flute, Bb clarinet, vibraphone / tambourine, viola, cello
(a version also exists with violin substituted for viola)
The title and inspiration for this quintet is drawn from a 1963 novella (originally in Arabic) by the world-renowned author/poet Ghassan Kanafani. The tragic story follows the struggle of three different men (a boy, an adult, and an old man) after the year 1948, which is known by Palestinians and Arabs generally as "Al Nakba" or "The Catastrophe." During this time, nearly one million Palestinians fled their home as refugees, and those who remained became second-class citizens in their own lands under Israeli occupation.
Hoping to earn money and better fortune for their families, the three protagonists in the story attempt to smuggle themselves to Kuwait where they might find work. Their paths converge in Basra where they meet their smuggler, a colorful, lively truck driver not without his own obstacles. To pass the checkpoints on the way they must hide in the lorry’s water tank, which is cooked by the hot Iraqi sun. With little to lose in their lives, the men stop at nothing to cross the blazing desert. Himself a Palestinian refugee, Kanafani is known for his portrayal of the Palestinian experience through modern style/prose, vivid characters, and here, an intense plot. As a composer I was deeply inspired by these emotional and structural elements, as well as my own roots as an Arab-American. The piece is dedicated to my mentor, Stephen Blumberg, who was incredibly supportive in the composition and creative process.
*Winner of 2010 Festival of New American Music (FeNAM) Student Composers Competition