AinAni | for Solo Flute and Flute Ensemble (2017) 10’
Commisioned by Yossi Arnheim
Yossi Arnheim - Flute
Hagar Shahal - Conducter
The Israeli Flute Choir
Tel Aviv, December 2017
AinAni was commissioned by Yossi Arnheim, Principal Flutist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as well as my flute teacher for six years. Yossi's musical interests also include classical Arabic music, and so he suggested that I incorporate elements of it into the piece.
I've always found the microtonal melodic fluctuations of classical Arabic repertoire to be one of its most expressive and attractive qualities. I wanted to find a way to harness this expressive power, without being limited to the harmonic stasis of the Maqam system. It was also important for me to exhibit an aspect of Yossi's flute playing and teaching I'm especially fond of – a 'cantabile espressivo' style, with a very controlled and sensitive use of vibrato and rubato.
In the piece, half of the ensemble is tuned a ¼ tone down, thus dividing it into two groups, not unlike the works of Ives or Wyschnegradsky for 2 pianos in quarter tones. This dichotomy creates an inherent irreconcilable tension, at the heart of which lays the solo flute, which shifts back and forth between the two tunings through constant bends and manipulations of its pitch.
Furthermore, the duality of intonation enabled me to create a microtonal harmonic progression, by way of continuously oscillating between the two groups. Derived from the circle of fifths sequence, the harmonic progression functions as a chaconne theme, and is constructed in a way which continuously progresses without ever reaching a full 'cadence'.
This dramaturgic 'mise-en-scène' of a conflicted dichotomy unfolding throughout a continues, seemingly-endless sequence, is very much influenced by ideas from Kabbalah. While working on the piece I became familiar with the term 'Ain' (אַיִן,) one of the basic concepts in Jewish mysticism which abstractly signifies whatever language and thought are unable to express, grasp or quantify.
I was particularly intrigued by a quote by Dov Ber of Mezeritch, which talks about the Hebrew word Ain, signifying the hidden aspect being, and the word Ani (literary meaning "me" or "I"), signifying the revealed aspect of being. These two words, presenting in a sense opposite poles, consist of the same Hebrew letters and with only their order distinguishing between them.
What I also found remarkably suggestive about these two words, is their sonority and musicality. I especially liked the contrast between a trochaic stress of Ain to the iambic stress of Ani, which ended up playing a major role in the piece.
AinAni is therefore an exploration of the idea of transition from the ungraspable to the tangible, from the unquantifiable to the singular, from Ain to Ani – opposites which are essentially manifestations of the same components, essence and sounds.
"וזהו 'אני' אותיות אי"ן – שמאני שהוא עשיה נעשה אי"ן"
(המגיד ממזריטש, מתוך מגיד דבריו ליעקב)