When Soheil asked me to compose a new piece for his March Alice Tully concert, I had already begun contemplating the writing of a suite of dances. However, instead of following the traditional form of a dance suite (i.e., a sequence of unrelated dance movements), I chose to compose a dramatic piece, one that combines the vividness of dances with the emotional content of drama.
Dramatically, Dance Suite
is the journey through sound of a blind oud player. (The oud is a traditional Middle-Eastern instrument that resembles a lute or a guitar.) The piece opens with a prelude which symbolically represents the blind player’s wandering through the darkness and finding his expression through sound rather than light. The prelude is very passionate and deals with the musician’s inner conflict.
The movement that follows the prelude (Oud and Kanun) is based on a traditional Arabic maqam
and incorporates several Arabic dances. A maqam
is a series of notes or gestures that form the basis of most classical Arabic music. The second movement is constructed like a taqsim
- an improvisatory piece that is based on a single maqam
During the second movement, sounds from a different world begin to penetrate the classical Arabic music. These are sounds of modern street-life and include modern dances (such as techno and house). The oud player is fascinated by these new sounds and begins to follow them instinctively in his music.
The last movement begins when, unexpectedly, the serene atmosphere disappears. The modern dances take over, leading the piece into an exuberant finale. It is solely based on motives from the first two movements, combined with rhythms and gestures of modern dance styles.
is played continuously as one movement and is approximately 15 minutes long.