Xarja (2016) for soprano & percussion

Xarja (2016)

Instrumentation: Soprano & Percussion
Duration ca. 12′

Commissioned & premiered by Sonja Tengblad and Jonathan Hess.

View the score here.

Purchase the score here.

Xarja (2016) for Soprano & PercussionProgram Notes:

Xarja, pronounced Shar-ja, is a Spanish or Catalan spelling of the Arabic word Kharja (خرجة) which means ‘exit’ or ‘final’, but is also the last stanzas of genre of Arabic poetry (called muwashshah) that originated in Arab Spain around the tenth century. These ending stanzas were often in Classical Arabic but some mixed Arabic with Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Catalan etc.). On a personal level, this work marks a creative ‘exit’ from a musical language which has been inspired by the music of the muwashshah genre.  The work begins in a traditional sounding mode but quickly morphs into a more chromatic language with a more irregular musical pulse. Like the speaker of the poet, the sense of loss is one filled with sadness and desperation. Like the grief stricken lover, ‘death is my state’ can be applied to the musical language I’ve been using for sometime. However, out of ‘death’ comes ‘rebirth’ and the opportunity to begin anew. The text is taken  from from the “Waterfire” muwashshah  by Al’Ama al-Tuttli (d. 1126 Tudela, Spain) and other poets of that era.

¿Ké fareyo, ya ummi?

Gar ké fareyo, ya mama?

O ké serad de mibe

Meu ’l habıb enfermo de meu amar

Que no d’estar?

Non ves amibe que se ha de no llegar?

Alsa’amu mio hali, / porqe hali qad bare.

¿Ké farey, ya ummi? / ¡Faneq [me] bad lebare!



What shall I do, oh mother?

Tell me what shall I do, oh mother?

What will become of me.

My lover is lovesick, how could it be otherwise.

Don’t you see he’ll never come back to me again?

Death is my state,  because my state (is) desperate.
What shall I do, O my mother?  The spoils I will leave.

Amän is a word that is traditionally used in extended improvisation in the music of the Near East. It connotes the asking for refuge (i.e. “gimme shelter” in Blues).