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Composed: 2023

Length: c. 10 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets (3rd=bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd=contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (large tam-tam, small tam-tam, wood blocks, snare drum, bass drum), piano, and strings

About this Piece

We’ve learned in the very recent past that life itself is more fleeting and precious than most of us realize. This has drastically changed our everyday behavior: from where we choose to live, to where we choose to work, to how we prioritize what’s important in our lives. Throughout all this change our bodies have not stopped for a moment to keep us alive. We’ve continued to breathe, and our hearts have continued to beat. Aysheen (عايشين), or “living” in Arabic, is a celebration of that resilience, an homage to our current time. The work begins with the percussion introducing its two central motifs: the tam-tams “breathing in and out” and the bass drum thumping a “heartbeat.” The rest of the orchestra trades these breaths and heartbeats throughout the remainder of the work, forming a collective, functioning body. In terms of the musical vocabulary, I use the framework of the Arab maqamat to create new aural arguments. For example, I have “retuned” the major chord that we, as Western listeners, have heard countless times in the symphonic repertoire, opting to replace its “third,” which is emblematic of that triad, with a pitch that exists about halfway between the black and white keys of the piano. For me, this sound represents a shift in our new reality, the new “normal” of what living is like today. —Saad Haddad