On Askadar for piano and oud, an improvisation with Huda Asfour

Trailer for Seamstress (2016)

Seamstress is a documentary song-cycle based on the collected oral histories of Palestinian women and girls. Blending audio interviews, photography, and raw footage with live chamber orchestra and dance performances, Seamstress aims to create a moving and powerful portrait of love, strength, and resistance in the face of injustice and misinformation.

Interlude from Seamstress (2016)

Batn el Hawa (2013)

Batn El-Hawa for electronic playback and piano and video, was recorded at Al Kamandjati, Ramallah and Al-Ammari and Jalazon refugee camps' child centers out of tune upright pianos. Timelapse video was recorded by Palestinian photographer and designer Ahmad Odeh, of Hosrom photography. The electronic playback was recorded with Mohamed Najem and Suby Raman on oboes, and the sequenced elements from prepared upright pianos at Al Ammari and Jalazon camps. 

Life exists beyond what we see, even if it seems to be fading before us, or far off in the distance. When you look west standing in the valley of Batn el Hawa, you can see the sea sparkling in the distance. 

Perpetual Dance, Hijaz Kar Theme & Variation (2015)
performed and recorded by Donia Jarrar

Letters to Palestine brought together 12 pianists and composers residing in multiple countries, with different backgrounds and musical experience levels. Discovering each other through email correspondence and their shared music resulted in a production that documents both the variety in style of composition for piano by Palestinians, and the crossovers, connections and similarities between them.

The Return (2014)
performed by Donia Jarrar, Laith Al Attar, Diana Sussman & Melissa Coppola

In The Return (2014), a woman struggles to cope with issues of conflicted identity and the pain of grief and loss while yearning to find a place to call home. The second movement ends with my arrangement of Tunisian composer Anuar Brahem’s “Le pas du chat noir,” which I first arranged to perform with two of my dear friends working at Al Kamandjati in Palestine: Palestinian composer and accordionist Mohammad Bassam, and Greek composer and oud virtuoso Dimitri Mikelis.  

I. Your love ambushed me
II. Hold me above the sound of sorrow
III. Beyond the vintage skies

Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement...Exiles look at non-exiles with resentment. They belong in their surroundings, you feel, whereas an exile is always out of place. What it is like to be born in a place, to stay and live there, to know that you are of it, more or less forever? 

-Edward Said

Checkpoint (2015)

Cairo, I love you for two pianos (2010)
performed by Donia Jarrar & Aya Yamamoto

This piece was inspired by what began as a night -time drive with friends beneath the desert sky on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. We would drive out into the desert, with nothing but the moon and stars, the bedus lights, to guide our way. Leaving the heavily polluted city sky behind us, the stars would appear one by one as the curtain of pollution was slowly lifted. The constant whir of the car engine was like a steady pulse that put us to sleep.
In the morning when we returned to the city, the traffic and disorderly, overcrowded streets welcomed us. Driving in that city is a constant brush with death, with cars driving the wrong way down one-way streets as policemen yawn and turn their heads, horse and donkey-drawn carriages blocking the sides of the highways, children hopping rides on the backs of buses, women driving with their babies on their laps, three or four men on one motorcycle, and pedestrians getting injured on a daily basis. Drivers will not even stop or move out of the way for an ambulance.
Eventually we made it to Khan El-Khalili, Cairos famous bazaar and souk in the Islamic District. The souk is filled with coffee shops and hookah bars, where we spent the day. Its narrow alleys and cobblestoned streets are filled with beautiful Egyptian silver jewelry stands, gold, spices, perfumes, accessories, oils and dessert shops where lokmit aadi, deep fried doughnut holes, are made.
My friends and I ended the day with a visit to Cairo Jazz Club, one of the best venues for live music in the city. There was dancing, there were drinks, and then there was dawn. We walked along the Nile. There were no stars, only a reflection of the citys lights on the river water.

Tahrir Squares # 1 (2011)

I composed the piano part of this as improvisation over some of the most powerful voicemails I had translated from speak2tweet during the start of the Jan25 revolution. The rest of the material comes from my cousin's wedding in Cairo the weekend of April 22-24 and other field sounds taken from Tahrir Square that I recorded as well as Khan El Khalili and Naguib Mahfouz Cafe. 


Border Crossings, for voice and orchestra (2011)

World Premiere of my piece for Voice and Orchestra. Performed by myself, Donia Jarrar and the University of Michigan Philharmonia Orchestra