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Sample Track 1:
"Opening of Part One" from Taqasim
Sample Track 2:
"Opening of Part Two" from Taqasim
Sample Track 3:
"Opening of Part Three" from Taqasim
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Marcel Khalifé on Taqasim and Letters of Commendation

For many years, my music has enjoyed a special, and especially gratifying, association with the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish. Our respective corpora have grown to be reminiscent of each other, so that the name of each of the twain, instantly and without reflection, would evoke the name of the other. How very appropriate, for all of my musical milestones that punctuate my thirty-year career, beginning with “Promises of the Storm” and culminating with “The Doves Fly,” are graced with the lyricism and poignancy that are uniquely Darwishian. Even before we got to know each other personally, I felt as though Darwish’s poetry, with its divine assertiveness and prophetic cadences, had been revealed to me and for me. I could nearly savor his “mother’s bread” that has become iconic to his readers. I could feel the eyes of his “Rita” as deeply as I could feel the pain that his “Joseph” suffered at the hands of his treacherous siblings, and I could identify with his passport, which I fancied carried my picture, just as personally as I could identify with his olive grove, his sand, and his sparrows. They were all, at a personal level, mine.

It is no wonder, then, that my music found a harmonious companion in Darwish’s poetry – naturally, effortlessly, and without affectations. When I read Darwish’s poetry, I know that it was written for me – to sing, to play, to shout, to pray; I know it was meant for me to shed like tears, to weave like a tapestry on the strings of my oud – and on the strings of my heart. When I give voice to his words, especially when buoyed by a full orchestral texture, the words rise like a hymn that stirs and consoles, urges and resists.

I specifically intended this set of Taqasim (“Improvisations”) as a tribute and an expression of fidelity from Marcel Khalifé to Mahmoud Darwish. Some may wonder, as they listen to Taqasim, about the meaning of this dedication, for no part can be found in the score for the poetry of Darwish or for my own voice. Yet, nowhere have his poetry and my voice been as intensely present as in this work.

As mischievously as the two boys that still inhabit the two of us, the singing voice and the poetic words run and skip with juvenile abandon on the five lines of the musical staff. The listener, if inclined to join their conspiracy of playfulness, will surprise them and be surprised by them, but will fail to find them in their usual places. They will not be found hiding in the score or pendulating with lyrics like children on swings. They are more likely to be found masquerading behind musical rests, imitating blades of grass swept by the wind, evoking a boyish giggle or a breathless moan, in musical lines barely touched by violin bows.

Does this work represent jolly good cheer or mere indulgent moodiness? It is neither. Taqasim is the fruit of a journey towards an apparition like a flower on a precipice to which I had reached out with my hand for some time, but had not dared to touch. With this work, I have overcome my timidity, giving way to a newfound daring as I dedicate it to Mahmoud, my friend and brother who had found his own daring long before I did.

In Taqasim, I shall entrust to the broad range of the lower registers of the oud and double bass the task of communicating those tremendous but obscure dimensions that are often ignored by the listeners’ ears – the task of expressing the profound consonance between the poet and the musician.

Warm and pulsating are the rhythmic underpinnings. Sonorous and imposing are the strings of the double bass. Sturdy and unambiguous are the strings of the oud, despite numerous flights towards the high register, bespeaking anguish that is restrained by dignity and self-consciousness so as not to cry or moan.

As for the melodic contours and articulations, they are distillations of echoes of Darwish’s own repertoire of voice as I heard them reciting his poetry in forums all over the world.

In Taqasim, my music will not “portray” anything or “refer” to anything. Rather than attempt to reconcile two systems of expression, it will re-create what the poetry of Darwish has created in me, in a manner analogous to the way digital systems process information, with analog material faithfully reproduced after being digitally encoded.

In Taqasim, I will try to reproduce, only as music can, the esthetical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual resonance of Darwish’s poetry. Through a purely musical idiom, I will attempt to communicate what my singing voice has never been able to communicate in any setting of Darwish’s poems.

I will “encode” his poetry in a system of rhythm, melody, and harmony. To the listener’s sensitivity, I shall entrust the task of decoding, which I sincerely hope will be truly faithful to the source.

Marcel Khalifé

Letters of Commendation:

World Music Insitute click here for JPG scan
Centre for Fine Arts Brussels (BOZAR) click here for JPG scan
Cleveland Museum of Art click here for JPG scan

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Marcel Khalifé on Taqasim and Letters of Commendation
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