A Threnody for Those Who Remain (2010)
Performed by Liana Berube, Stephanie Bibbo, Michelle Kim and Omid Assadi at 'Echoes of Tehran"
May 6th, 2013
San Francisco Conservatory of Music Recital Hall
I. Fèrāgh (Separation)
II. Faghān (Wail)
III. Soog (Praying and Mourning)
David Harrington, founder and violinist of Kronos Quartet
"Around 8:00 A.M. on Sunday, December 20th, 2009, I received a call in San Francisco from my sister in Iran, telling me that my dad had passed away in a car crash on a highway in Tehran on the way home. Shocked and hysterical, I bought a plane ticket for the day after to Frankfurt, and then on to Tehran, where I spent 20 days. After I got back to San Francisco, I had coffee with David Harrington from Kronos to talk about a new project. We both came up with this idea: how strange it is that our loved ones leave us so swiftly and suddenly, and with an ocean of sorrow and grief that lasts until the end of our lives.
"This piece is directly inspired by my trip and what I went through during this journey. The first movement draws from my childhood memories during the 1980s, while Iran was at war with Iraq, right after the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shāh. This movement is based on a game I used to play with my dad as a kid, basically standing on his feet and having him walk me around the house. This felt like the most enjoyable thing I could do with my dad at that time.
"In the second movement, I gathered material from a typical ritual lamentation ceremony from the southern regions of Iran, where most of the residents are primarily from African and Arabian cultures. The drums (Damām), cymbals and the scream--like human voices (called Kél in this culture) are essential elements of a common lamentation ceremony in Bandar Abbās and Boushehr. This movement is informed by nightmares I had during the flight to back to Tehran.
"The last movement draws from the days I spent in Tehran, where in the early morning, after being awakened by the voices of sparrows, you hear the Azān, the call for morning prayer. The call to prayer I have used in this piece is one of the most symbolic and famous forms of its kind, by Rahim Moazzén--zādéh. It is the symbol of Persianized Islam, as this was the first time Azān had been sung in Persian modes. Although I am not a Muslim myself, the Azān evokes my hometown, and reminds me of this time trying to overcome grief, which still seems like a never--ending pain.
"The piece ends with calls of 'Allāh--u--akbar' (God is great), with which the people protested the results of the 2009 presidential election, recorded on the rooftops of Tehran. These are the shouts that I heard all the time at night during my stay."
Behnam Nateghi from VOA Persian report on the premiere of "A Threnody for Those Who Remain" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, October 28-29, 2010 (in Farsi)