The Voices of Andalusia – 4. Symphonie
for soprano and orchestra (2005/06), with texts by Ibn Arabi, adapted by Maja Ueberle-Pfaff
Instrumentation: Soprano-solo; flute, alto flute (also 2. flute), oboe, English horn, clarinet in a, bas-clarinet in b flat, bassoon; 2 horns, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone; harp, piano, 2 percussionists; strings ( 6,6,4,4,3 ).
Duration: ca. 24 minutes.
The 4. symphony "The Voices of Andalusia" is a monument to the Islamic culture in medieval Andalusia where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together practically peacefully. The opus is based on poems by Ibn Arabi (1165 – 1240), one of the most important Islamic philosophers, poets, and mystics, who came from Andalusia. They developed out of "the overwhelming experience of spiritual love resulting from an encounter with the Persian lady Nizham ("harmony") during a pilgrimage to Mecca. Through this young woman of unrivaled beauty, the divine essence is revealed to the poet." (Maurice Gloton). The texts can be read as love-poems, and at the same time as story of a spiritual experience, of mystical love for God.
All three monotheistic religions have mystical traditions of direct encounter with God which is often described with images of love. In that, these religions are very similar; the outer forms of ritual and dogma are hardly important anymore. All three religions are symbolized in the music, as Ibn Arabi leads us to a mysticism overarching the religions with his poem "Mein Herz ward fähig, anzunehmen jede Form ..." ("My heart became able to take any form ...").
The music cultures of these three religions are well documented. However, for creating an artistic and graphic image, I have to cope with small historic inaccuracies, for example characterizing the Arabic world by a mode of 3/4-tone-steps frequently used in Arabic music, even though it does not exist in the Arabic-Andalusian music, at least not today; but I do use its heterophonic techniques. For Christianity I used a style that was developed around 1400, but I am not sure if it was ever used in Spain. The Jewish world is based on the diatonic scale interspersed with chromatic side-notes. Most probably this, too, did not exist at that time, but I hope that it meets the atmosphere of Spanish Jewish music. In addition the melody of one of the most famous Sephardic Romances is added into the middle part as theme for variations.
The monotheistic religions tend to have a broken relationship with nature because they emerged in the context of conflict with nature worshipping cults. It proves Ibn Arabi's wisdom that he includes nature as "gazelle pasture" (pentatonic scale), and "temple of an idol" (seemingly archaic bitonality).
The music grows out of an overtone-sound which keeps being heard, be it as chord or unfolded into a line. The cycle of poems ends with the words "perfect harmony" - a vision also for the living together of the cultures and religions.