoint to one another, where the romantic theme is taken through a canon of different tempi, and eventually all theme are played together in a cacophony until the piece unifies with the same chant as the beginning. The ending is a confused state between modes, until it decides to land on a C minor chord and picardy its way onto C major.

Also on the program is Milhaud’s La Creatone du Monde and Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2. I was worried no one would remember my piece after those two (heck, I probably won’t) but then I realized that the second option for a date they gave me was their performance of Beethoven 9…. My music is not worthy to be mentioned in the same same sentence as that piece, much less performed next to.

I guess it’s also worth mentioning that I will be spending the summer in Lebanon! Away from here…and the grid. So don’t expect another blog post for a while (probably should’ve waiting until i got back…)

So, I’ll see if I can leave you with a funny story,

the England Soccer team

ok, that’ll do! See you later this summer!