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The Tears of Ishtar (Les pleurs d'Istar) for piano solo

By Joseph Dillon Ford

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Piano Solo - Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by Joseph Dillon Ford. 21st Century, Neo-Classical. Score. 2 pages. Published by David Warin Solomons (S0.435589).

Item Number: S0.435589

The Tears of Ishtar (Les pleurs d'Istar) was completed by Easter Sunday of 2003. It was conceived from the beginning as an expression of the deep loss felt for the innocent victims of the ongoing Iraqi-American War and the tragic looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and other sites which resulted in the destruction and pillage of innumerable antiquities from the earliest periods of human civilization.

The Bush administration, taking precautions to protect valuable oil fields, quickly toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. But the world was soon shocked to realize that the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator was at best a Pyrrhic victory, for the American Commander-in-Chief and those in the highest positions of military authority had utterly failed to appreciate the enormous monetary, historical, and aesthetic significance of Iraq's cultural artifacts and thus neglected to allocate the small number of troops necessary to protect these priceless objects from catastrophic depredation.

Among the untold thousands of art treasures damaged, destroyed, or stolen was an exquisite lyre from the Royal Cemetery at Ur embellished with gold, lapis lazuli, and masterful inlaid work. As a Sumerian poet once recorded, "They play the stringed instrument that brings joy to all people. They play songs for Inanna to rejoice the heart." The general style and character of "The Tears of Ishtar" were suggested in part by the imaginary sounds of this extraordinary instrument, although there is no known music extant from the period. The plaintive melody and chromatic harmony are characteristic of many laments in the Western musical canon, at least from the Middle Ages on.

The Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, identified with the Sumerian "Queen of Heaven" Inanna, was perhaps the most important of all early Middle Eastern female deities. Although she is chiefly represented as a goddess of fertility and war, as Inanna she was associated both with tears and rejoicing, and in Egypt she was worshipped as a great healer. Daughter of the moon god Sin (Nanna), her special symbol is a rosette-like star. Ishtar's descent into the Underworld is here remembered musically by chromatically descending counterpoint heard just before the coda, which itself is a concise restatement of the opening theme.

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