Around 1050 BC, the Phoenicians invented the very first writing system based on phonetics. Spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, it evolved and was assimilated by many other cultures and became the foundation for the Roman alphabet used by Western civilization – as well as all other alphabetic writing systems currently in use.
Miniatures from Phoenicia intersects my curiosity about linguistics (specifically the branch of phonology) with my interest in the history of my ancestors, the Phoenicians, particularly their groundbreaking innovation – the phonetic alphabet – into my music. The music is partially inspired by the main phonological groups: vowels, plosives (p, t, k, etc…), and sibilances/fricatives (s, sh, f, etc…).
The music of Phoenicia has been lost. With this piece, however, I invite the audience to re-imagine what it might have sounded like. I ask the flutist to play in a number of unconventional ways – sometimes superimposing multiple extended techniques on top of each other. The language of the music is constructed with the help of small cells that form recursive patterns – mimicking the recursive nature of Semitic languages. Perhaps one might hear the spirit of ancient Phoenicia come back to life through these miniatures.
Miniatures from Phoenicia is dedicated to Mary Kay Fink who so generously helped me, and without whom this piece would not exist in its current form. I am eternally grateful for all of her guidance, ideas and inspiration – as well as for premiering the piece.