Oud Bass Piano Trio
Suite in five Movements
Mikhail Maroun (Oud)
Ora Boasson Horev (Double Bass)
Yitzhak Yedid (Piano)
The Oud-Bass-Piano Trio is a suite in five movements composed by Yitzhak Yedid in Jerusalem, Israel in 2005.
The work is an authentic expression of new music which incorporates a wide spectrum of contemporary and ancient styles. It creates a unique confluence of Jewish musical styles and prayers with Arabic music, western music and jazz vernacular.
The work’s five movements comprise images, textures of colors, and fascinating fusions of cultures and styles that ebb and flow between precise execution and free-flowing, boundary-traversing playing, oscillating between the silent prayer of the Kabbalist and the joy of the Palestinian bride, between the rhythms of Belly dances at an Imaginary Cult ceremony and a baroque style ballroom setting, and between A Song from the land of Israel and somber multitonality.
The structure of the composition may be likened to that of a film or play, with scenes or acts represented by the parts of each movement, while the characters are the subjects and the motifs. The ambiance, which sometimes changes dramatically, engenders tension and mystery. And, just like in a movie or a play, here too the full import can only be appreciated and understood by uninterrupted listening to the entire work.
The titles of the parts - images and poetic comments - act as a guide to the overall feel of the composition and are not binding. The listener may put the titles together with the music to form a story, as he or she understands or imagines.
The Oud-Bass-Piano Trio is a work written and constructed based on a variety of substrata. Alongside compositional techniques that derive from contemporary classical composers the work incorporates improvisational sections that reflect the spirit and patterns of eastern folk music, Jewish and western music and avant-garde jazz. This compositional concept is based on the idea of the contemporary artist being familiar with, and having mastery of, a range of musical languages and, in effect, this creates a language of musical richness designed to blend into a single homogeneous entity. The three artists who perform this work alternately express a cornucopia of images and spirits, both delicate and impulsively explosive, tranquil and complex. The musicians are required to convey these senses and feelings based on their own understanding and interpretation, which they express in their improvisational explorations and, occasionally, even through creating their personal subcompositions. In the final analysis, the objective is to produce a performance that breaks free of defined boundaries.
The first movement opens with Prelude – Eternal love, taken from the Jewish morning benedictions, expressed through a short double bass solo and played like a folk tune with microtones. This short opening symbolizes the work’s religious orientation that incorporates prayers and benedictions.
This is followed by - Sunlight shines upon ancient beauty with the oud issuing forth from a mystical air played on the piano. This is repeated until the piano and double bass rejoin the oud in melodic unison. In the subsequent communal improvisation the piano contribution filters through an open pedal sound with blocked strings played by the pianist’s left hand. This imbues the piano with an oud-like property, and gives all three instruments a special tonal quality. Priestly blessing is a supplication presented by all three instruments, with the double bass and oud alternating the pitch and intensity, delicately and unsystematically. Each instrument appears to pray on its own but, in effect, it is a shared prayer with the piano complementing the desired tone.
Silence of the Non-believer is a silent reincarnation of the Non-believer’s Prayer from the earlier Myth of the Cave composition, suggesting that the Non-believer may have erred. Later in the part, the opening melody returns but, this time, with a different continuum that leads onto free improvisation by all three instruments. The movement closes with a short blessing/tune from the end of the Benediction of the Priests, “and he shall bring you peace”, and completes a circle together with the opening image (double bass solo).
The second movement opens with a very gentle and slow The Good Angel which offers no hint of the tempestuous development that is to follow. The movement is largely influenced by a Christian myth which relates that God created angels to serve him, led by the angel Hillel Ben Shahar (Star of The Morning) who was second in power and beauty only to the Creator himself, but who committed the sin of vanity. In his wish to resemble the Lord himself, he rebelled against Him. God was angered by this and cast him out to a place of suffering and sin, to hell in the bowels of the Earth.
The repetitious rhythm of the piano, the rising and falling glissando of the double bass and the emerging trill of the oud depict an atmosphere of impending chaos. Then short improvisational excerpts, fired by powerful dynamics, produce The Angels’ Revolt. A quick shared melody leads on to an agitated improvised part called How You Fell from Heaven, O Star of The Morning (Hillel son of Shahar) (Isaiah, 14:12) in which the prophet Isaiah describes the penalty the king will pay for his pride and arrogance, and that he will meet a fate similar to another ancient character - Star of The Morning. In hell, another imaginary picture suddenly emerges, with Belly Dances at an Imaginary Cult Ceremony, reaching its climax with a piano solo that culminates in a repeated melody. The movement closes with in the Celestial World which describes a feeling of transcendency and calm, like the good angels in heaven, although the tension of Star of The Morning is still palpable.
The third movement starts out with A Pianist’s Conflict piano solo, ending with a trill complemented by the oud and double bass as Where Does the Cardo End? The cardo was the main thoroughfare of Jerusalem during the Roman Era which was unearthed in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The story continues to unfold with
Jerusalem Fugue written as a five-part fugue leading into an improvisational passage of all three instruments. Here the piano creates a bell-like sound that alludes to the churches of Jerusalem, crafted by dividing and blocking the piano strings manipulated by the pianist’s right hand to produce overtones.
In the Reflection of the Sabbath Candles paints a picture performed in whispers, in unison. It leads on to an image of overt joy described as Palestinian Bride over which the oud improvises in an eastern maqamat (scale). The movement ends with a rapidly played Illusory Bliss, influenced by the work of legendary Egyptian singer Om Koulthoum.
The fourth movement opens with Kabbalist’s Prayer, the emotive supplication of a very holy man. The three instruments play a slow passage that evolves gradually and subtly. The oud and double bass improvise delicate microtonal changes.
The Oud’s Regard is an authentic eastern improvised mawal (solo) ending with a piano pianissimo 7/8 rhythm. The piano then joins in, followed by the double bass, to portray Love Fantasies. The ambiance becomes minimalist with each instrument changing the rhythm or tone in turn, ascending to a repetitive dissonant climax which segues into an image that appeared in Imaginary Ritual Belly Dance, in the second movement. The movement’s close is portrayed in On the Day of Silence, as a Kabbalist’s prayer, fantasies of love, with the oud and belly dance rhythms merging and finally abating in silence.
The closing fifth movement sets out with intense minimalism. The three instruments sketch intricate lines with different rhythms, with the pianist’s left hand augmenting a surprising fourth voice. The picture reaches a climax of intense dissonance, as an angel of God calls out from heaven: “What ails thee, Hagar? Fear not”, although it is clear she has much to fear. The following rendition of Benediction of the Priests bears a more significant message, this time, near the work’s end. This is a final blessing that completes a cycle and leads on to Yichud , the moment of seclusion following a traditional Jewish Wedding ceremony.
The composition closes with Epilogue - A Song from the Land of Israel, the double bass leading a fervent tune in an Israeli folk style. The oud fills a substratum role reminiscent of mandolin pizzicato while the piano anchors with simple chord progressions. This concept signifies the fusing of opposites and different streams in the Israeli cultural melting pot.
Jerusalem, September 2005
Composition by Yitzhak Yedid. ACUM
Produced by Yitzhak Yedid
Coproduced by Volker Dueck
Recorded at the "Jaffo Music Auditorium"
in Tel- Aviv, Israel, August 27th, 2006
Recording engineer: Eitan Shamai
Mixing engineer: Udi Koomran
Photos: Or Rajwan
Cover Photo: Volker Dueck
Ora Boasson Horev
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