About this Piece
While I was programming The Esoterics’ REQUIEM concert in 2003, I wanted to acknowledge the funeral rites of traditions other than in the Western Judeo-Christian world. More importantly, I hoped to compose a work that would honor the countless Muslim lives lost in America’s continuing aggression toward the nation of Iraq. However, in my research of the Islamic funeral rite, I found that there was little to no music performed in the Muslim funeral. In fact, aside from the chanting of the Qur’an, there is very little music in the Islamic liturgy, except for among more ‘esoteric’ Muslims, such as the Alevi or Sufi sects. For the Sufis (also known as “whirling dervishes”), poetry, music, and dance comprise the very center of the religious rite, and the eloquence of Sufism’s most famous poet — Mevlânâ Jâlâl al-Dîn Muhammad Rûmî – has exerted an enormous influence, not only over his specific faith community, but also to spiritual teachers and scholars around the world. Today, 700 years after his birth, Rûmî’s 13th century poems have been translated into every major language, and are read and celebrated around the globe.
For Jâvdâni, I have chosen to set two separate “quatrains” (or rubâ’iyât) – 6 and 1070 – by Rûmî. When placed in close relief, these eight lines reveal wonderful eternal images of water, light, and spirits that combine to make a single, sacred whole. I have set these Persian verses and their English translation as four concentric circles of pitch – for, as the Sufis dance, they spin on four separate physical and spiritual axes. The opening and closing Persian sections sketch these arcs canonically, and the central English section declaims the quatrains in to complete the diatonic circumference. Since this entire work is circular, it is not only palindromic, it is also symmetrical, as each of the four vocal pairs moves around the center in opposite directions.