What the Unexplained Sounds Group recently did for the under-known contemporary experimental music of Africa they’ve now done for the equally under-recognized experimental and electronic music of the Middle East. Just as the African anthology made explicit the diversity of the music being made in that consummately diverse continent, the fourteen artists represented on the Anthology of Contemporary Music from Middle East reflect the distinctiveness of the countries and cultures they come from: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey.
Although electronics play a prominent role in nearly all of the pieces, each artist handles them in a way that best meets the needs of expression and form. To pick a handful of examples: Thalassa by Dimitris Savva of Cyprus uses sampled and synthesized sounds of tidal waves, seaside field recordings, and voice and bells to create an audio portrait of an island, painted from some of its most salient sounds. Gaza Requiem by Pharoah Chromium Palestine is a moving work of contemporary musique concrète constructed of electronically modified source recordings of voice, drones, and suspenseful, looped fragments of rhythm. Iran’s Nyctalllz contributes the dystopian, dark wall of electronic sound of The Humanity Demise, which contrasts with the acoustic plucked strings and traditional rhythms and modes of Prelude for Orpheus by Bahrain’s Hasan Hujairi. Both Cenk Ergun of Turkey and Ahmed Saleh of Egypt offer their own takes on rhythm-driven music, the former with scrambled electronic beats and the latter with minimalist pulse music.
Like the anthology of contemporary African music, the anthology of Middle Eastern music is required listening for anyone interested in the broad world of sound.