Mohammed Fairouz, In the Shadow of No Towers, Carnegie Hall, 4th Symphony, Timpani Concerto, Glass
Composer Mohammed Fairouz's latest large-scale work, In The Shadow of No Towers (Symphony No. 4 for Wind Ensemble), will have its world premiere in the Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, March 26, with the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble conducted by the group's Artistic Director, Paul Popiel. The concert, which benefits the 9/11 Memorial, also features the New York premiere of the wind ensemble version of Philip Glass's Timpani Concerto, with soloists Gwendolyn Burgett and Ji Hye Jung.
March 26 also marks the release of a Fairouz portrait CD on Naxos titled Native Informant, The disc features a starry array of artists, including Borromeo String Quartet, Rachel Barton Pine, Imani Winds, David Krakauer with Mellissa Hughes, and others.
Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman's book of the same name, In the Shadow of No Towers was catalyzed by discussions between Fairouz and Spiegelman. The 40-minute, four-movement work begins with the disasters of September 11, 2001, and explores the unfolding of a post-9/11 reality. Balancing serious reflection and satire, In the Shadow of No Towers plays on the martial associations of the wind band genre while slyly subverting them with sardonic wit and unmistakable emotional impact.
Comments Spiegelman, best known for his Holocaust memoir Maus, "Composers often don't share Mr. Fairouz's interest in narrative (something that's just part of the job description for us Cartoonists) but he and I seem equally obsessed with structure in our respective mediums - and clearly we both were shaken by the tumbling structures that struck Ground Zero back in 2001.
"Though my idea of a wind ensemble is something often made up of kazoos and jugs, I'm moved by the scary, somber and seriously silly symphony he has made (especially that martial schizo-scherzo he built around 'One Nation Under Two Flags!') I'm honored that the composer found an echo in my work that allowed him to strike a responsive chord and express his own complex responses to post 9-11 America. He emerges from the rubble with a very tony piece of highbrow cartoon music."
Following the symphony's premiere at Carnegie Hall, Popiel and his ensemble will reprise it on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri. In the Shadow of No Towers was commissioned by Reach Out, Kansas, Inc., an organization founded to create, support, and present extraordinary programs and performances with the aim of generating a common appreciation for music, and for different cultures' identities and practices.
Says Mohammed Fairouz, "Like Poems and Prayers, my Third Symphony for Chorus and Orchestra, In the Shadow of No Towers engages serious ideas. In this case each movement takes as its point of departure a graphic detail from Spiegelman's book."
The first movement, The New Normal, depicts (in the musical equivalent of Before, During, and After panels) a nation jolted from its complacency...and then settling into the numb yet jittery state of mind referenced in the title.
A sequence of panels titled Notes of a Heartbroken Narcissist is the inspiration for the second movement of the work. Notes the composer, "Like the graphic sequence, it relies on limited colors that are selected from the larger ensemble. It is music of deep reflection... Much of my music has dealt with issues of self-representation and this mournful movement captures this poignant and conflicted sentiment that I felt in the aftermath as a New Yorker and an American of Arabic heritage."
The third movement, One Nation Under Two Flags, serves the role that a traditional Scherzo would in a symphony. This movement responds to Spiegelman's commentary on a divided nation, drawing a portrait of the United Blue Zone of America versus the United Red Zone of America. Fairouz has responded by literally breaking the wind ensemble into two different bands. "In this movement which begins with grotesquely Souza-esque gestures from the Red Zone dovetailing into a resistance from the Blue Zone, the music of each band is pitted relentlessly against the other with the two sides not listening to one another," says Fairouz. "This develops themes of political satire that I also incorporated much less explicitly in Poems and Prayers."