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New Khyam Allami commission for PRSF New Music Biennial

We’re delighted to announce a new commission for London-based Iraqi oud player and composer Khyam Allami, to be premiered as part of PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial 2019.

Requiem for the 21st Century will take the form of an immersive sound installation, which can be experienced at Southbank Centre, London from 5 – 7 July 2019, in Hull from 12 – 14 July, in a broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and as a download from NMC Recordings.

The piece takes its inspiration from the rich accumulation of myth and history that surrounds the oud – the Middle Eastern lute that is the forerunner of the western instrument. The installation will be constructed from a collection of broken and decaying ouds, playing acoustically recorded microtonal notes in generative patterns.

Together the array of instruments will generate unique and continuously metamorphosing melodic fragments and fields of sound based on different maqams, the modes of Arabic music. The Arabic musical scale is divided into microtonal intervals – different to the Western system of twelve equally tempered tones – giving a distinct character to the melodies that are constructed from it.

Traditionally the oud played a mystical role in music and science, with legends of its invention by Lamech, a descendent of Cain, son of Adam and Eve, and its strings associated with different bodily humours. Requiem for the 21st Century will play with this history, the substance and presence in the accumulation of ouds, and the sound, or ‘breath’ of the instrument which will surround the listener. The work is conceived as a powerful, ever-changing requiem for the troubled 21st century and in particular as a commemoration of the civilians killed during the incessant wars across the Middle East.

Khyam comments:

I am delighted to have been selected for this PRS Foundation New Music Biennial commission in collaboration with Opera North. It will be my first commission of this kind in the UK and it opens up many exciting possibilities for exploring my instrument, the oud, and my music, in a form and setting that I have been anticipating for years. The opportunity to utilise the varied creative resources of Opera North will undoubtedly shape my project, its sound and its presentation in a beautiful way.

Jo Nockels, Projects Manager, Opera North, comments:

Opera North seeks to reimagine the parameters of opera and classical music, and we share the commitment of the New Music Biennial to inspire all kinds of audiences by presenting new music in dynamic and unusual ways. We are excited to work with Khyam Allami on this inventive, immersive installation in which the tones and patterns of Arabic maqams will surround the listener, and make themselves felt as well as heard.

The New Music Biennial 2019 is a PRS Foundation initiative that supports and provides a platform for talented organisations and music creators who are pushing the boundaries of new music in the UK. It presents new music across all genres, from classical and chamber opera, to jazz, folk and electronic. For the previous New Music Biennial and in conjunction with Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Opera North commissioned Winestead, a new work from composer Gavin Bryars.

New Music Biennial


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