The Heart's Ear
Liza Lim's (b. 1966) music combines the intelligence of modernism with visceral energy and vibrant color. She has been commissioned to write for the the BBC Symphony, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Arditti String Quartet, among others, and she has created large projects for the Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth Festivals.
Lim's current projects include Ecstatic Architecture (commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and scheduled to premiere May 28), In the Shadow's Light for the Kairos Quartet, The Quickening for soprano Deborah Kayser, and Qin Yang Chunwei for the 2004 Festival d'automne in Paris.
The composer provided the following note:
The Heart's Ear was commissioned by the Australia Ensemble and has its roots in Arabic or Turkish Islamic music. Both the title of the work and the musical influences reflect a long-standing personal interest that I have in Sufi poetry and, in particular, that of 13th-century mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi.
Rumi's poetry is suffused with images of ecstatic communion with the divine. The poems often contain musical references, particularly images of the relationship between musicians and their musical instruments as a metaphor for how human beings are vehicles through which spirit moves. Rumi often describes the intimacy that musicians have with their instrument as an erotic relationship - a lover's relationship of many subtle touches, breaths, and a dancing of the body. For instance:
God picks up the reed-flute world and blows
each note is a need coming through one of us
a passion, a longing pain.
A recurrent theme in Rumi's poetry is the theme of silence - not a state of absence but a kind of alertness, a state of listening with "the heart's ear" that opens up to the potential of any moment.
The Heart's Ear begins with a very brief fragment of a Sufi melody as way of evoking that gift-like quality of attention. To quote from another of Rumi's poems, the melody is "like birdsong beginning inside an egg" - a beautiful image of something nascent, about to open out into a larger world. I've thought of the piece as music that grows organically from this initial melody (the interior quality of a melody singing to itself) which 'pecks' its way out into a succession of musical spaces.