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Score and Parts

By Mohammed Fairouz

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Strings Violin I, Violin II, Viola, cello
Score and Parts. Composed by Mohammed Fairouz. (See pages 2-3 of score for clear distinction of paragraphs, etc.) Prophesies, by Mohammed Fairouz Edgar Allen Poes rendition of Israfel was the point of departure for the final movement of my previous string quartet which is titled The Named Angels. At t. Score and part(s). With Standard notation. 68 pages. Duration 0:25:00. Theodore Presser Company #114-41903. Published by Theodore Presser Company (PR.114419030).

Item Number: PR.114419030

ISBN 9781491114124. 9 x 12 inches.

A fascination with polycultural synergy between diverse literary texts drives the inspiration for much of Mohammed Fairouzs prodigious creative output, including instrumental music as well as vocal. In his profound and extensive essay preceding the score, Fairouz sheds light on how Edgar Allen Poes Israfel relates to the prophets and prophesies of the Quran, Old Testament, and New Testament. The eight-movement quartet may be heard as a dramatic gallery of portraits and of story-telling, flourishing in a post-traditional language that is at once vernacular and spiritual, Middle Eastern and Western. The complete set of score and parts is included in this publication.
(See pages 2-3 of score for clear distinction of paragraphs, etc.) Prophesies, by Mohammed Fairouz Edgar Allen Poes rendition of Israfel was the point of departure for the final movement of my previous string quartet which is titled The Named Angels. At the opening of his poem, Poe evokes the Quran: And the angel Israfel, whose heartstrings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all Gods creatures. This informs the first lines of the poem that, in turn, gave me the title for the final movement of The Named Angels, Israfels Spell: In Heaven a spirit doth dwell Whose heartstrings are a lute None sing so wildly well As the angel Israfel, And the giddy stars (so legends tell), Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell Of his voice, all mute. It is the end of that poem, however, that is the starting point for the current quartet, Prophesies, which concerns itself with mortal prophets rather than eternal Angelic spirits. If I could dwell Where Israfel Hath dwelt, and he where I, He might not sing so wildly well A mortal melody, While a bolder note than this might swell From my lyre within the sky. Islamic thought has asked us to look at the example of the prophets. Thats significant because of the fact that Joseph and all the prophets were human beings with the flaws of human beings. No prophet was perfect, and Islamic tradition has never asked its followers to aspire to the example of the Angels, the perfected ones. Instead we are given the gift of our prophets. While The Named Angels drew on the motion and energy of everlasting spirits, Prophesies is a depiction of the movements within our own mortal coil. This quartet is a continuation of a long tradition of Muslim artists telling their stories and singing their songs. Many of these renditions are, in fact, figurative and (contrary to popular belief) the Quran contains no Islamic edict prohibiting figurative renditions of the figures described in the Old Testament, New Testament, or Quran. The majority of artists, however, have preferred eternal and abstract forms such as words and their calligraphic representations, poems (Yusuf and Zuleikha or the Conference of Birds come immediately to mind), architecture, and many other non-figurative art forms to the representation of man. These cold, ancient, and everlasting shapes of unending time flourished, and the divine infinity of representing geometric forms gained favor over the placement of the explicit representation of mankind and our own likeness at the center of the universes. Adding the string quartet to these forms which express the recursive spheres of heavens and earth abstractly should explain why I have chosen to render higher things through the use of music without the addition of words or any other art-form. It is the abstract art of pure form, in which all is form and all is content, which compels me. This quartet should be seen as no more programmatic than the arches of the Great Mosque at Cordoba. The first movement, Y?qub (Jacob), is slow, quiet and prayerful. It evokes the patient sorrow of a slow chorale developing over time as it coaxes our pulse out of the ticking of a clock-like meter that defines our day-to-day lives and into a divine eternity. The second, Saleh, imagines the spirit of that desert-prophet through the use of a Liwa; the dance-sequence that has been such a prevalent form of expression in the Arabian Peninsula for much of our recorded history. The third movement is titled Dawo?d, and it is emblematic of the beloved Prophet, King, and Psalmist, David. Though it has no lyrics, the movement functions as a dabkeh (an ancient dance native to the Levant) and also sets the opening of Psalm 100 (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands). This line is never set to music or sung in the quartet but is evoked through the rhythmic shape of the violin part which imitates the phonology and rhythm of my speaking the opening line in the Hebrew and develops the contours of that line incessantly throughout the movement. 3 The fourth movement is an ode to Yousef (Joseph) and relates to the first movement in tempo and tone just as Joseph relates to Jacob, his father. Together, the first and fourth movements provide a sort of Lamentation and relief. Joseph had the appearance of a noble angel, but he was very much a human being. And the story of this particular prophet had tragic beginnings many years before he found himself in a position of power in Egypt. Back in his youth, still among the Israelites, Joseph experienced a series of revelations through his dreams that spoke of his impending career in prophecy. He confided his dreams to his father, the Prophet Jacob, who told his son of the greatness that awaited him in his future only to have his brothers throw him into a well and leave him for dead. Joseph eventually found his way from Israel to Egypt and rose out of slavery into a position of power. Meanwhile, famine engulfs Israel. Forty years pass, and back in the land of Jacob and Rachel, of Josephs brothers and Abrahams tribe, Israel was not spared the effects of the famine. They sorely lacked Josephs prophecy and his vision. The Quran then tells us that Jacob, sensing Joseph, sends the other brothers to Egypt instructing them to come back with food and grain. Arriving in Egypt, they unwittingly appear before Joseph. They dont recognize their little brother who has risen to a position of might, dressed in his Egyptian regalia. They ask for the food and the grain. After some conversation, Joseph is no longer able to contain his emotion. Overcome, he reveals himself to his now terrified brothers. He embraces them. He asks them eagerly, How is our father? Joseph gives them the gift of the food and the grain that they came in search of. He relieves them from hunger and alleviates their fear. He sends them back with proof that he is alive, and it is this joyful proof from the miraculous hands of a prophet that brings back the ancient Jacobs vision after 40 years of blindness. In this story, I am struck by the fact that Joseph may not have made the decision to forgive his brothers on the spot, but that something inside the prophets soul found forgiveness and peace for the brothers who had so gravely wronged him at some point along his journey. I would suspect this point to have been present at Josephs inception, even before he had ever been wronged. This is proof, if we needed it, that Josephs angel-like beauty was not only physical and external, but also internal as well: Joseph possessed a profound loveliness of spirit that bound his appearance and his soul. In Joseph, form and soul are one. Time is to musicians what light is to a painter. In this way, the story of Joseph also shows us that time can affect our perception of even the most tragic wounds. In fact, the most common Arabic word for human being is insaan, which shares its roots with the word insaa, to forget. While our ability to remember is essential to how we learn about ourselves, our capacity to forgive and forget may also be one of our great gifts as human beings. The fifth movement follows my ode to Joseph with a structural memory of M?sa (Moses). The movement consists entirely of descending motifs which I constructed as an indication of Moses descending movement as he emerged to his people from the heights of Mt. Sinai. The music is constructed in five phrases which function as a formal reference to the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch. The movement is placed as the fifth of the quartet for the same reason. While Joseph is always evoked as supremely beautiful in the Books of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Suleiman (Solomon) is described as surpassing in his quicksilver intelligence. This movement is composed of a seven-part riddle which passes by in an instant but can be caught by the attentive listener. From Solomon, we work our way back to Yishak (Isaac) in a seventh movement that evokes Isaacs literal meaning in Arabic and Hebrew: laughter. The eighth and final movement of this quartet is named for the Patriarch of the entire Book: Ibrahim (Abraham). It relates to Isaac just as Joseph relates to Jacob; they are father and son. The lines are prayerful and contemplative; the form of the music evolves from a fugue joining together many different forms of prayer into a single tapestry of counterpoint, to the cyclical form of this entire quartet which is rendered through the motion of pilgrims circling the Kaaba (cube) in Mecca a structure which was built by Abraham for Hagaar and their son Ismail. These are just some of the figures that are cherished by all three of the Middle Eastern monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that the Quran refers to collectively as Ahl Al-Kitab. This Arabic phrase is most commonly translated as The People of the Book, but here the most common translation is a flawed one: the Arabic word ahl means family and not just people. A better translation would be Family of the Book. Each of the eight movements of Prophesies grows from a single musical cell. This quartet is a family album. Mohammed Fairouz (2018.

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