Orientalism for String Quartet (2020) – 14′
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First Prize, Foundation for Modern Music – The Robert Avalon International Competition for Composers
First Prize, Stamford Music and Arts Academy – 2021 Suzanne Culley Senior Composition Competition
Honorable Mention, ASCAP Foundation, 2021 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards
Third Prize, SOCAN Foundation – 2021 Young Composer Awards (Chamber Music Category)
Premiered November 15 2020 at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Other Performances: May 2nd at the Cleveland Institute of Music
Orientalism derives its name from the eponymous book by the Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said. My interest in orientalism started with the constant disparity I felt between my experience of being an Arab, and the representations of Arabs which I saw in art, media, and what even claimed to be scientific literature. Those representations of “the Orient” had very little to do with what I know about my own background, my lived experiences, and everything that I have read in Arabic. This piece is a result of my reflections, it is a commentary as well as an artistic response to that phenomenon.
Another interest of mine has been the passage of time, especially the passage of musical time, as opposed to chronometric time. In my quartet, the measurement of time is passed from player to player, so as to create a flowing evolution of the sense and function of time. As each player takes control of measuring time for the whole ensemble, a natural shift in the perception of time will occur for interpreters and audience alike. The passage of time thus interacts with perspective and with focus. Every player will get the chance to manifest their experience of time, resulting in four different perspectives on the flow of time. These different time-layers ultimately create a counterpoint of tempi between players. Essentially, my quartet intersects my interests in Orientalism and the passage of time – both of which are part and parcel of phenomenology, of conscious experience.
Unlike a traditional string quartet, which seeks to blend the individual player with the quartet, my piece seeks to identify the individual in opposition to the ensemble. Just as time flows smoothly from player to player, so too do sounds bleed into each other like different colors, or different perspectives continually intruding into one another – whilst alternating with solo passages. This draws a parallel with the disconnection between the individual and the system, between my individual sense of self as an Arab in America, or a Christian from a Muslim-majority country (both of which Edward Said himself experienced), and the system and politicized representation of the Middle-East and of its peoples (often viewed as only one people).