Qasim Naqvi, Fjoloy (2014) | U.S. premiere

    Duration: 15 minutes (three of the work’s seven movements will be performed: I. Vigdel, II. Sola and III. Fjoloy)
    Instrumentation: Choir
    Commissioned by Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly, in partnership with the Rogeland Kunstsenter in Stavanger, Norway
    Copyright: Qasim Naqvi

    The composer writes:
    Fjoloy is a work for mixed voices. It can be performed using any configuration of singers, at any level of development. It was originally commissioned by the artists Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly, in partnership with the Rogeland Kunstsenter in Stavanger, Norway, as a score to a video installation titled Like Water from a Stone.

    Fjoloy can be best described as a ‘Headphone Piece.’ It was composed on the ARP Odyssey synthesizer, an unwieldy and erratic piece of analog machinery. The synth lines from this machine are individual, sustained tones that modulate over a period of time, from movement to movement. Each vocal line from this synthesizer was recorded and cataloged as a collection of mp3s, within the SSAATTBB [choral arrangement for two soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices] configuration. In performance, rather than having a written part, each singer is given a designated mp3 based on their assignment in the choir and the entire ensemble sings along to their ordained synthesized tones with headphones, live.

    “For the conductor’s score, I developed a graphic notational system with an annotation for translating the graphics into a set of hand gestures. Using this system, the conductor gesticulates a series of musical ideas that would normally exist in a written vocal part. They control dynamics, manipulate the rate of speech from fast to slow with all of the variations in between, initiate silences, and direct the contour of the singer’s mouth from fully open to fully closed. All of these cues are spatialized throughout the choir in different instances, and the collective output of the ensemble is given shape. Fjoloy interprets the word ‘conductor’ in another sense, as a mechanism that allows for the flow of electrical currents.

    “This unique format was borne out of a creative problem. I wanted a work with complexity but I wanted it to be accessible to any singer. Because the performer has headphones and a reference pitch to follow, it opens up realms of harmonic and microtonal possibility that are essentially limitless. The absence of written music and this unique relationship to the conductor through symbols also allows the performer to enter a different space of listening and reacting.”

    About the composer:
    Qasim Naqvi is a drummer, composer, producer and one of the founding members of the group Dawn of Midi. The band’s most recent album “Dysnomia,” which has recently been re-released on the U.K.-based label Erased Tapes, has received worldwide acclaim. “Dysnomia” was featured on year-end best album lists of the New Yorker and NPR, and in Rolling Stone, Interview, Pitchfork, Spin, Radiolab, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and other publications.

    When he is not touring with Dawn of Midi, he composes music for film, dance, theater and chamber ensembles both domestically and abroad. His soundtracks and arrangements for film have appeared on HBO, NBC, PBS and the Sundance Channel, and featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, Academy Awards, Sundance Film Festival, dOCUMENTA 13 and in the New York Times. He has written works for the yMusic Ensemble, Now Ensemble, Loos Ensemble, New Century Players, Contemporary Music Ensemble of New York University and Nimbus Dance Works.

    Future collaborations for 2016 include premieres for Yarn and Wire, London Contemporary Orchestra, Stargaze, Tigue and others. He has completed fellowships at Harvest Works, Art Omi, Akademie Schloss Solitude and Steim. Awards include grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Chamber Music America. He holds a bachelor’s degree in performance from Mannes College of Music (1999) and a master’s degree in composition and performance from the California Institute of the Arts (2008). He studied composition with Wolfgang Von Schweinitz, James Tenney, Michael Jon Fink, Anne LeBaron and Marc Sabat. Currently living in Brooklyn, he also is on faculty of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.