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Posts tagged 'Alarm Will Sound'

Spotlight on Mary Kouyoumdjian

Over the past decade, Mary Kouyoumdjian has explored music's power to respond to both historical and contemporary social and political realities both by evoking complex emotions through her unique musical aesthetic and also incorporating the sounds from history itself into that aesthetic: a kind of documentary music-making that bravely confronts conflict. 2015's Silent Cranes, for example, addresses the Armenian genocide that displaced her own family one hundred years earlier, by incorporating testimony by genocide survivors, as well as contemporaneous field recordings of Armenian folk songs.

Kouyoumdjian continues to explore the emotional, political, and cathartic possibilities of music's reaction to history with a set of ongoing collaborative projects that invent new ways for music to harness its communicative power. Adoration, an opera in development with Beth Morrison Projects, is an adaptation of the Atom Egoyan film of the same name. It tells the story of Simon, an orphaned high school student who, for a high school English assignment, appropriates the details of a terrorist attack as an explanation for his parents' death. When Simon's narrative goes viral online, he uses the fervor to highlight racism and bigotry within his own community and on the internet. Simon's late parents, a violin maker and a concert violinist, serve as a bridge between the libretto, written by Royce Vavrek, and the music—a string quartet. Kouyoumdjian's writing for string quartet will incorporate electronics, sampled field recordings, and documentary audio footage, enveloping the audience in a multi-sensory environment. 

Kouyoumdjian's interest in multi-media narrative will also be explored in Paper Pianos, an ongoing project in collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. This evening-length work has grown out of interviews conducted by Kouyoumdjian with director Nigel Meister with four refugees and resettlement workers: the Afghan pianist Milad Yousufi, Getachew Bashir (Ethiopia), Hani Ali (Somalia), and Akil Aljaysh (Iraq). Kouyoumdjian's music incorporates audio from these interviews, and is also accompanied by live animation by Syrian artist Kevork Mourad. The piece takes its title from Milad Yousufi's story of creating a silent "paper piano" while in Afghanistan to avoid deadly punishment from the Taliban, and is a meditation on the power of music, community, and communication to respond to the inhumanity of war, displacement, and violence. 

Kouyoumdjian is also in residence this year at Buffalo String Works, which since 2014 has been offering musical education to refugee populations in the greater Buffalo area. Kouyoumdjian will compose a new work for over 85 students, bringing the emotive power of her music to young performers to experience as performers, as well as their families as audience members. 

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