Structure and Titles 

Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio is a work that combines a classical Arabic instrument with Western instruments. The work is in four movements and its duration is around an hour (depending on the length of the improvisations). As one of the Group B compositions it is composed with the assumption that its performers, in particular the Arabic violin player, have expertise in classical Arabic music, in Arabic-influenced Jewish music and in improvisation. The Arabic violin is a similar instrument to the European violin only with a different tuning (the indigenous fiddle that was prevalent in Egypt has two strings and is called Kamanjah). Although there are various tunings, Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio uses the traditional Arabic violin tuning in fourth and fifth (G3, D4, G4, D5). The style of playing the Arabic Violin is highly ornate with slides, trills and wide vibrato.

 

Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio consists of six main sections in the First Movement, eight main sections in the Second Movement, four main sections in the Third Movement and eight main sections in the Fourth Movement. Here also, sections have been created with their own compositional method, and some methods are applied several times in different sections of the work. I have titled a number of these sections to evoke various musical images, ideas and thoughts that inspired my compositions. The titles of Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio are:  

 

First Movement

  • Taqsim, dedicated to the day of tomorrow 

  • The image of an old weary man

  • The pianist’s gaze 

  • Poetic fractions 

  • Evolution of hatred and bitterness

  • His final request

 

Second Movement 

  • The High Priest’s whispered prayer on Yom Kippur as he leaves the Holy of Holies 

  • The dancers’ gleeful cries

  • The candelabra olive branches 

  • Belly dancing in an imaginary cult ritual

  • Eruption

  • “And thus would he count” (from Yom Kippur Order of Work prayer)

  • An even more powerful eruption

  • “One, one and one, one and two, one and three, one and four, one and five” (from Yom Kippur Order of Work prayer)

 

Third Movement

  • Image of a homeless Holocaust survivor on the streets of Tel Aviv

  • The double bassist’s voice

  • Awakening the dead      

  • An Israeli chorale, dedicated to the Holocaust survivor 

 

Fourth Movement 

  • Cries of joy

  • The violinist’s gaze               

  • Hallucinatory Debka dance

  • Magic of a sensual belly dancer

  • And again the cries 

  • The image of the old man from the First Movement

  • The Madness of Creation

  • Epilogue: the prayer of purification

 

These titles can be divided into three main categories. The first category refers to Arabic musical forms and themes - for example, “Taqsim, dedicated to the day of tomorrow” (first section, First Movement) and “Belly dancing in an imaginary cult ritual” (fourth section, Second Movement). The second category refers to Jewish prayers and Jewish themes - for example, “The High Priest’s whispered prayer on Yom Kippur as he leaves the Holy of Holies” (first section, Second Movement) and a quote from the Yom Kippur Order of Work prayer “One, One and One, one and one, one and two, one and three, one and four, one and five” (eighth section, Second Movement). The third category refers to events that occurred in Israel while I was composing the piece - for example, “Image of a homeless Holocaust survivor on the streets of Tel Aviv” (first section, Third Movement) and “The image of an old weary man” (second section, First Movement). The sections of the Second Movement which are analysed here extend over the following bars: the 1st section in bars 1-37; the 2nd section in bar 38; the 3rd section in bars 39-52; the 4th section in bars 53-58; the 5th section in bar 59; the 6th section in bars 61-67; the 7th section in bar 68; the 8th section in bars 69-100.

 

 

      The Use of Methods in the Second Movement  

The prayer Seder Ha’avoda (Order of Work) of Yom Ha’kippurim (the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jewish people) inspired the composing of the Second Movement. I strove to create a semblance of Piyyutim of Yom Ha’kippurim in a number of sections in the movement, and used quotes from the prayer in the sections titles. Seder Ha’avoda is an ancient liturgical ritual from the time of the First and Second Temples. The prayer describes the order of the service of the High Priest at the Beit Ha’Mikdash (The Holy Temple in Jerusalem) at Yom Ha’kippurim. Yom Ha’kippurim was the only day in the year in which the High Priest was permitted to enter the Temple’s Holy of Holies. The prayer describes in great detail how he entered and what he did. The purpose of the High Priest’s work was to plead for atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. 

 

The 1st section of the Second Movement (bars 1-37) is in three parts and resembles a Sephardi-Mizrahi Piyyut. The descriptive title (“The High Priest’s whispered prayer on Yom Kippur as he leaves the Holy of Holies”) directs the performers and the listeners towards the prayers that have inspired this work. Maqamat and modulation of ajnas can be seen in this section. In the first part of the section (bars 1-13) (Figure 5.8.), the Kurd tetra-chord (in D) has been transposed to F. Also, the fourth note has been lowered by a semitone, and so the transposed tetra-chord is changed to F, F#, G# and A. Bar 3 presents a short melody, and bars 4-6 are three variations of this melody. New ornamentation notes of the Maqam appear in each of the three variations, (1) in bar 4, the fourth quaver (F#) has been changed to an ornament of two semiquavers (F# and F), (2) in bar 5, in addition to the ornament in bar 4, the last note of the melody (G# crochet) has been changed to an ornament of a quaver (G#) and two semiquavers (F# and F), and (3) in bar 6, in addition to the ornaments in bars 4 and 5, the seventh quaver (G#) has been changed to an ornament of two semiquavers (G# and F#). Bars 7-10 repeat bars 3-6, and bars 11-13 are a new phrase that leads the part to its end. In the second part (bars 14-26) and in the third part (bars 27-37) of the 1st section a similar approach of adding ornamentation notes from the Maqam to a basic short melody have been applied. In the second part of the 1st section (bars 14-26) the Nahawand tetra-chord (in C) has been transposed to F#. Also, a semitone below the root (F) is added, and so the transposed tetra-chord became a penta-chord of F, F#, G#, A and B. In the third part of the 1st section (bars 27-37) the Hijaz tetra-chord (in D) has been transposed to C. Here an additional leading note (B) below the root has been added, and so the transposed tetra-chord became a penta-chord of B, C, D#, E and F. In the submitted recording of this composition the performers employed in this section used ornamentation gestures, such as wide vibrati, trills and glissandi by the strings and repeated notes by the piano to create heterophonic texture. So while I offered ornamentation notes, the performers in improvisation added ornamentation gestures to create the Arabic heterophonic sound.  

 

 

The 2nd section (bar 38), the 5th section (bar 59) and the 7th section (bar 68) are freely improvised. These sections begin without a musical transition from previous sections. The titles: “The dancers’ gleeful cries” (2nd section), “Eruption” (5th section) and “An even more powerful eruption” (7th section), have been chosen to suggest to the performers the mood of the improvisation. The listeners are invited to compare the titles with what they hear in the music. In this sense the titles are not to be understood as instructions for the listeners but rather as suggestive of the character and mood of the music. 

The 3rd section (bars 39-52) corresponds to the Dawr Hindi rhythmic pattern of classical Arabic music. Dawr Hindi (Figure 5.9.) is in 7/8, and its group division is 3+2+2. Dawr means cycle or turn, and Hindi means Indian. Here a basic division of the crochet beat into seven semiquavers that correspond to the groups of seven quavers of the Dawr Hindi has been used. In other words, I have replicated the rhythm of its grouping 3+2+2 at the level of the beat as opposed to the Dawr Hindi that uses it as a meter (7/8). The reduction of the metric division into seven semiquavers creates a septuplet. The tempo of the Dawr Hindi is between a crochet equals 100 and 160, while in my composition a crochet beat equals 50 resulting in a semiquaver tempo of 350. In this section the three players perform septuplets of various divisions in various combinations. In some cases septuplets repeat with minor changes in pitch and in terms of the rhythmic division, while in other cases, septuplets repeat a number of times without any change before the introduction of a new septuplet. The Dawr Hindi is replicated with a range of different divisions. 

 

 

Figure 5.10. shows the last four bars of the 3rd section (bars 49-52). In bar 49 the violin repeats a septuplet with a division of 3+2+2, and on the last beat of this bar this changes to a two-septuplet pattern of 3+3+1 (first septuplet) (last beat of bar 49) and 3+2+2 (second septuplet) (first beat of bar 50). The violin septuplet on the first beat of bar 50 has a Bartók pizzicato accent on the sixth semiquaver. In bar 49 the double bass repeats a septuplet with a division of 3+2+2, and on the second beat of bar 50 this changes to a two-septuplet pattern with a reversal division to that of the violin. Here the only change is that the violin Bartók pizzicato accent now occurs on the double bass fourth semiquaver. The right hand piano part repeats three septuplets; the first is on the first beat of bar 49 with a division of 3+2+2, the second is on the second beat of bar 49 with a division of 6+1 and with an accent on the seventh semiquaver, and the third is on bar 51 with a division of 4+2+1 and with accents on the fifth semiquaver and on the seventh semiquaver.

 

 

The 4th section (bars 53-58) contains two melodic lines and a short solo piano improvisation. The melodic lines replicate the division of the Dawr Hindi rhythmic pattern, but it is performed in a sort of an Eastern European “Gypsy music” style, employing an up-tempo melodic line of asymmetrical accents. The melodic lines contain septuplets and sextuplets and are performed in octaves. The septuplets, similar to the 3rd section, replicate the Dawr Hindi division of 3+2+2, and the sextuplets replicate division of 3+3. Figure 5.11. shows bars 54-58 of this section. In bars 54-55 and in bars 57-58 the melodic lines alternate between septuplets and sextuplets. Bar 56 contains a short solo piano improvisation, and can be perceived as a Taqsim or a maawal. The approach adopted in the 4th section can also be seen in many other sections of my works. 

 

 

The 6th section of the Second Movement (bars 61-67) (Figure 5.12.) resembles a traditional Arabic melody. This section employs a technique that might be best described as developing repetition. It starts with repetitions of a basic motif and then pitches and note values are added in order to create larger and more developed motifs. This technique can be seen as a reversal of Schoenberg’s liquidation, where complex phrases are gradually reduced to motivic cells. The characteristic elements of Arabic music in this section include (1) developing repetition, (2) accents and (3) a call-and-response. Developing repetition (as described above) can be seen in bars 61, 62 and 64. In bar 61, a three-note motif (C, D, D#) repeats twice, and at the third time expands. Only at the third time is the phrase completed (C, D, D#, E, F#, F, D#, F, D#). A similar approach applies in bars 62 and 64. Accents of Arabic traditional music can be seen in bars 61, 62, 65 and 66. In bars 61 and 62 the accents appear in the repetition without expansion (the first two beats) to strengthen the tension in the phrases. A call-and-response can be seen in bars 64, 65, 66 and 67. In bar 64, the first two repetitions of the phrase (E, F and G) can be regarded as a “call”, and the third repetition can be regarded as its “response”. Here the “calls” are performed in fortissimo and the “response” in pianissimo. In bar 65-67 a call-and-response occurs four times in a sequence, but here the “calls” are performed in pianissimo and the “responses” in fortissimo. Bars 65, 66 and 67 employed accents as part of a call-and-response. In the submitted recording of this composition, here also, the performers added ornamentation gestures, such as wide vibrato, trills and glissandi in the strings, to create the familiar Arabic sound. 

 

 

The 8th section extends from bars 69-100. It is the concluding section of the Second Movement and a development of the musical material of the 1st section of this movement. A descriptive title from the Yom Kippur Order of Work prayer applies (“One, one and one, one and two, one and three, one and four, one and five”) and here also directs the performers and the listeners towards the prayers that have inspired my work. This section is in three parts, and uses two of the three melodic lines of the 1st section. The first part of this section can be seen in bars 69-79, and is a repetition of the third melodic line of the 1st section. It uses a transposition to C of Hijaz tetra-chord (D). The second part of this section is a Taqsim and can be seen in bars 80-89. Here the opening melody from the 1st section has become a basis for the violin’s Taqsim. In the submitted recording of this composition the violinist played this Taqsim in rubato and employed modulation of neighbouring Maqamat and ornamentation gestures. The third part in bars 90-100 repeats the melody of the second part but this time within a trio improvisation. Here the performers employed ornamentation gestures (wide vibrati, trills and glissandi) and ornamentation notes of the Maqam to create heterophonic texture. 

 

Analysis of Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio 

      by Dr Yitzhak Yedid