the al-Gharaniq series
These pieces are titled with the arabic word which is often transliterated as "al-Gharaniq" or "al-Gharaneeq." The term is difficult to translate for a variety of reasons, but is generally rendered as "the divine birds" or "cranes." It is an important word within the so-called Satanic verses which Muhammad allegedly recited as belonging to the Qur'an one day and then recanted after consultation with Gabriel the next day. The lines generally reported as being something like:
Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-'UzzaFor reasons that will become obvious in the next paragraph, the historicity of this event is sharply contested, but I'm not centrally concerned with whether the so-called "Gharaniq incident" ever occurred (if you're curious, the wikipedia entry seems to be a decent start). My interest is in the abstract logical ramifications of such an event if it could be proved real.
Muhammad was trying to establish a new monotheistic belief system in a decidedly polytheistic society. He and his followers were continually in danger as a result of this, and the inclusion of even a small number of verses acknowledging local gods could have had a mollifying effect and perhaps even aided in gaining new converts. It is not hard to imagine a very human urge to include some small effort at placating the local citizenry, but this very humanity is precisely the problem. The Qur'anic verses are supposed to have been delivered by Allah through the messenger angel Gabriel, and surely such political concerns having cropped up in the otherwise starkly monotheistic text renders a divine source questionable. When Muhammad rescinded the verses later (which it must be said, if the event in fact occurred, was an incredibly brave act) he explained away this potential problem by claiming that the verses mentioning the local demigods were in fact given by Satan rather than Gabriel. I find this intriguing, because this solution—while effectively eliminating the problem of apparent human pragmatism in a divine text—seems to create the seemingly much larger problem of diabolical intrusion. What at first seems to be a minor defect—a few stray verses in a massive text—threatens to tear down the entire edifice of the belief system.
Of course, any number of explanations can be and have been made, I just find the abstract magnifying logical implications of this and similar issues in religious systems to be intriguing, and, ultimately, telling. Any belief system claiming ultimate truth must run up against such intellectual hurdles, and I've pursued a similar (though Christian) structure in the piece (THS).
There is no particular instrumentation or movement form that I associate with these pieces (although, as of yet they have all been single-movement works). The form is purely conceptual, and involves a steadily evolving shape wherein small, seemingly inconsequential musical elements of one section rise in prominence until they become the primary element of the next section. Of course, this new section will in turn be characterized in part by an initially minor element which will gradually override and ultimately replace it. For example, a melody might contain a few small pitch-bends or glissandoes (slides). As the section progresses, these bends or slides become longer and more obtrusive until they spawn a new section based almost entirely on massive glissandoes. Or a section with a regular meter (that is, a "beat" which is relatively simple) might contain a mild syncopation (rhythmic "bounce") which will eventually become the foundation for a new section with a decidedly irregular meter. The effect I hope these pieces create is an organic morphing between order and chaos.
...with pink scrunchy flowers
h.6 Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal
Anti-Social Wedding Music II
fuzzy wuzzy bears
"N Th Ghtt"
"The Body Wants More Than Skin"
"Pictures from Her Perfect Life"
gumdrops and kittens
PortRait of the ArTist,**NYC2001
Objects Are t
Variations on Mel