All the featured composers work in the fields of contemporary composition, electronica, sound art, improvisation and avant-pop, with a focus on the voice. A focal point tonight is the voice and erotically charged songs of Aya Metwalli, and the inventive electronic music of artist/composer Raed Yassin. Egyptian Metwalli’s Cabaret macabre is a tribute to the voice of Mounira Al-Mahdiya, a 1920s singer of sexually explicit cabaret songs. Yassin’s piece, whose starting point was a rare vinyl recording of a female preacher’s unusual Koran recitation, found in a Syrian flea market, is scored for six non-Arabic-speaking voices.
Cynthia Zaven’s (Lebanon) songs of exile are inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Sayat Nova’s Armenian poem Tamam Ashkar. Dániel Péter Biró’s (Hungary/Norway) Asher Hotseti Etkhem (Who Brought You out of the Land) s based on texts by Baruch Spinoza and Jewish and Christian chants from Portugal, Beirut and Montréal. Youmna Saba’s (Lebanon) I covered the planet with a dried leaf blends classical Arabic music with electronics.
In the second half, Manolis Manousakis’s (Greece) State of Exception / Confli.ct, for solo voice, tape, live electroncs and video, represents a lone voice in the so-called European utopia which is more of a state of chaos. Samir Odeh-Tamimi’s (Palestine) VROS deals with total isolation in an invented anti-language. Tony Elieh – Lebanon’s post-rock pioneer – supplies a new piece for the Ultima programme.
Throughout the entire concert, a narrative emerges about the diversity, contradictions, explosiveness and poetry of the area centered around Lebanon.