Sleep Song

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The 2014 archive

Mike Ladd

Sleep Song © Gilles Abegg


Sleep Song (2011) is directly connected to the Iraq war, before the more recent upheavals in the Arab world. Made up of slam poems based on interviews conducted by poet and performer Mike Ladd with American veterans, as well as of the poems of Iraq's Ahmed Abdul Hussein and of Maurice Decaul, an America Army veteran, Sleep Song is carried by a musical fabric weaved by Vijay Iyer, American pianist of Indian descent, Serge Teyssot-Gay, French guitarist and composer, and Ahmed Mukhtar, oud player of the Iraqi diaspora.

Five Songs
"Was Andalusia here or there? On the land or in the poem?"*

*On our last evening on this land, by Mahmoud Darwish

While western music evolved around the concepts of polyphony and harmony, so-called Arab music, and more generally the music that developed in the Muslim world, has remained first and foremost vocal and melodic, faithful to the tradition of monody in which singing and the human voice play a central part, whether they are accompanied by instruments or not. This music is built around a rich system of melodic modes, called maqams, a term used by both Arabic and Turkish music, and which has endured mostly thanks to oral tradition. That music has evolved by coming into contact with different legacies and ancient cultures. It is “an impressive poetic and musical common core that still today allows improvisation, from Marrakech to Bukhara,” according to Frédéric Deval, director of the Transcultural Programme of the Royaumont Foundation. “The present is shattering this frame of reference, at least in part. The political fault lines in the Arab world also betray a deep shift in terms of sensibilities and aesthetics.” The Arab Spring, globalisation, and the internet all played and continue to play a part in the porosity one can find in the work of artists who upset cultural, linguistic or religious affiliations, but also legacies and practices of transmission of artistic knowledge. The result of a partnership with the Royaumont Foundation, Five Songs brings together five creations and that share a common approach, testifying of the possibility of a fertile hybridization between poetic and musical cultures.

Mustapha Laribi, April 2014


Artistic direction  Mike Ladd

With the authors and the performers poets Ahmed Abdul Hussein, Maurice Decaul, Mike Ladd
And the musicians Vijay Iyer (composer, piano, electronics), Ahmed Mukhtar (oud), Serge Teyssot-Gay (electric guitar)

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Sleep Song © Gilles Abegg


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