Amir ElSaffar: Rivers of Sound: Not Two

April 16, 2015 | 7:30 pm | 61 W 62 St | New York, NY | All Ages | FREE!  
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Rivers of Sound presents 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions playing on a range of instruments, including the Middle Eastern oud, buzuq, santur (hammered dulcimer), jowza (spike fiddle), and percussion, arrayed with the piano, bass and drums of the American jazz tradition, along with trumpet, saxophones, oboe, strings, and voice. The modal language of the maqam combines with the aesthetics of contemporary music and jazz to create a new musical vocabulary. The unifying principle of this composition, exploration of pure resonance, allows the assembled musicians to explore and experiment together along a continuum of sound encompassing timbre, harmony, pitch and rhythm.

The highest ideal in maqam music is to reach a state of tarab, or “musical ecstasy,” which results from the melting away of borders between a notion of self and other, as performers and audience revel together in the music. This phenomenon is not restricted to the maqam; similar states occur in many musical styles around the globe, and can sometimes be described as a trance. Similar results can be found on a meta level with Rivers of Sound. As pitches and rhythms become fluid, so do cultural boundaries: elements that traditionally divide musicians and genre-specific modes are re-contextualized in a fresh transcultural soundscape.

A Lincoln Center co-commission

Underwritten by the MAP Fund and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)

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