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Album artwork by Emma Riehlman

"Throughout, White brings out the contrasts between fragility and intensity for a compelling listening experience."

About the Album

Ri Ra is a performing, premiering, and recording project comprised of works for solo C flute, alto flute, and bass flute. The project was conceived amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to bring awareness to works that can diversify Western classical flute programming, highlight music-cultural exchange between the West and the Middle East, as well as showcase living, talented composers from historically underrepresented groups in the realm of Western art music.

 

Most of the works on the album were winners of a call for scores that took place over the summer and early fall of 2020, which strove to find compositions inspired by Middle-Eastern musical traditions and/or by composers of Middle-Eastern descent. The composers featured in this album are mostly from the countries of Iran and Lebanon.

This album combines Middle Eastern musical aesthetics and Western contemporary art music compositional practices. This is achieved through the use of extended flute techniques to evoke sounds of the nay or shabbaba, modes outside the major-minor binary, and distinctly Middle-Eastern forms such as the mawwal and taqasim.

The recordings on this album are the first commercially-available recordings of the works.

Photo by Mahroo Ghoddousi
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Nay Nava (The Song of Nay) for solo alto flute (2011) by Parisa Sabet

Award-winning composer Parisa Sabet writes music that is commissioned and performed internationally. Her distinctive musical language springs from her Iranian roots, Western education, and passion for socially engaged arts. Interweaving sounds both recognizable and new, her compositions evoke emotions, conjure images, and relate stories, often about pressing social issues.

Sabet earned the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in composition from the University of Toronto, where her honors included the Mirkopoulos and Miller/Khoshkish fellowships and the Tecumesh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award given to a musician on the cusp of making important contributions to the field. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree with honors at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Among her teachers are Christos Hatzis, Keith Tedman, Kyong Mee Choi, Ka Nin Chan, and Stacy Garrop. Her adventure with music began at age 9 with piano lessons in Shiraz.

Program notes from the composer

Nay Nava (2011) is composed for solo alto flute inspired by Iranian Nay player, Maestro Hassan Kassai. Nay Nava is one of the earliest compositions featuring loose interpretation of some elements of Persian traditional music such as modes, narrative, use of quarter tones, and improvisatory qualities.

Nay Nava won the 2011 Timothy Munro's solo flute composition Competition. Mr. Munro, a triple-Grammy winner musician based in Chicago, premiered Nay Nava on his solo concert, Unanswered Questions, on January 28, 2012 in Ganz Hall Chicago, IL.

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Parineh (2019) by Erfan Attarchi

Erfan Attarchi is an Iranian contemporary composer. He was born in 1995 in Tehran, Iran. He started learning the principles of Iranian Traditional Music by playing Tar and started to learn composition from Karen Keyhani and Ehsan Saboohi. His works include music pieces for solo piano, chamber works, large symphonic ensembles, string orchestra, string quartet, wind orchestra, and arrangement of Iranian folklore music scores.

Program notes from the performer

Parineh (پارينه) means "ancient" in Persian. This piece uses extended techniques to evoke the sound of an ancient flute in a contemporary context.

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Miniatures from Phoenicia for flute alone (2020) by Sami Seif

Sami Seif is a Lebanese composer, music theorist and pianist. His music is inspired by the aesthetics, philosophies and paradigms of his Middle-Eastern heritage, as well as his ideal of creating deeply emotional and spiritually stirring music. His works have been described as “very tasteful and flavorful” with “beautiful, sensitive writing!” (Webster University Young Composers Competition). His latest musical concerns center around the phenomenology of time and of differing degrees of focus.

Seif has won a number of awards and prizes including the WCSMS 2020 Promising Young Composers Competition, 2020 Ohio Federation of Music Clubs Collegiate Contest and the 2019-2020 Webster University Young Composers Competition. Additionally, he was selected as finalists for the 2019 Kaleidoscope chamber orchestra call for scores from a pool of more than 2200 applicants from more than 90 countries.

Originally from the small town of Ashkout in Mount Lebanon, he was born to a non-musical family in Abu Dhabi and he is fluent in Arabic, French and English. He started out at the age of twelve as a self-taught musician, composing and playing keyboard instruments. He then studied Piano and Composition in Abu Dhabi with Julia Victorivna Podsekaeva from 2013-2015. During this period, he also studied audio engineering and sound synthesis. Later, he moved to Toronto and studied composition with Roger Bergs.

He is currently double-majoring in composition and music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is studying composition with Keith Fitch and Piano with Gerardo Teissonnière. He has taken masterclasses with such renowned composers as Stephen Hartke, Andrew Norman and Melinda Wagner. Upcoming performances of his work can be heard at the 2021 Sewanee Summer Music Festival, as well as a by the Odin Quartet in Canada in May 2021.

Program notes from the composer

Around 1050 BC, the Phoenicians invented the very first writing system based on phonetics. Spread
by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, it evolved and was assimilated by many other
cultures and became the foundation for the Roman alphabet used by Western civilization – as well as all

other alphabetic writing systems currently in use.

Miniatures from Phoenicia intersects my curiosity about linguistics (specifically the branch of
phonology) with my interest in the history of my ancestors, the Phoenicians, particularly their
groundbreaking innovation – the phonetic alphabet – into my music. The music is partially inspired by the
main phonological groups: vowels, plosives (p, t, k, etc...), sibilances/fricatives (s, sh, f, etc...).


The music of Phoenicia has been lost. With this piece, however, I invite the audience to re-imagine
what it might have sounded like. I ask the flutist to play in a number of unconventional ways – sometimes

superimposing multiple extended techniques on top of each other.

The language of the music is constructed with the help of small cells that form recursive patterns –
mimicking the recursive nature of Semitic languages. Perhaps one might hear the spirit of ancient Phoenicia

come back to life through these miniatures.

Miniatures from Phoenicia is dedicated to Mary Kay Fink who so generously helped me, and without
whom this piece would not exist in its current form. I am eternally grateful for all of her guidance, ideas

and inspiration – as well as for premiering the piece.

Photo by Hamid Payombarnia
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Surge for solo flute or alto flute (2016) by Iman Habibi

Iman Habibi, D.M.A. (Michigan), is an Iranian-Canadian composer and pianist, and a founding member of the piano duo ensemble, Piano Pinnacle.

Hailed as “a giant in talent” (the Penticton Herald), Dr. Habibi has been commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Orchestra of St. Luke's, and collaborated with the Vancouver and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, JACK Quartet, Chiara String Quartet, Del Sol String Quartet, and The Calidore String Quartet, and has been programmed by Carnegie Hall, The Marilyn Horne Foundation, New York Festival of Song, The Canadian Opera Company, and Tapestry New Opera, among others.

His awards include multiple wins at the SOCAN Foundation’s Awards, The International Composers’ Award at the Esoterics’ POLYPHONOS (2012), The Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Awards for Emerging Artist in Music (2011), Brehm Prize in Choral Music (2016), as well as numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, and BC Arts Council.

Program notes from the composer

Surge is a non-representational piece for solo C flute or alto flute. It was composed during my doctoral studies at The University of Michigan, and born out of my ongoing studies of folk rhythms and melodies of my birth country of Iran. A technically demanding work, Surge requires the performer to execute a number of extended techniques in quick succession, and to sing and play at the same time. It was originally written for flutist Merryl Neille, and premiered by her in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2016.

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Ri Ra I for solo flute (2020) by Ata Ghavidel

Ata Ghavidel (Ata Ghavidel Aghdam) was born in 1988 in Ahvaz, Iran. Ata began his musical training in Iran as a guitar player when he was a child, then he started to compose music and he studied Persian music under the guidance of Amir Hasan Amin Sharifi and the fundamentals of composition by the renowned Iranian composer, Karen Keyhani. At the same time, he studied at the University of Applied Science and Conservatory of Tehran and graduated in composition as a distinguished student in both. He has been selected in many composition competitions and festivals and also he has collaborated with some performers all around the world. 

 

He has been a selected composer in a competition by Dustin White for solo flute piece ''Ri Ra I'', United States. 

-Winner composer for Solo Flute piece ''Ri Ra II'', Petrichor Records, USA.

-Selected composer of reMuzik festival, Russia.

-For the Solo Piano piece ''Play'', Aleph group gathering, Tehran, Iran.

-For two Solo Piano pieces, Tehran Conservatory. 

-For two Solo Piano pieces, Art University, Karaj. 

-Selected composer for the first round of Ahmad Pejman's competition, Tehran, Iran. 

-For Solo Bassoon piece ''While Her Voice Withers'', 4th Tehran International Contemporary Music Festival, Tehran, Iran.

 

He also collaborates with some performers from all over the world: 

Solo Flute piece ''The Shadow'', performed by Cem Önertürk, Turkey.

Solo Flute piece ''Forgotten'', performed by Tommaso Bisiak, Italy. 

Persian quintet ''Safarnameh'', performed by an Iranian ensemble, Tehran, Iran. 

Solo violin(Nightly Monologue) performed by Fantou Clerc, Toulouse, France, and some classical style of solo pieces for Piano by Parsa Riahi. 

 

He also had private classes with some noteworthy composers such as Reza Vali, Ken Ueno, Nader Mashayekhi, and participated in some masterclasses by Chaya Czernowin, Don Freund, Katharina Rosenberger, Alessandro Solbiati, Jacob Rataj.

Program notes from the composer

Ri Ra I is a piece for solo flute which is inspired in a poem by Nima Yooshij. In that poem, the poet talks to someone whose personality is not clear to us. He/She can be a God, a man, a woman, someone whom the poet admires/loves, or briefly anyone. The ''Ri Ra'' has been written in two versions that show us two perceptions of this matter. One is completely realistic and another is imaginary. This is the first perception that shows us the realistic perspective of this matter.

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The Awiss Dance for solo bass flute (2020) by Wajdi Abou Diab

Wajdi’s music exhibits an echo from the Arabic Mashriq musical history, in a modern language that imitates the contemporary unbalanced world, reflecting the contradictions, beauty, and brutality within it. And it searches as well for inspiration in the elements of Arabic music such as Maqamat, rhythms and Taqassim, as well as in classical Arabic language and rhythms of poetry, which results in a unique Contemporary Oriental music language.

Born in Lebanon in 1991, got his license in piano in 2014, then in Music Composition and electronic music in 2016, from the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music, and is currently continuing his studies in piano and bassoon performance in the same conservatory where he also teaches piano, harmony and music theory. He’s also the principal conductor, art director, and arranger for “Beit Atfal Al Soumoud Kids’ Orchestra”, “the Lebanese Higher Conservatory Orchestra and Choir – Choueifet branch”.

Program notes from the composer

The Awiss Dance, Opus 13, is a piece for solo bass flute based on the traditional ancient Arabic rhythm called Al Awiss that was used in old Arabic tribes to make horses and camels dance by their Arab riders. The rhythm consists of an 11/8 meter that gives the music a moving forward feeling, combined with one of the most expressive Arabic scales (makamat), called Saba, that has a sorrowful and dark mood, though suitable sometimes for dance and fast movement.

This piece uses the bass flute as a melodic instrument to recall the ancient Arab world, using some microtonal elements that come from the nature of Arabic makam music, and also using the bass flute as a percussion instrument to introduce the Awiss rhythm and the camel dance spirit. Starting with a Mawwal - a group of small improvised melodic phrases that Arabic singers used to start their performances with - we can hear the flutist sing on the instrument while playing it. Then, moving along to introduce the rhythmic elements using some of the most percussive techniques on the flute, and gradually adding the melodic elements, first with half-sound half-air (resembling the Arabic old instrument shabbaba that is well known for its very breathy sound), then with full-sound, in addition to the clear rhythmic accent that keeps the Awiss pulse alive.

Photo by SMCQ-Jérôme Bertrand

Dialogue du silence (2003) by Katia Makdissi-Warren

Katia Makdissi-Warren specialized in composition at conservatories in Quebec City, Canada and Hamburg, Germany before travelling to Beirut to study Arabic and Syrian music. She has also attended courses given by Franco Donatoni, Ennio Morricone, Manfred Stahnke and Father Louis Hage. Known for her innovative compositions that offer a unique blend of Middle Eastern and Western musical styles, Katia created the score for the multimedia gallery spaces in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Katia is the founder and artistic director of OktoEcho, a musical ensemble that specializes in fusing Middle Eastern and Western styles. She also works as a composer for a number of music companies, theater and dance troupes, and documentary filmmakers. Her work as an artist has garnered her multiple nominations for the Bernard Bonnier and Gala des Masques prizes. In her role as conductor-in-chief, she has headed the contemporary music group, Erreur de Type 27 (E27) in Quebec City and the musical, Les Misérables, which played to great acclaim at the Capitole Theater in Quebec City. When the city hosted the international guitar festival, she was second conductor to Léo Brower.

Program notes from the composer

Dialogue du silence is inspired by an Arabic improvisation form called taqasim. The taqasim, meaning division of time, emphasizes the importance of silence. In the present piece the silences punctuate the phrases. They serve as transitions and echoes of the preceding phrases. The length of the rests is left to the discretion of the performer, hence the title The Dialogue of Silence.