About this Recording
8.578311-12 - DANIELPOUR, R.: Ancient Voices

Danielpour: Ancient Voices
Darkness in the Ancient Valley – Toward a Season of Peace


I composed Darkness in the Ancient Valley and Toward a Season of Peace in back to back years, 2010 and 2011 respectively. I had always envisioned these two works as “siblings,” not identical but related by the fact of their Middle Eastern influence, both in conception and in sound. It gives me great pleasure to have Naxos releasing this compilation disc with the two works side by side.

Darkness in the Ancient Valley is a symphony in five movements, commissioned by the Nashville and Pittsburgh Symphonies. The fifth movement, which includes a soprano voice, was written for Hila Plitmann. The text comes from an English translation of a Rumi poem (Divan 1559), and involves a woman who refuses to retaliate against her husband, or lover, in spite of his abusive and cruel behavior. The voice of this woman is for me a metaphor for the voice of the people of Iran who have endured much under the present regime, but who nonetheless refuse to retaliate with violence. This 35-minute work was inspired by recent events in Iran, in particular the way its people, especially the women, have been brutalized. This is of particular interest to me because my parents were born in Iran and my family lineage on both sides goes back for well over 20 generations. Born in the U.S., I spent a year in Iran (1963–64), and although I was just a child, I remember much about that year. In addition to learning Farsi, that time laid the bedrock of my understanding about the world which deepened as I matured. Sadly, the experience in Iran was for various reasons an unpleasant one, and I had fallen in love with Western music and culture, so as I grew into adulthood I kept my Persian heritage at a distance. In recent years, however, I have become engrossed in this ancestral legacy and deeply interested in the way the people of Iran and the whole of the Middle East are pleading to be heard in the face of oppressive regimes. The work is in its way a kind of secular liturgy (Lamentation – Desecration – Benediction – Profanation – Consecration), with much of the music drawing on sources stemming from Persian folk melodies and Sufi rhythms. And while this is clearly the music of a 21st century American composer, it is the music of an American composer with a Middle Eastern memory.

An issue of greatest interest and concern to me is how the peoples of the Middle East have used religion to remain at war with one another, in spite of the fact that Jews, Muslims and Christians all believe in “One God.” Ironically all of the great religions speak of peace as a fundamental goal for humanity. “Shalom”, “Salaam Allecham”, and “Peace Be With You” are primary greetings in Judaism, Islam and Christianity respectively. This is the reason for my using multiple languages in Toward a Season of Peace. I used a first class English translation of the work of the Persian poet Rumi and not the original Farsi for two reasons: I wanted to acquaint American listeners with the greatness of Rumi’s very accessible work. And it seemed critical to have a sonic contrast to Hebrew and Arabic which Farsi – similar to both languages even though the two are dissimilar to one another – would not provide. Thus Rumi acts as an arbiter, a voice of wisdom and clarity in the polarized dialectic between Hebrew and Arabic. The three part oratorio is cast in seven movements; Part 1 is comprised of the first, second and third movements using settings of texts dealing primarily with war and destruction; Part 2, movement four, begins with the famous litany of Ecclesiastes and culminates with a setting of the Lord’s Prayer, invoking the choice between war and peace; and Part 3, the last three movements, sings of the promise of peace through forgiveness. The work is titled Toward a Season of Peace because the “season” in question is Spring, which appears in many of the texts and is sometimes a metaphor for change and transformation. Moreover, the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which is celebrated on the first day of Spring, heralds a time of renewal and reconciliation. That the world première of this new work was given just after Nowruz was not an accident. May it be shared by all in the spirit of harmony.

Richard Danielpour

Close the window