A couple years ago I discovered a series of pieces title “America’s Other Orchestras” at Arab America and it helped me to solidify some thoughts I’ve been having about how we have discussions, and the narratives we create, about Orchestras and Classical Music. These are thoughts that were percolating at least since I first wrote a couple times about the Kennedy Center’s American Voices Festival back in 2013.
A couple weeks ago I was approached by Lebanese cellist, Ribal El Kallab, to answer some questions for a thesis project on Arabic music that he is working on. I’ve been given permission to post his questions and my responses. If you are interested in my general background in music from the Arabic and Middle Eastern world, please visit this link.
For some information on the usage of cello in Arabic music, please view my blog post Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: The Cello in Arabic Orchestras.
So there’s been a lot of chatter about diversity (or lack thereof) in Classical Music and Orchestras the past few weeks. Just some examples: Holly Mulcahy’s piece about diversifying orchestra audition excerpts; Eric William Lin’s discussion (with wonderful interactive graphs) of NY Phil’s rep over 175 seasons; Rob Deemer’s unveiling (in a little more formal venue) of the massive database of Women Composers that he and his students have been curating for some time; and, of course, Anne Shreffler’s piece about the Canon’s Invisible Hand which I discussed previously.
I do a lot of covers. In a sense, I spend most of my musical life doing covers. Playing a Beethoven Symphony? Cover. Playing a 14th century Turkish Mevlevi song? Cover. Playing a piece I wrote? Cover.
“But you’re playing an original tune, not a cover,” you might say. Well, as I’ve been saying for the past couple of decades, “If you’re not improvising in real time, then you’re just covering yourself.” In other words, “Original” music can also be “Cover” music.