This piece is loosely based on Mahmoud Darwish’s poem which is titled “La’ib an-nard” (The Dice Player). Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in the small village of Al Birwa. At the age of seven, he fled his native Palestine to Lebanon. His village was destroyed soon afterwards. The destruction of his village is mentioned several times in this poem. This poem was written in 2008, the same year of his death. It was his final artistic statement.
The dice player is a metaphor that Darwish uses in order to depict the random elements of life, those outside the locus of one’s control: family, hereditary diseases, natural talents, place of birth, biological sex at birth and other circumstances. The text is essentially a reflection on the role of chance and luck in life.
The poem is long – a 23 minute recitation – and difficult to summarize. However, it is a deeply personal, contemplative and expressive narrative, peppered with wise proverbs. Perhaps that is why it continues to be so convincing. Darwish discusses several near-death experiences, his thoughts on femininity and on religion, referencing both Christianity and Islam.
My piece is not intended to be a setting of the words. Rather, it is a commentary. The form of the music is entirely independent from that of the poem. Musically, the first three sections of the piece each cover one distinct element. Though unrelated, all the elements ultimately coalesce and fully integrate into one another.