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Audio Library

Wine (Three Microtonal Songs: No 1)

Forty years ago, Meirion Bowen wrote of Harry Partch's microtonal songs: "In his musical treatment of the Seventeen Lyrics by Li-Po (1931-33), Partch brought new life to the words in ways that do not unhinge them from their ancient origin. So, too, with his setting of Psalm 137, By the rivers of Babylon (1931): the wailing voice-intonation lends an age-old, timeless quality to the lament, enhanced by comparable sounds from the instrumental accompaniment of chromelodeon, kithara, and adapted viola".

These are by no means the only possible aesthetic and technical reasons for adopting microtonal tuning, but certainly something of the same general intentions apply here: a search for the technical means of enabling texts from remote times, places, languages or modes of utterance to find expression through the musical language of the twenty-first century and contemporary vocal performance practice. The specific intentions were however quite different from Partch's restraint and austerity: a search for a musical language to reflect something of the ecstatic Islamic mysticism of various couplets from the celebrated fourteenth-century Turkish sufi poet Yunus Emre in the English translations of Süha Faiz.

Text by Yunus Emre (Turkish, 14th Century) trans Süha Faiz

Of that cup-bearer's wine we drank Whose tavern is the Throne of Heaven;
We were made drunk by Him Whose beaker is the souls of humankind.

.....from The City of the Heart: Yunus Emre's Sufi Verses of Wisdom and Love,
ed Süha Faiz (Nicosia: Near East University Press)
ISBN 975-17-0800-1

Ash (Three Microtonal Songs: No 2)

Text by Yunus Emre (Turkish, 14th Century), trans Süha Faiz

Upon the Road to the Beloved, you burn until you are but ash.
Though in a day I burn a thousand times, I will not turn away.

.....from The City of the Heart: Yunus Emre's Sufi Verses of Wisdom and Love,
ed Süha Faiz (Nicosia: Near East University Press)
ISBN 975-17-0800-1

Dance (Three Microtonal Songs: No 3)

Text by Yunus Emre (Turkish, 14th Century), trans Süha Faiz

I stood upon the globe of Atlas, joined with the planets in their dance;
Though here my eyes but darkly see, I saw Mohammed's radiance there.

.....from The City of the Heart: Yunus Emre's Sufi Verses of Wisdom and Love,
ed Süha Faiz (Nicosia: Near East University Press)
ISBN 975-17-0800-1