Apple Hill String Quartet performs Kareem Roustom

The Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music celebrates their 47th year with a Gala Fundraiser concert on July 25, 2017, featuring a performance of Traces by Kareem Roustom. The work, originally co-commissioned in 2013 by the Apple Hill Center, will be performed by the Apple Hill String Quartet, Kinan Azmeh (clarinet), and Sally Pinkas (piano).

The Apple Hill String Quartet commits their performance to that of new works. Since its founding in 20007, the ensemble has earned worldwide praise for its concerts of both traditional repertoire and newly commissioned music. The Apple Hill String Quartet has devoted themselves to educational outreach, including their Playing for Peace outreach program focusing on social change and conflict resolution through music.

About Traces, as written by Kareem Roustom

“Since the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria and the subsequent government crackdown, which was the catalyst for the current civil there, all of my concert music works have reflected on that situation. Traces, which is the largest work in this series, is a meditation on loss: both the loss of people and infrastructure as well the loss of a sense of place and connection that one has with a place. On the formal level, Traces takes its title and inspiration from a genre of pre-Islamic poetry that often begins with the poet and his companions returning to a desert campsite where his beloved lives only to find that the camp has been broken and all its inhabitants have moved to another site that is unknown to the poet. All that is left behind are al-atlaal or traces, of the site’s former inhabitants. Arguably, the most famous of this genre of poetry is Al-Mua’llaqa by Imru’ al-Qyas (d. 542 A.D.). The opening lines that most reflect the spirit of Traces are below:

Halt, my two friends. Let us weep, recalling a beloved and an abode by the edge of the twisted sands…
The encampment traces have not yet been effaced for all the weaving by the winds from the north and south…
There my companions halted their beasts awhile over me, saying, “Don’t die of grief; show some restraint!”
Yet the cure for my sorrow is indeed an outpouring of tears. But is there, among disappearing remains, a prop for me?
Traces
Traces LMP021

One of the basic melodic themes of Traces is based on an old nationalistic song that was often broadcast on television during my childhood in Damascus. The song, called Oh Syria my beloved (Suriya ya habibati) is in a maqam, or scale, called Kurd and begins with a melodic line that descends by whole steps and then cadences to the lower tonic with a triplet figure. This song, and the very nationalistic video that accompanied it, was an annoyance to my siblings and me because it often delayed our after-school cartoon programs. Because of its constant re-airing, it carved out an indelible part of my auditory memory; but its nationalistic overtones were never ones that I connected with, and for many years its memory was buried in my subconscious. However, after civilian deaths began mounting in Syria, I came across a reinterpretation of this song, made by a Syrian percussionist based in Europe, that was scored for clarinet and marimba. This re-imagined version of this song was full of grief and sadness, and it took on a whole new meaning. Like the poem of Imru’ al-Qays, it became a meditation on loss as I watched the place I once called home, and my memory of it, disintegrate, leaving behind only traces of what once was.” – Kareem Roustom


Learn more about the summer concert series here: Apple Hill Concerts

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