Tomorrow morning I’m off to St. Louis to attend the premiere of my new composition, titled “Div.” It should be a fun trip since I’m traveling with some members of the KU Helianthus ensemble, namely Mike Kirkendoll, Mary Fukushima, and Nathanael May. I’ve worked with Mike and Mary before, since they performed a piece of mine in Carnegie Hall last year.
In other news, this is an exciting upcoming week. On April 1st, my 10-piece chamber ensemble composition, titled “Feridoun,” will be premiered on the “Stack the Dectet” concert in Atlanta with my friend Daniel Swilley conducting.
Also in early April is the run of the play “Keely and Du” at KU, for which I wrote some music for the beginning and the ending. I’ll attend the show on opening night. More on that later.
Here are the program notes that I wrote for “Div.”
Inspired by stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Persian Book of Kings), Div is a work depicting the dual facets of these colorful beings.
A “div” (pronunciation: deev) often has negative associations, and in Persian mythology is an evil spirit akin to a demon that loves to cause harm and destruction. However, some divs may actually be helpful and benign. Unlike in Judeo-Christian tradition, a div is a physical being, often pictured with combined human and animal features. Though they have two arms and legs like humans, often they feature tufted tails like a lion, hairy, multicolored bodies, and bestial faces. Divs are frequently mentioned in the Shahnameh; one famous story involves the struggle between the Persian hero Rostam and the Akvan Div, a white demon whose name means “evil mind.”
Musically, the first half of the piece represents the malevolent side of divs, whereas the latter half represents their benign nature. Subtitled Ahura, a Farsi word representing the “right” kind of divinity and the moral opposite of evil, this latter half utilizes much of the same melodic content, though slightly transformed. Does the work end in a pure, righteous state, or do some elements of the “evil” div mischievously return? The listener may fully decide.
Div was commissioned by the KU Helianthus Contemporary ensemble.