Muqqadamah (2015)

Approx. Duration: 7 minutes

Reality is given to every prelude by the composer who writes it.

Bach, for example, made his prelude in C minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier mean something as part of the intrinsic reality of the musical work itself (the prelude in a Bach suite or cycle is “the prelude” because of where it is placed in the suite… it is the prelude to the suite or cycle). For composers of opera, the prelude is made to mean something dramatic (it is usually the prelude to the unfolding of dramatic events on stage).

What then to make of the unattached prelude? It is can precede bigger works. It can simply be a prelude to any given (musically meaningful) reality that is given to it by its composer.

My musical reality, is one of constant making and, through making, re-making. This reality has granted me endless cycles pleasure and recreation of mind. When I set out to write my Muqaddamah in early 2015, I was responding to a commission from Sybarite5 specifically for a prelude. I elected to write this work and complete it as my first work of 2015 and, in an unorthodox gesture, I determined to not compose my program notes for the work immediately after finishing it. My plan was to come back to the work and compose my program notes a few years later (I committed to do this, incidentally, by the end of 2018). Allow me to explain why I did this.

In early 2015, I imagined those works which I knew would lie ahead and I knew of those works which lay immediately behind me (the works that I had finished and now existed as completed works).

“Muqaddamah” is the Arabic word for “Prelude” or “introductory material.” The work is a prelude in the “strictly musical sense” to patterns that will come. These patterns are yet to come (there is no “suite” following my “Muqaddamah”) and thus unknown to us. They are, however, patterns and, because of this, the general contour of what is to come is known to us. The title of the work, in Arabic, as well as the musical premise are an homage to Ibn Khaldun who, in his tenth century book of the same title, introduced the methodical study of history and the treatment of history as a mode of learning rather than a method of story-telling (“history as a science”).

The patterns of human history and the rational engagement with these patterns is an analogy, for me, to the music which, at the time of my composing the Muqqadamah, was still music that was yet to be written. I know this because I have written that music now, in 2019. The Muqqadamah is also a prelude to all the music that will yet be written. This is music which I do not yet know and, yet these are works which, if the circumstances for their creation is granted to me, I will be permitted to write and come to know.

My Muqaddamah was written in 2015 and, at the time of writing it, I was composing my oratorio Zabur. My three major operas, The New Prince, Bhutto and Al-Wasl as well as my quartet cycle Prophesies to say nothing of my Fifth Symphony and my orchestral cycles (such as Another Time) were still “yet to be written” at the time. They are now complete works and they exist. My Muqaddamah is, therefore, a prelude to those works. As a mature artist,  it was fascinating to commemorate the work that was yet to be done while I understood that their patterns were known to me: they would be by Mohammed Fairouz in the truest sense. I could base this knowledge on my history as a composer. Composers leave many important traces of “who we are” as we compose our body of works just as (other) human beings exhibit personal patterns as well as recursive social patterns that have defined the larger bulk of humanity as it has been carried to greater and better heights throughout history. We owe this, in part, to Ibn Khaldun and his outline of a methodical and disinterested approach to history. In another part, we owe this increasing advancement of work to our own self-awareness as human beings (these are the traces that the I leave behind and build upon as I compose).

And so, here I am composing the program notes which I had planned to compose for this work and, by doing so in early 2019, I am only slightly late in responding to the “by 2018” commitment that my 2015 self had made with me (wherever I might currently be or not be at the time that you are reading this).

Now you have been given my account of the reality and meaning which I have composed into my Muqaddamah.

Muqaddamah is testament to Ibn-Khaldun as well as an introduction to the works of mine which I have listed above; works which had not been made at the time that I composed my Muqaddamah… It is also an introduction to the music which I am yet to craft into reality.

–Mohammed Fairouz (2019)

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