Mary Kouyoumdjian, Excerpt from Paper Pianos (World Premiere)
François Sarhan, Hands (World Premiere)
Juilius Eastman (adapted for Alarm Will Sound by Tim Leopold), Stay On It
The three works on the program deal with first person accounts of immigration, disillusionment, and dis-empowerment. Kouyoumdjian’s work, an excerpt from her larger work Paper Pianos, explores the experiences of Milad Yousoufi, a refugee from Afghanistan. The composition uses the voice of Mr. Yousoufi describing the laws he was forced to obey while living under the rule of the Taliban. Laws that forbade music and art, forcing him to “play” on a paper piano.
Hands by François Sarhan uses Testimony by Charles Reznikoff as its inspiration. Reznikoff’s work uses court transcripts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to illuminate the ever-present racism and casual violence. Sarhan has set Reznikoff’s poetry to music using the musician’s hands, a symbol of the manual labor that is a theme in Reznikoff’s work.
Julius Eastman was an African-American composer, pianist, vocalist, and dancer of minimalist tendencies. He was among the first musicians to combine minimalist processes with elements of pop music. Alex Ross (The New Yorker) says of Eastman’s Stay On It, “There’s a hint of disco in the festive, propulsive sound. But more dissonant, unruly material intrudes, and several times the piece dissolves into beatless anarchy.” For this performance of Eastman’s work from 1973, AWS will use an adaptation by Tim Leopold, AWS trumpet player and arranger.
Paper Pianos is supported, in part, through a Pacific Harmony Foundation Commission Grant; the Charles S. Miller Award of Columbia University Music Department; a New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artists Composer Commission Award with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and by a project grant from The MAP Fund. The MAP Fund is primarily supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional funds come from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.