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San Francisco Comes Together in Sahba Aminikia's The Language of the Birds

In the 12th-century Persian poem The Language of the Birds (also known as The Conference of the Birds), the parallels between birds and humans are obvious, says composer Sahba Aminikia, who has been in residency at the North Beach nonprofit arts organization 836M for the past five months, working on a multimedia adaptation of the poem. Now, Aminikia’s piece is set for its world premiere, May 31 – June 1 at 836M. (Both performances are currently listed as sold out.)

About 4,500 lines, The Language of the Birds is by the mystic Attar of Nishapur, a mentor of Rumi’s, whom Aminikia deeply admires. He loves what the poem says about unity.

“It tells the story of a large number of birds, and they represent humanity and us,” the composer says. “They have everything — they have beauty, they have power, but they’re deeply dissatisfied with something, and there is some sort of gap inside that they’re all trying to fill in.”

A prophet, a hoopoe, guides the other birds toward Simurgh, a legendary bird. At the end of the story, only 30 birds are left. The word for 30 birds in Farsi is, in fact, the name of that legendary bird.

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