Soundtrack of survival

Australia-based Israeli composer and pianist Yitzhak Yedid offers a moving reflection on the cost of war in his latest work.

By
February 17, 2015 20:51
Jerusalem-born pianist Yitzhak Yedid.

‘THERE ARE composers who, sincerely, tell people to do this or that. I am not one of those... However, as a composer, I feel a sense of responsibility to reflect and to document events,’ says Jerusalem-born pianist Yitzhak Yedid.. (photo credit: OMRI BAREL)

 
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Nineteenth century American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once observed that “in a world of peace and love, music would be the universal language.” It is a sentiment with which Yitzhak Yedid wholeheartedly agrees, and even endeavors to promulgate through his art.

43-year-old Yedid is a Jerusalem-born pianist and composer who has been living in Australia for the past eight years. In 2012 he gained a PhD from Monash University in Melbourne and subsequently published a tome with the grand and culturally expansive title of Methods of Integrating Elements of Arabic Music and Arabic-Influenced Jewish Music into Contemporary Western Classical Music. Yedid currently lectures at the Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University.

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Prior to relocating Down Under he racked up an impressive bio of recordings, performances and awards with the latter including the 2006 Prime Minister’s Award for Composition and the Landau Award for the Performing Arts in 2009.

Thus far, Yedid has put out 11 CDs under his own name, and has collaborated in a slew of other interdisciplinary synergies, including an intriguing confluence with Ethiopian-born saxophonist and vocalist Abate Berihun, as the Ras Deshen duo.

Geographical distance notwithstanding, Yedid makes a point of coming back to Israel several times a year, to spend time with his parents and siblings, and also to give concerts. Tomorrow evening at 8 p.m., his latest work, Delusions of War, will be performed at the Jerusalem Theater by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuval Zoran. The concert is part of the Classical Music Series and also features renditions of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.

The concert will be broadcast live on The Voice of Music.

Delusions of War was inspired by what Yedid terms as “current tragic events of the continuing unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and of the ongoing brutal battles in Syria.” This is not a new theme in Yedid’s evolving oeuvre.

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“For years I have, in fact, been documenting what I feel,” he states. “This work follows a similar line. It was written during times of war and, sadly, wars here don’t end, they keep on happening. I can’t ignore that. It is painful for me.”

Yedid days that, when he first set pencil to score sheet, he was not looking to draw on matters of a military nature.

“I didn’t think this would be a composition with such a ‘grandiose’ title, you know, with the word ‘war’ in it. But, the whole time, I hear about what is going on here. In Australia I listen to the Israeli news and it is painful to hear. I put a sort of mirror in front of all of us, and this [composition] is what came out.”

We all have our ways of handling stress, anxiety and matters which trouble us deeply. Some talk about it – in intimate circles or from a podium – others may just keep it bottled up until they vent it in some manner or other, while Yedid channels his own troubling thoughts and emotions through a more creative anodyne channel. Thankfully, we also get to share that avenue of expression, and to feed off Yedid’s reflections on our regional woes.

“I don’t believe that wars solve problems,” he declares, quickly adding that he has no pretensions as regards bringing all the violence to an end by playing his music.

“I am not offering solutions, and I have never done that, with my compositions.

There are composers who, sincerely, tell people to do this or that. I am not one of those. I don’t know what advice to give. However, as a composer, I feel a sense of responsibility to reflect and to document events.”

Yedid achieves that goal with a highly intricate work, in which he does not perform himself, written for 22 string instruments, with 17 major sections – which the composer calls “musical images” – in Part One of the work, and 10 major sections in Part Two.

Delusions of War, as the title suggests, does not exactly fit into the “easy listening” category.

Themes, lines and sonic sensibilities ebb and flow, meld and clash and, according to the composer, “superimpose various approaches and compositional techniques that contrast with each other and often convey extreme changes.”

Yedid employs multifarious means to convey his musical and emotional messages, including rapid virtuosic passages, and heterophonic and canonic textures.

But possibly more than anything Yedid is a product of these cultural climes. He was born in Jerusalem, to parents of Syrian and Iraqi descent, and his initial formative musical experiences included attending liturgical services at his local synagogue where he imbibed the heady sounds and rhythms of Syrian-style bakashot. Yedid gained a comprehensive musical education, including studies at the prestigious New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston, and gained an honors bachelor’s degree, in piano, from the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem.

Some of his works have been described as pertaining to the Third Stream category, which marries contemporary classical material with jazz improvisation, and much of Yedid’s output, precise writing notwithstanding, includes slots where soloists can break free and improvise on the score to their heart’s delight.

Yedid has often said he is delighted when the performers surprise him with their inventiveness.

Delusions of War allows for a number of such instrumental flights of fancy and it is a richly textured offering that also includes Middle Eastern sentiments, in the form of maqamat – melodic modes used in Arabic music – as well elements that mimic human voices.

Yedid does not promise that the members of his audience at the Jerusalem Theater will go home with a renewed sense of optimism, however he fully intends to leave us with plenty of food for thought.

“I don’t want people to think that I am against Israel,” he states. “I oppose the idea of violence which reaches such a level whereby each side justifies its beliefs by using even more force. I honestly don’t know what the solution to all this violence is, but I know this is not the solution.”

For tickets and more information: (02) 560-5757 and www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il

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