MusicUnitesUS will celebrate the spiritual music of Azerbaijan March 4-6

Alim and Fargana Qasimov will highlight their campus residency with March 6 world music concert

Alim and Fargana QasimovFor March 6 concert tickets:
Brandeis Tickets
Tickets are $20/$10 in advance, $25/$15 at the door

MusicUnitesUS, the novel Brandeis University program that aims to further the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures through music, will welcome renowned Azerbaijani vocalists Alim and Fargana Qasimov to the university’s Waltham campus for a three-day residency in March 2010.
During their residency, the Qasimovs will take part in a series of events, including a performance for Waltham Public School students on March 4, open Brandeis classes on March 5, and a World Music concert on March 6. For a complete list of event information, please see the residency schedule below.

The father and daughter vocal team, which specializes in Azerbaijan’s classical vocal music, mugham, will be accompanied by a four-person ensemble for the March 6 concert at the Slosberg Music Center on the Brandeis campus. You can hear some of their music here.

Bordered by Russia to the north, the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south, and Georgia and Armenia to the west, Azerbaijan is a country with an ancient and historic cultural tradition. It combines the heritage of two venerable civilizations—the Seljuk Turks of the 11th century and the ancient Persians. Azerbaijan established independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mugham originated more than a millennium ago in the great cultural centers of North Africa, the Middle East, West Asia and Central Asia. Today, Alim Qasimov is known for exploring and expanding this musical tradition that stretches far into the past. “It was never our aim to sing mugham as a duet in order to reform the tradition,” says Qasimov of the sinuous vocal arrangements he performs with Fargana. “Rather, what we do happens spontaneously. We can sing one way in a rehearsal, and then in a concert, it will turn out completely differently. When I meet with the musicians in my ensemble, there’s an atmosphere that starts to nourish us which comes from beyond our own will, and that’s the source of the unpredictability in our music. It’s almost a feeling of ecstasy that leads to a kind of meditation.”
The first part of the March 6 concert will draw on the rich repertoire of the ashiq oral tradition, with lyrical texts portraying, often with wry humor and searing irony, the power of love and the pain of separation.
The second portion of the concert will consist of a performance of Mugham Bayati Shiraz, a suite of pieces that take listeners on a journey through varied musical and emotional terrain. The great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) believed that Bayati Shiraz conveys feelings of melancholy and unrequited love, and instigates thoughtfulness in the listener. Throughout the suite, contemplative moods interact with sorrowful feelings and moments of intense yearning and distant hopes. The poetic texts are drawn from the works of Füzüli (1495-1556), one of the leading representatives of the Divan tradition of Azerbaijani Turkic literature. Although the texts are fixed, melodic elaboration of the text contains a strong improvisational element.
The concert, with pre-performance talk given by ethnomusicologist Thedore Levin, will culminate the three-day residency at Brandeis. MusicUnitesUS, a three-tiered program that encompasses an Intercultural Residency Series, a Public School Education Program, and a World Music Series, offers university classes, workshops, and informal discussions that are all open to the public.
The program was founded in 2003 by Judith Eissenberg, Brandeis professor of the practice of music, and member of the Lydian String Quartet, who says, “The artists we invite to campus not only celebrate traditions that have been passed down for centuries or more, but are part of extending their expressions of culture into the future.” Previous MusicUnitesUS artists have included Indian musician Shubha Mudgal, Afro-Brazilian group Ologundê, and Persian and Turkish musicians Kayhan Kalhor (Iran) & Erdal Erzincan (Turkey).
MusicUnitesUS schedule


10:30 a.m.
Waltham High School auditorium
Performances for Waltham Public Schools students
Cosponsored by Music, Waltham Public Schools, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts

4 – 5 p.m.
Abraham Shapiro Complex atrium, Brandeis campus
Improvised Conversations
An opportunity to hear about the life and work of Azerbaijani father and daughter vocalists Fargana and Alim Qasimov
Cosponsored by Slifka Program in Intercommunal Coexistence, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts


9:40 – 11:30 a.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Open Class: Join English and Fine Arts students in exploring connections between the visual arts, the spoken word, and music. Music and discussion with residency artists and curator Theodore Levin.
Cosponsored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts

12:10 - 1:30 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Open Class: Join Anthropology, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Theater students in a discussion with visiting artists. The class will include music.
Cosponsored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts

1:40 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Open Class: Join MUS 3b Introduction to World Music in a discussion with music, led by residency curator Theodore Levin
Cosponsored by Music, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts

3:10 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Friday Music Break: Renowned ethnomusicologist and residency curator Theodore Levin speaks about his life and travels.
Cosponsored by Music, Aga Khan Trust for Culture

4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Improvisation Workshop with visiting musicians
Sign up for workshop:
Cosponsored by Music, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts


7 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
Preconcert Talk with Theodore Levin, the Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music at Dartmouth and curator of the residency on behalf of the Aga Khan Music Initiative.
Cosponsored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture

8 p.m.
Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis campus
World Music Concert: The Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan
Cosponsored by Music, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Brandeis Council on the Arts
This concert and residency is cosponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture: Music Initiative in Central Asia and the Brandeis Arts Council.

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