I’ve been sorting through stacks of postcards, looking for ones that might suggest a starting point for a collage. One I kept coming back to contained an image of an illustrated manuscript folio entitled “The Concourse of the Birds.”
The folio depicts a scene from a poem by the 12th C Iranian poet, Farid al-Din ‘Attar:
The birds, which symbolize individual souls in search of the simurgh (a mystical bird representing ultimate spiritual unity), are assembled in an idyllic landscape to begin their pilgrimage under the leadership of a hoopoe (perched on a rock at center right). [citation]
Recent collages are in the slideshow below.
Lembit Beecher’s “The Conference of the Birds”
Entirely by coincidence, I learned today that Lembit Beecher’s new opera, Sky on Swings, is to be performed in Opera Philadelphia’s upcoming season. That, in turn, led me to his website to see if I could listen to a clip from the opera. While there, I was reminded he’d written a string ensemble piece called, “The Conference of the Birds” based on the Attar poem. Beecher wrote of the piece:
I initially thought about trying to turn the story into an opera – but I realized I was less interested in the narrative scope of the story than in the emotions and visceral energy of specific moments. . . . A string orchestra seemed perfect for creating solo lines that gathered into clouds of sounds. When I began talking to A Far Cry about writing a piece, I realized this would be a perfect project for the group. Having gotten to know the group, I wanted to write music for individual personalities: each member of the ensemble has his/her own part. These parts join each other in different combinations, but just as quickly split up again. The leadership of the music, and the relationship of individuals to the group is always changing. As I wrote I thought about the power of crowds, the motivating capability–both dangerous and inspiring–of leaders, and the distinct values of individuality and unity, but I also thought about the players of A Far Cry, and how much I admire the way they function as an ensemble, share leadership, and make music together.
Credits: Sources for the quotations may be found at the links in the text. The photographs, as always on the blog unless indicated otherwise, are mine.