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Moroccan Morning Symphony

Spirituality, and religion is everywhere here in Morocco. We can see it much more than in Western, or Christian society: in the dress of the women, those who wear varying degrees of the hijab and those who choose not to; In the streams of men emerging from the mosques in the afternoon. (the boys and I got caught in such an exit on Friday, we actually had to duck into an alcove as we were headed “up stream”! We stayed to watch the parade.); And we hear it especially in the calls to prayer.

The first night we were here I was woken by the 5am call, I listened for what I thought was a half hour (although I have learned that it’ a mere 15 minutes) to the different voices that sprung up from different parts of the town, calling the men to the mosque. It seemed magical.

It was that first morning that I knew that I must capture some of that sound for my new piece that I’m slowly working on. Originally the sounds in the piece were to be vocal sounds from various locations, including some of the great cathedrals we would be visiting in Europe: Not necessarily sounds of worship, but sounds from places of worship. After hearing the call I realized that the piece must be more about those sounds spirituality of several cultures! Spiritualty here is very obviously found in the sounds we hear four times a day: morning and afternoon and evening. In Essaouira we hear at least three different mosque’s calls, all starting at slightly different times…..

So I got up at 4:55 this morning to record the call that starts each day. What I heard under the brilliantly clear stars was a symphony!

The piece started with seagulls, (the earliest risers here) panning through my field of listening; Then the church bell that quietly yet faithfully rings every quarter hour from the Portuguese church in town. Around a minute after, the first call: a low chant, repetitive, then the second: in the same register but with a few melodic leaps, (not as many as I heard the night before from my bed, sadly, I liked those) finally about 5 minutes in, the third, louder (closer) but more spacious, providing accents, in a higher register. The three together, mixed with the wheeling gull’s calls, and the light wind sounds, built to a wonderful cadence, and with a final call from a gull, the loudest call finished, the other two continued for a minute, almost an echo of themselves, until the church bell at 5:15 seemed to cue their silence. A final gull, very close this time, was the final coda.

Some of my favourite music is that which is created in the moment: that may not be repeated (or repeatable). It doesn’t need to be rendered by a master of an instrument. I believe nature, and even humans can create music, sometimes even together, interacting without intention, to make something that can be truly inspiring.

It sometimes even gives me pause to think about things we cannot hope to understand.

This morning’s symphony was one of those times. I doubt the recording will do it justice, but I’m happy I was there for the premiere!

Mar 24, 2013 at 09:07

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