03 Black FishKeyan Emami – The Black Fish
Andrew Downing; Majd Sekkar; Ton Beau String Quartet; Louis Pino; Naoko Tsujita
Centrediscs CMCCD30422 (blackfishproject.com)

Toronto-based Iranian-Canadian composer Keyan Emami has composed a multi stylistic and instrumental masterpiece in his three-movement inspirational work based on the well-known Persian children’s book, The Little Black Fish, which tells the story of a little black fish who leaves his pond to explore the world. Commissioned by Ton Beau String Quartet, it is scored for string quartet, clarinet (Majd Sekkar), double bass (Andrew Downing), percussion (Louis Pino, Naoko Tsujita), with electronics and narration provided by Emami. The composed parts and improvised sections are performed brilliantly. 

The opening movement Dailiness immediately catches the listener’s attention with held notes and spooky string repeated two-note intervals. The more upbeat middle section features clarinet lead melody, bass and percussion transforming to more Middle Eastern idioms and a slower closing. The dramatic, moody 18-bar theme passacaglia Dreaming combines classic strings feel, jazz bass and all styles clarinet music with spoken words inspired by Attar of Nishapur’s bird poem. The final movement Swimming In D is inspired by Terry Riley’s minimalistic In C. Emami’s short stylistic diverse 48 melodic patterns add dramatic quasi minimalist ideas and movement in alternating dynamic, instrumental and stylistic sections from frolicking to calming to loud crashing effects. Sekkar’s colourful tones and wailing clarinet, and Emani’s allowing the performers freedom to repeat patterns as they wish, are highlights.

Emami’s masterful ability to combine children’s story ideas with his well-developed symphonic, jazz/rock, Persian, world, improvisational and contemporary inspired composing makes this music for all ages.

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