NADIR for recorder (or flute), viola and tape. 1988. Commissioned by the Canadian Electronic Ensemble for Peter Hannan and Rivka Golani, with a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. 7 minutes. Score/part and CD with the audio playback component available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.



During the early stages of composing this work in November and December 1987, I was shocked by the untimely death of Canadian poet and dear friend Gwendolyn MacEwen. A couple of months earlier my teacher, composer Morton Feldman had also died and even though we were not on talking terms since my student years, his loss was deeply felt. Gwendolyn had a thorough knowledge of the Arab world, she wrote a novel set in ancient Egypt and traveled the Middle East extensively before writing her greatest work, "The T. E. Lawrence Poems". Morton had a great interest in Oriental rugs and Arabic art in general, in the patterns of which he recognized aspects of his own work. I remember a number of times that both of us were seated on one of his own rugs studying the patterns whose symmetries are often imperfect because "only Allah is perfect". I was thinking about all that and also about the war between Iran and Iraq, where people blinded by religious fanaticism and hatred have plunged into the wholesale business of destruction seeking and causing death in the name of God, not realizing perhaps that God is one, but He/She has many names. All of these thoughts crystallized finally into Nadir, a death dance. So Gwen and Morton dance on….for death is only the awakening from the terrible nightmare of life.

Note: Several years since the composition of this work, the music of Nadir was re-arranged (and expanded) for string quartet and eventually became the third movement of String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering).

Premiere performance: April 29, 1988 by Peter Hannan, recorder and Douglas Perry, viola at a Canadian Electronic Ensemble concert, Music Gallery, Toronto.


[In Nadir] the sounds of the Mediterranean are attractively woven with the intensity-filled sounds of an invisible orchestra produced by the tape. The imaginative writing unfailingly holds the interest of the listener.

George B. Monemvasitis, ELEFTHEROTYPIA (Greece)


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