April 30, 2015
Mohammed Fairouz —
The World in Counterpoint

He’s been called a post-millennial Schubert. Mohammed Fairouz has composed four symphonies and an opera while still in his 20s. He invokes John F. Kennedy and Anwar Sadat, Seamus Heaney and Yehuda Amichai in his compositions. He sees "illustrious language" as a form of music — and as a way, just maybe, to shift the world on its axis.

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is a composer whose opera and symphonies have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Kennedy Center. His 11 albums include Native Informant, In The Shadow of No Towers, Poems and Prayers, and, most recently, Follow, Poet.

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Mohammed Fairouz gives direction at a rehearsal of the Grinnell Singers for the campus premiere of his five-movement work, "Anything Can Happen."

Photo by Ben Brewer

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Thanks for having Mohammed Fairouz on the program. His passion for music and poetry stimulates thoughts and feelings that move us forward with some understanding of how and why life strives to maintain hope.

The question of music vs words is an interesting one. I have always felt that the act of singing, of putting words to music, is profoundly healing. My explanation for this is that music is stored in the right side of our brains while words are on the left: the act of singing requires us to unify our brains and that feels really, really good!

Mr. Fairouz blew me away. So young and evolved. He is an avatar v

LOVE that music and the thought/philosophy/inspiration that came with it. I hope the Juneau Symphony will be able to play one of your pieces, either Sadat, which marimbas thrilled me, or the choral work, which also included marimbas (if not marimbas, then what were they?).

M. Fairouz was born in New York; this qualifies as second generation Arab-American.

The most adventurous and visionary discourse I have encountered about the powerful interplay between texts and music and how new art can and will save the day—if we embrace it. It is also about the necessity of strengthening our connection with our ancestors so that we can acknowledge the sacred truth that we are all one.

Dear Krista,Thank you so much for this poetic,life giving episode that introduced me to a incredible,poet,composer and brilliantly articulate young man. I was and I am deeply moved by the resonance of agreement that is deep within that was/is evoked in response to your words Krista and of Mohammed Fairouz's. I am a minor poet that vibrates alive when I hear certain music and poetry as they are one talent, now and in in ages past, the bards like Homer sang they songs poems. All great poets speak from the heart and that is wisdom.
Thank you Krista.

A good hour! As I understand it the Old Testament was written down between 500 and 400 BC, after the exile started. But before that it was an accurately protected oral tradition, the events took place well before 500-400 BC. If Abraham is dated around 2000 BC, Noah is before that in the prehistory.
The Middle East is made up of Semitic peoples, so it is a family affair (are the Arabs Semitic?), but I don't know how much intermingling they had historically. Pope Benedict reminded us often of the evangelizing role and importance of art. Wonderful poem by Auden, I have to memorize it. The one of Auden's I know so far, though off topic:

M is for Marx
And the marching of masses
and the massing of asses
and the clashing of classes.

What a talented and insightful young man. Mr. Fairouz brings a statesman's understanding to culture and music. He deeply understands – and shares the philosophy that we are all truly of One Tribe. Thank you for such a superb presentation.

Thank you so much for having Mohammed Fairouz on your program. As a singer-songwriter and voice visionary, my life is dedicated to the power of voice, poetry and music. I sat in Berlin and was blown away. Resonance abounds. I hung on every word and was excited. Truth be, I stopped all that I was doing and lit candles and listened. I am still excited. I will re-listen and read the poets shared. Yes, poetry will save our world. How grand it is to experience global mind-global heart. ON BEING is a place I call home. Mr. Fairouz's interview is a rare gem that gives a vision for this world that each and everyone of us can only smile, nod our heads and say YES YES YES!

Well THAT was refreshing! Hello - where have you been all my life!? I moved to Israel as a child in the late 60s from the US. I remember being transfixed by the sound of the language the 3rd grade girls in my class used to squabble, play games during recess and to answer homework - now that was music.

All language is music, much of it mesmerizing - just listen to what I call "NPR English". Listen to it - it is essential American music!

I'm always amazed at how wonderfully intimate the conversations on On Being are. I feel like I'm a lucky eavesdropper - lucky to have found such a wonderfully rich conversation to listen in on. What's more - I get to hear some great new music!

Listening to Mohammed Fairouz made me realize many things about my own life. I am currently putting together a poetry manuscript, and was having doubts about some parts of it. Should I rewrite, re-edit, throw out poems, not finish it? So this interview made me think about poetry, and art and music today, and my own life. If I am a poet, a painter, and a filmmaker, then I am who I am and doubt will only limit those things. I shall continue to be me, and be inspired by people like Fairouz. He is a smart and deep person. Great interview.