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Guest Composer Concert: Seattle-Isfahan Project

Saturday, October 28, 2023 - 7:30pm
$20 general; $15 UW affiliate; $10 students, seniors.
Guitarist Naeim Rahmani, creator of the Seattle Isfahan Project
Guitarist Naeim Rahmani, creator of the Seattle Isfahan Project

The latest installment of an ongoing series created by artistic director Naeim Rahmani ('10 BM, Guitar Performance), the program includes commissioned works by Iranian composers living outside of Iran and Seattle-based composers with strong ties to the UW Composition Program: Huck Hodge, Joël-François Durand, Jeff Bowen, and Yigit Kölat. 


Farzia Fallah: Thirty-Three Drops of Water

Yiǧit Kolat: The Oasis of Now

Aida Shirazi: Carrying the Song of Life

Jeffrey Bowen: Weir

Joël-François Durand: In a weightless quiet

Huck Hodge: The Simple and Unvarying Geometry of Breaths

Naeim Rahmani - guitar
Jeff Bowen - guitar
Abbey Blackwell - double bass
Luke Fitzpatrick - violin/viola
Laure Struber - piano
Neil Welch - saxophone
Carrie Shaw - voice

Marcin Pączkowski, conductor

Program Notes

Farzia Fallah
Thirty-Three Drops of Water (2020)

In this piece I work with individual sounds, some of them very dry, some of them microtonal and some very fragile. I shape them to drops of sounds. Each and every sound is celebrated, as each drop means a piece of life. Water is life.

Yiǧit Kolat
The Oasis of Now (2020)

This piece can be considered in two distinct ways:

- A meditation on the following lines from Sohrab Sepehri’s poem " The Oasis of Now":

“If you are coming to me
approach gently, softly, lest you crack
the fragile china of my solitude.”

- A meditation on this “situation”:
“The musicians have departed to build new lives, leaving their instruments behind. The doctors have done the same, as have the teachers, engineers, artists... After drying up all the life-giving flows in this land, what remains to us are the distant echoes of their streams.”

Aida Shirazi
Carrying the Song of Life (2020)

Carrying the Song of Life is based on the poem I am a Leaf by Yone Noguchi. My work
explores the subtle, yet profound imagery of Noguchi’s poetry, influenced by Japanese haiku. Noguchi uses images from Nature to reflect on the delicate and ephemeral quality of life and existence.Carrying the Song of Life tries to create an intimate, contemplative space that blends the voice and synthesizer. The drone with a granular texture provides a bed for the voice to move in an improvisatory manner and bring forth the depth of the words.

Jeffrey Bowen
Weir (2020)

“There are rumors that the Bridge of 33 Arches will collapse if it stays dry much longer. They
used a material that must not dry out.”

-Resident of Isfahan, in conversation with Thomas Erdbrink

Whether or not the collapse of this iconic bridge is imminent, this image—of a structure whose integrity is dependent on the river that courses through its arches—resonated strongly for me, as it points to the inescapable dependence of human activity and ingenuity on the presence and movement of essential natural sources. This piece begins with (and is built upon) processed sounds periodically emanating from the piano, which are treated as such a source, and consist of recordings of the Tolt and Cedar rivers colored by fragments extracted from Naeim Rahmani’s recitation of Sohrab Sepheri’s poem, The Fishes’ Message.
The harmonics played inside the piano introduce pitches quite close to specific frequencies of this sound source, creating acoustic beating patterns that provide the rhythmic basis of the sections that follow. The rest of the piece explores the possibility of building and extending musical structures from this interaction with a source outside the ensemble, as well as how this musical activity adapts in the source’s absence.

Joël-François Durand
In a weightless quiet, for solo violin (2020)

In a weightless quiet belongs to a group of works that I started to write in 2019, in which I explore the formal and structural potentials of an acoustic phenomenon known to all musicians when they tune their instruments: the beats that occur when two tones of very close frequencies are played at the same time. The first work in this group is for viola and ensemble (Geister, schwebende Geister, for viola and ensemble 2019-20); the second is this violin piece and the third to date is my second string quartet Canto de amigo written in 2020. In each of these works, the beats are generated by playing one of the open strings of the instruments at the same time as a similar pitch with a microtonal deviation, on another string.
What I find fascinating in this use of controlled beat patterns is that they actually permit to directly experience what is usually considered a physical/mathematical concept. In sensory experience (auditory perception), we cannot be aware of the mathematical ratio between the frequencies of two notes played at the same time; it's an abstract concept (we don't hear a 3:2 ratio when we hear a fifth; we hear a fifth). But when the pitches are very close, the phenomenon of "first-order beat" becomes an actual experience. How this works is fairly simple to explain: if for example, the two frequencies are 3 Hz apart—say, 443 Hz and 440 Hz—we hear two things: first, the two original frequencies become one single tone (mathematically, it’s the median value of the two); additionally, we hear a pulsation of three beats animating this single tone. The “median value” in this case is 441.5 Hz; and the pulsation that accompanies it—the difference between the two original frequencies—is three beats per second which, when we hear them, is the audible manifestation of an arithmetic equation, in this case, the subtraction 443 - 440 = 3! 
The form of In a weightless quiet is based on a series of sections that explore the tonal regions of the three open strings of the violin A, D and E, and their extensions through microtones that generate 3, 5, 7 and 11 beats per second. After an introduction centered on A, the sections that follow tend to begin with the low D and ascend from to A and E in several successive waves. The focus on these three tonal regions and their interactions with each other give each section a particular color and character. The phenomenon of beats itself can be presented in gestures that are sometimes too fast for the pulsations to be clearly audible (as in the very beginning for example). At other times, longer held notes make them clearer and the beatings are then clearly perceived as regular rhythmic subdivisions of the basic pulse. So, when they are not clearly heard, one cannot be sure whether it's because the pitches are “out of tune” or whether they express something else. When the line slows down, the beats are revealed without ambiguity. In between these two extremes, there is a whole vocabulary of gestures that can evoke these subdivisions in different ways: repeated notes, slow or rapid alternance between two strings, tremolos etc. I find it fascinating how these beats have a sort of extra-worldly character, appearing seemingly out of nowhere since they are not directly produced by the performer, who is playing two pitches but not the rhythmic beating itself.
—Joël-François Durand

Huck Hodge
The Simple and Unvarying Geometry of Breaths (2020)

Life is a lovely ritual.
Life has wings as vast as death,
It is a leap the size of love.
Life is not something to be forgotten on the windowsill of habit,
Life is the rapture of a hand that reaps.
Life is the first black fig in the acrid mouth of summer.

Life is the dimensions of a tree from the eyes of an insect.
Life is the experience that a bat has in the dark.
Life is the homesickness that a migrating bird feels.
Life is the whistle of a train that turns through the dream of a bridge.
Life is observing a garden from the obstructed windows of an airplane.
It is the news of the launch of a rocket into space,
Touching the loneliness of the Moon,
The notion of smelling a flower on another planet.
Life is the washing of a plate.
Life is the square root of a mirror.
Life is a blossom to the power of eternity.
Life is the Earth multiplied by our heartbeats.
Life is the simple and unvarying geometry of breaths.

Adapted from Sohrab Sepehri, & Karim Emami (trans.).
(1982). Water's Footsteps: A Poem. Iranian Studies, 15(1/4), 97-116.

Seattle-Isfahan Project

Naeim Rahmani, classical guitarist and Artistic Director of the Seattle-Isfahan Project, has commissioned new works by Iranian composers living outside of Iran and three Seattle composers (Jeff Bowen, Huck Hodge, Yigit Kolat) to draw attention to the water crisis that is happening now in Iran, particularly the drought that is affecting the Zayandeh-Roud, the river that gave birth to the city of Isfahan.

In the last decade, Iran has experienced severe drought tied to climate change. In Isfahan this has been most noticeable in the parched riverbed of the Zayandehroud river. The once flowing river cut across the landscape and carved timeless memories in people’s minds. The “Empty River of Life” ran under the historic bridges and for more than 400 years, the Se-o-se pol (Bridge of 33 Arches) made its motion and power visible. While the bridge is standing, the river is no longer running as it used to. One day it’s flowing and the next day it is literally gone. The future of the river, like the future of the country, is uncertain. This project is intended to both pay homage to the river and to raise people’s awareness about the drought and its impacts.


Naeim Rahmani

Award winning guitarist Naeim Rahmani was born in Isfahan, Iran and immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 2003. Presently based in Seattle, Naeim completed his Master's degree with Rene Izquierdo at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. 

Naeim has performed throughout the US and internationally. He enjoys bringing his music to small community or arthouse spaces where he can interact with the audience.  His performance venues have included everything from private homes and community churches, to a renovated industrial space in Oaxaca, Mexico, ancient churches along the Camino Santiago in Spain, and arthouses in Berlin. In all of these places Naeim brings his deeply personal style to create an intimate musical experience for the audience.

Joël-François Durand

Composing, writing, teaching, inventing new ways of hearing – all are linked in the work of Joël-François Durand. As a composer, his career was launched in Europe with important prizes: a Third Prize at in the 1983 Stockhausen Competition for the piano piece “…d’asiles déchirés…,” the Kranichsteiner Preis from the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music in 1990. Commissions and performances from many of today’s most significant ensembles followed – Ensemble Intercontemporain, London Sinfonietta, Arditti Quartet, Jack Quartet, Quatuor Diotima, ASKO, Ensemble Recherche, musikFabrik, Talea Ensemble, Dal Niente Ensemble, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio France, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Durand is Professor of Composition at the School of Music, University of Washington, as well as Acting Director. He has been awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professorship for 2019-22. Durand’s works are singular and powerful, combining rigorous and innovative structures with a prominent lyrical impulse. Durand’s music and personality received critical attention in the 2005 book Joël-François Durand in the Mirror Land (University of Washington Press and Perspectives of New Music) edited by his University of Washington School of Music colleague Jonathan Bernard, which features in addition to analyses by Bernard and several of the School’s students, an innovative self-interview authored by Durand himself. Recent projects for Durand include a work for large orchestra, Tropes de : Bussy, based on some of Debussy’s piano Préludes, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which was premiered April 18-20, 2019 and a work for viola and ensemble, to be premiered by Melia Watras, viola and the Dal Niente ensemble in May 2020.

Commercial recordings of his music are available on the Auvidis-Naïve, Mode Records, Wergo, Albany Records and Soundset Recordings labels. In 2010, Durand embarked on a new path: he designed and started commercial production of a new tonearm for record players. The Talea, as it was called, took the audio world by storm and was followed by three further models, the Telos, the Kairos and most recently (2019), the Tosca also aimed at the most refined audio reproduction systems. For his work at his company Durand Tonearms LLC, he was made a University of Washington Entrepreneurial Fellow in 2010.  As a guest composer and lecturer, Durand has contributed to the “Centre de la Voix” in Royaumont, France where he was co-director of the composition course in September 1993, the “Civica Scuola di Musica” in Milan, Italy (1995), the Royal Academy for Music in London, UK (1997), the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1984, 1990, 1992, 1994), the “VIII. Internationaler Meisterkurs für Komposition des Brandenburgischen Colloquiums für Neue Musik”, Rheinsberg (1998), Washington State University, Pullman, WA (2004), and Stanford University (2006), among others. In the Fall 1994 he was Visiting Assistant Professor in Composition at the University of California at San Diego.

Durand is listed in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Faculty Composer Huck Hodge

Huck Hodge is professor and chair of the composition program in the school of music. A composer of “harmonically fresh work", "full of both sparkle and thunder” (New York Times), his music has been praised for its “immediate impact” (Chicago Tribune), its "clever, attractive, streamlined" qualities (NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam), and its ability to "conjure up worlds of musical magic” with “power and charisma" (Gramophone Magazine, London). There is a dramatic interplay of color, light, and darkness in his music, which emerges from an uncanny blending of pure and dissonant harmonies, widely spaced orchestrations and vast, diffuse timbres. 

Hodge is the recipient of many prestigious awards and distinctions. Among these is the Charles Ives Living, the largest music award conferred by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other major awards include the Rome Prize (Luciano Berio Fellowship), the Gaudeamus Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the American Composers Forum (JFund), the Barlow Endowment, Music at the Anthology (MATA), the American Academy in Rome, Muziek Centrum NederlandMusik der Jahrhunderte, and the National Theater and Concert Hall of Taiwan, in addition to multiple grants and awards from ASCAP, the Bogliasco Foundation, Copland House, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), MacDowell, New Music USA, the Siemens Musikstiftung, and Yaddo.

His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and at numerous major festivals — the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Berliner Festspiele, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Shanghai New Music Week (上海当代音乐周), ISCM World Music Days, and many others in over twenty countries on six continents. Other performances include those by members of the Berlin Philharmonic and Ensemble Modern, the ASKO / Schönberg Ensemble, the Seattle Symphony, and the Orchestra of the League of Composers. His chamber music has been premiered, performed and recorded by a long list of soloists and ensembles such as the Daedalus, JACK, Mivos, and Pacifica string quartets, the Adapter, Aleph, Argento, Dal Niente, Divertimento, Insomnio, SurPlus, and Talea ensembles, and his colleagues David Gordon, Donna Shin, Cristina Valdés, Cuong Vu, and Bonnie Whiting. His published music is distributed by Alexander Street Press (US) and Babel Scores (France). Recordings of his music appear on the New World and Albany record labels and have been featured in numerous national and international broadcasts.

Before joining the University of Washington, Hodge taught composition at Columbia University, where he earned his M.A. and D.M.A. studying with Fred Lerdahl, George Lewis, and Tristan Murail. Prior to this, he studied composition, theory, and new media at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, Germany, with Marco Stroppa and Georg Wötzer as well as music, German literature and philosophy at the University of Oregon and the Universität Stuttgart. He has been a visiting professor/invited lecturer on music and aesthetics at a variety of institutions including the University of Chicago, CNMAT/UC Berkeley, UCSD, Columbia University, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, and the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and he served for three years as the director of the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop at the Seattle Symphony.

Jeffrey Bowen, Composition (Photo: Steve Korn).

Jeffrey Bowen is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, whose works have been performed by Pascal Gallois, Maja Cerar, Beta Collide, Ensemble DissonArt, and the Luminosity Orchestra, among other ensembles. He was awarded First Prize in the 30th International Composition Competition “Città di Barletta,” and has presented work at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, the Darmstadt Courses for New Music, the International Computer Music Conference, and as a resident artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. His work What Will Sound (was already sound), for violin and electronics, was released by Parma Records in 2020, and recent work has been supported by the Jack Straw Foundation and the 4Culture and Artist Trust organizations.

He is currently based in Seattle, where he teaches music theory, composition, and guitar at Seattle University and is co-director of the Inverted Space Ensemble. He holds a BA in composition and guitar performance from Stanford University, and completed a DMA in composition at the University of Washington under Joël-François Durand.

Composer Yigit Kolat

Yiğit Kolat’s music explores the liminal frontiers of musical activity and potentialities in processing extra-musical data as musical information. The complicated political and social environment of his native Turkey is a recurring theme in his diverse output, which includes acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic works written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice, and solo instruments.

His works, described as “touching and convincing...a multi-sensory universe,” (K. Saariaho) have been recognized by a prestigious array of international organizations, including the Bogliasco Foundation (2016 Edward T. Cone Bogliasco Fellow in Music), the Tōru Takemitsu Composition Award (1st Prize, 2015), the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium (Finalist, 2013), and the Concours International de Composition Henri Dutilleux (2nd Prize, 2012).

His music has been featured throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia by leading ensembles and soloists, among them the Tokyo Philharmonic and Ryoko Aoki (Japan); Solistes de L’Orchestre de Tours, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, and Pascal Gallois (France); The Nieuw Ensemble, The Black Pencil Ensemble, and the Duo Mares (The Netherlands); Eric Wubbels, Jonathan Shames, the Talea Ensemble, and the Argento New Music Project (USA); the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey; Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and Aaron Shorr (Great Britain). His music has been broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) and Turkish Radio Television (TRT).

Kolat earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Washington, studying with Joël-François Durand.