SUAL Archives | 2011

Seth Ayyaz: The Bird Ghost at the Zaouia — Multi-channel Sound Performance

Duration:     5‘09“ (excpt)
Type:             Recorded live at SUAL 2011
Credits:        Audio recording by JF, editing by BG

The Bird Ghost at the Zaouia

“For the person whose heart has been conquered by the fire of the love of God Most High, music is important, for it makes that fire burn hotter. However, for anyone whose heart harbors love for the false, music is fatal poison for him and is forbidden to him.” (Al-Ghazzali: On Listening To Music)

Between 2002 and 2011, I made many hours of recordings at various zaouia (Sufi shrines), mosques and religious spaces in Morocco, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon while attending various prayers and ceremonies (dhikr, zar, lilat, adhan, salat, tilawa). At the request of the respective religious leaders, no ‘musical’ material has been used. I found birds, resonant tails, breathes, winds, noise, overheard conversations, and extraneous sounds floating in, sounds that were left behind. The tensions within Sharia about the permissibility and place of music are long, complex and ongoing. Virtue or poison? As well as engaging debates within Islam, ‘The Bird Ghost at the Zaouia’ looks outwards, asking questions about sonic orientalisation – tourism that captures the ‘ethnic’ and colonises the ear. The history of Leighton House and its association with the imperial period offers a special context in which to immerse your ears.

[Seth Ayyaz]

Seth Ayyaz

Seth Ayyaz lives in London and is composer-performer spanning live electronics, free improvisation, noise, electroacoustics and Arabic music – principally nay (end-blown flute), ghaita (reed pipe) and hand percussion (darbuka and daf). Ayyaz studied acousmatic music at City University London, specialising in live electronics and machine-listening, building custom software/hardware ecologies for specific performances. Drawing on his background in neurosciences, his work is concerned with embodied perception and how this resonates across psychological and social spaces. His focus is on listening – and investigating what a sonic body can do. At present his main interest is improvising with other listening machines, human or otherwise. Ayyaz has presented his work internationally and most recently performed a live diffusion of the bird ghost at the zaouia at the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (2010) in Finland. The piece is a composed machine for listening that uses fragmented recordings made in Islamic religious rituals. It exploits and reconfigures the sonic detritus, the sounds designated as non-music, in a polemical and immersive multi-channel work. Makharej (2009) (meaning ‘exitings’ or ‘articulations’) is a live electronics and vocal exploration of the sonic latencies within the dis/embodiment of the Arabic alphabet developed in collaboration with the Egyptian actress Amira Ghazalla. Ayyaz’s work also includes Those That Fly (2003) concerned with the emotional and mental spaces of fear and confinement, imposed by the jamming of electronic communications during the aerial bombardment of Baghdad. Recent projects include curatorial work for the MazaJ Festival of experimental middle-eastern music in London, November 2010.

[info as of 12/2011]