Next week Pulse will close out our successful 2006-2007 "season" with our exciting new music project. Sihr Halal, Music of Praise and Celebration will be performed on Saturday, May 5th 2007 at 8:30 PM at Roulette located at 20 Greene Street in SoHo (tickets are $15 at the door, $10 students/seniors). This project is funded in part through Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections program.
Sihr Halal features the premiere of six compositions by the composers of Pulse—Darcy James Argue, Jamie Begian, Joseph C. Phillips Jr., JC Sanford, Joshua Shneider, and Yumiko Sunami. The new works meld improvisation, contemporary classical and world music in a re-imagining of musical traditions. Often tradition is used as an excuse for not trying to find solutions to modern questions-the way it has always been done is the way it has to be done. Sihr Halal seeks to create a dialogue between the past and present; distilling the essence behind the traditions in order to create a contemporary and new musical language that naturally reflects both Western and Eastern sensibilities without being either.
Sihr halal is an Arabic word meaning "lawful (or legitimate) magic”, an effect that the rhythm, rhyme, and music create in listeners during the recitation of classical Arabic poetry. Historian Philip K. Hitti, in his book, History of the Arabs (first published in 1937, 10th edition in 2002), describes modern audiences in Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo as being “stirred to the highest degree by the recital of poems, only vaguely comprehended, and by the delivery of orations in the classical tongue, though it be only partially understood.”
I read the above quote in the fall of 2006 and was intrigued by the fact that this description of heighten emotions from an artistic statement such as poetry is what all artists hope to achieve with their work. The depiction struck me as very human.
So thinking about doing a Pulse non-Western project, I did not wanted to do something that superficially recreates the sounds of non-Western music. Rather I wanted to explore using non-Western instruments and traditions in a way that would respect yesterday but look toward today. Also the intention was to be neither political nor even religious in nature, rather it was to create music that might reflect the celebratory spirit that is within all humans.
Plans for the project moved forward after our IAJE performance in January when all the composers discussed what kind of instrumentation we might possibly write for. I also proposed the idea of Sihr Halal, Music of Praise and Celebration as our theme, with the instructions to the composers to interpret the meaning of sihr halal (and Music for Praise and Celebration) as they see fit. From our discussions on instrumentation, I then selected a varied ensemble of eight Western and non-Western instruments, with suggestions from each composer on various performers.
In Pulse we are always fortunate to be working with some of the finest musicians in New York City. The Pulse ensemble for Sihr Halal are: Ben Kono (flute, clarinet, shakuhachi, dizi, oboe, English Horn, soprano saxophone), Steve Kenyon (clarinet, oboe, alto saxophone, bass clarinet), Meg Okura (violin, erhu, voice), William Martina (violoncello), Jacob Garchik (laptop), Yumi Kurosawa (koto), Michael McCurdy (percussion), and Justin Ahiyon (percussion).
We have begun rehearsals this week and it has been exciting to hear what and how each composer has interpreted sihr halal. Starting the week of April 30th, additional information about Sihr Halal including discussions on each composition and interviews with the composers (including audio samples of the upcoming pieces) will be available here on our blog! Check back each day to read and hear what Sihr Halal is all about and then come out to Roulette to see it live!