Home, Life, Loss

By Steven Libowitz   |   March 29, 2022
A blend of art and music with the Silk Road Ensemble (photo by Piotr Połoczański, courtesy of The Festival of World Cultures in Gdańsk)

Home Within, the audio-visual collaborative performance piece from Syrian composer-clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad, was originally conceived of as an emotions-into-art response to the loss and longing of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sent about one-third of the Syrian people into exile. It grew out of a piece called “Sad Morning Every Morning” that Azmeh said he composed after almost a year of not being able to write music at all “given the magnitude of what was going on. I was just trying to make sense of it all, just for me mostly.” 

Then he invited Mourad – with whom he’d been collaborating sporadically for years – to add some artwork, and the short piece was performed live with just the two of them a few times in the early 2010s. Since then, though, the work has expanded to more than an hour and has grown to encompass five other members of the famed Silk Road Ensemble, broadening both the musical and international scope of Home Within. “We wanted to expand the concept of the project and include stories from other people and place,” Azmeh explained. 

That’s the version of the impressionistic reflection on loss, longing and the impact of tragedy on our sense of home that will be presented at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday, March 31, with Azmeh leading the ensemble while Mourad provides live illustrations over pre-existing visuals. The current conflict in Ukraine has only added extra poignance to the performance that was planned many months before. 

“This piece is about the Syrian crisis, but what is really present in our minds is what’s happening in the Ukraine,” Azmeh said. “All of us connect with catastrophes elsewhere, you know, no matter how physically distant we are. It’s impossible not to relate and feel that sense of loss and connect with our own sense of home.” But the goal of the piece, Azmeh said, isn’t to delve into despair but find salve and search for solutions. 

“We are hoping that our sharing opens a window in the curious minds of our audiences, so they will investigate, but also think about how they can contribute to the home where you are right now, or the place that I would love to be. How do you bless and expand one’s community to include the whole world?”


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