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Sahba Aminikia & Pınar Demiral: Nasrin's Dream
Kronos Quartet

Sahba Aminikia & Pınar Demiral: Nasrin's Dream

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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When nonprofit arts organization 836M announced Sahba Aminikia as its first composer-in-residence last December, a centuries-spanning collaboration began to take shape. The Iranian-born composer brought with him The Language of the Birds (May 31 and June 1), a project inspired by the 12th century poem bearing the same title by Farid ud-din Attar, a Persian mystic revered by the 13th century poet Rumi and many others.

After hundreds of years and with the support of 836M, which was co-founded by Julie & Sébastien Lépinard and Agnès Faure and named for its gallery at 836 Montgomery Street. A remarkable lineage, extending from Attar to Rumi to Aminikia to 2024 audiences, will give birth to a new work of art.

Such durability suggests that these mere words, written on a page or spoken, chanted, or sung aloud, must have heft. Not necessarily complexity, but weight, eternal truth, universality. The ideas they express must offer a kind of timelessness that has left hundreds of years of witnesses saying, “This is so now.”

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