The River Is Within Us
The piece is constructed from more than 60 site specific recordings gathered and collected from the city of Isfahan. It includes sounds from the Zayandeh-roud river, sounds from around the famous bridges, from people singing and performing music under the bridges, as well as fragments of audio recordings from the news and from demonstrations on the water crisis in Isfahan. The spoken words that you hear are from Isfahanis sharing their thoughts about the river, how it has impacted their lives and the energy and spirit of the city. The recordings were combined together to bring this installation piece to life.
Once Upon A River
The piece is inspired by Sohrab Sepehri’s poem, Peygham-e Mahiha (The Fishes' Message*) and scored for tenor-saxophone, guitar, electric guitar, piano, and double bass. The creative process of the composition was during the 2020 lockdown. I found an audio file of Mitra Akhavan, an Iranian actress, reciting the poem. Her tangible, restrained, and somber tone captured the lyrics and the inertia feeling of lockdown very well and became the guideline for composing Once Upon a River.
Thirty-Three Drops of Water
In this piece I work with individual sounds, some of them very dry, some of them microtonal and some very fragile. I shape them to drops of sounds. Each and every sound is celebrated, as each drop means a piece of life. Water is life.
The Oasis of Now
This piece can be considered in two distinct ways:
- A meditation on the following lines from Sohrab Sepehri’s poem " The Oasis of Now":
“If you are coming to me
approach gently, softly, lest you crack
the fragile china of my solitude.”
- A meditation on this “situation”:
“The musicians have departed to build new lives, leaving their instruments behind. The doctors have done the same, as have the teachers, engineers, artists… After drying up all the life-giving flows in this land, what remains to us are the distant echoes of their streams.”
“There are rumors that the Bridge of 33 Arches will collapse if it stays dry much longer. They used a material that must not dry out.”
-Resident of Isfahan, in conversation with Thomas Erdbrink
Whether or not the collapse of this iconic bridge is imminent, this image—of a structure whose integrity is dependent on the river that courses through its arches—resonated strongly for me, as it points to the inescapable dependence of human activity and ingenuity on the presence and movement of essential natural sources. This piece begins with (and is built upon) processed sounds periodically emanating from the piano, which are treated as such a source, and consist of recordings of the Tolt and Cedar rivers colored by fragments extracted from Naeim Rahmani’s recitation of Sohrab Sepheri’s poem, The Fishes’ Message.
The harmonics played inside the piano introduce pitches quite close to specific frequencies of this sound source, creating acoustic beating patterns that provide the rhythmic basis of the sections that follow. The rest of the piece explores the possibility of building and extending musical structures from this interaction with a source outside the ensemble, as well as how this musical activity adapts in the source’s absence.
The Simple and Unvarying Geometry of Breaths
The composer's notes are simply the words to a passage from Sohrab Sepheri’s poem “Water's Footsteps”:
Life is a lovely ritual.
Life has wings as vast as death,
It is a leap the size of love.
Life is not something to be forgotten on the windowsill of habit,
Life is the rapture of a hand that reaps.
Life is the first black fig in the acrid mouth of summer.
Life is the dimensions of a tree from the eyes of an insect.
Life is the experience that a bat has in the dark.
Life is the homesickness that a migrating bird feels.
Life is the whistle of a train that turns through the dream of a bridge.
Life is observing a garden from the obstructed windows of an airplane.
It is the news of the launch of a rocket into space,
Touching the loneliness of the Moon,
The notion of smelling a flower on another planet.
Life is the washing of a plate.
Life is the square root of a mirror.
Life is a blossom to the power of eternity.
Life is the Earth multiplied by our heartbeats.
Life is the simple and unvarying geometry of breaths.
Adapted from Sohrab Sepehri, & Karim Emami (trans.).
(1982). Water's Footsteps: A Poem. Iranian Studies, 15(1/4), 97-116.
*The Fishes' Message
I’d gone to the fountain in the garden
maybe to see my loneliness look back at me,
but the basin was empty.
The fish inside said,
Don’t blame the trees—
it was a hot summer afternoon.
Water’s bright child lounged here
when the sun-eagle swooped down
and seized him, carrying him off into the sky.
Our scales lost all their brilliance compared with that fiery carnation reflected
on the surface. Wind blew across the water and crenellated its petals and in those folds we lost all our knowledge of air’s wily ways.
But that flower was our periscope—
between its ridges and folds, we caught a glimpse
of the garden of Paradise!
Listen, should you see God wandering the paths of the garden
will you make sure to tell Him the fountain has no water...
So the wind goes visiting the sycamore
and I go looking for God.