Mind-baiting new music with a click-hating title
Just as the acid test of a new composition is whether it survives beyond its first performance, so the test of an outlandishly ambitious cycle of new music is whether it survives beyond the first composition. Using that acid test, Jean-luc Fafchamps Sufi Word cycle is the real thing. Back in 2012 I wrote enthusiastically about the first release by Sub Rosa in the cycle. This was titled KDGhZ2SA, a Six-letter Sufi Word and was performed by Ensemble Ictus and the Orchestre National de Lille conducted by Peter Rundel. It was followed in 2016 by the second work in the cycle, offering equally chewy music with the equally click-hating title of YZ3Z2Z1S2, a Five-letter Sufi Word.
Speaking about the first work in the cycle, Jean-luc Fafchamps clarified that "I am not a Sufi, or even Muslim and I do not speak Arabic", and went on to explain that the Sufi Word cycle is a musical depiction of combinations of letters of the Arabic alphabet triggered by a Sufi chart mapping the symbolic interrelations of letters; the resulting compositions use "analogue correspondences as the basis for a system". For the latest work in what is projected as a 28 composition cycle (from the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet) Jean-luc Fafchamps moves from the purely systemic towards the metaphysical, as he explains in the admirably comprehensive album documentation:
I am drawing inspiration from the symbolic charts found in Sufi mysticism. Each [Sufi] Letter is a sonic meditation on the frontiers of conscience and the paradoxes of time... 'Du seuil' ('From the threshold'), is the third word to be released by Sub Rosa. It is a journey of sort through grief: stages of conscience, journey through hell, nocturnal anxieties, meditation, resilience. Do not worry too much though, for isn't it from the distance of death that one can shine the best light on life. Isn't all grief also a threshold?H1KhH2WM (Du Seuil), a Five-letter Sufi Word - sample below* - is another sonic and cerebral spectacular, this time expertly performed by the Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles, Centre Henri Pousseur; conducted by Jean-Paul Dessy. This music digs so far beneath the crusty surface of today's stylistic correctness you will need a flashlight and mining tools to find any mention of it on social media. Which is just one of many reasons I am strongly recommending it.
* YouTube link not available on RSS feed; click through to website to view.
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