photo credit Evan Christopher

Rutgers University-Newark Middle East Music Orchestra

Join the orchestra! General interest meeting October 5


The Middle East Music Orchestra was funded by a Chancellor’s Seed Grant and provides opportunity for study, exploration, and performance of various genres of Middle Eastern music in its broadest sense, as well as collaboration with the community, scholars and students in the interdisciplinary Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program.

The underlying focus of the orchestra is on the theoretical and practical aspects of maqam, the principal musical modal system associated with this region of the world. Through its work, the orchestra will perform classical, modern, and popular genres from the Middle East and North Africa, in classical, devotional, folk, and urban forms. The repertoire will include instrumental and vocal pieces, sung in a variety of languages that reflect the centuries-long interaction of Arab, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Sephardic Jewish cultures in the region. The Middle East Music Orchestra is based on inclusive culture of collaboration across artistic and academic disciplines, embracing the Rutgers community’s diversity and demonstrating its rich cultural potential – telling the Rutgers Newark story through performances, research, and learning.

The orchestra members will perform on traditional instruments such as oud, ney, tambur, lute, percussion (bendir, riqq, darbukkah), santur, qanun, saz, baglama, rebab, as well as violin, clarinet, cello, viola, double bass, and other instruments tuned to modal scales. The repertoire will include instrumental and vocal pieces, often sung in a variety of languages reflecting the diversity of cultures in the region: Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Ladino. The orchestra will investigate the touching points and historical overlap with other musical traditions, including South Asian, Spanish, Portuguese, Central Asian, and Eastern European, and engage them in innovative cross-cultural performance and artistic explorations. Working with melody, rhythm, poetry, and structure of modal music the participants will perform the compositions and improvisations drawing attention to the distinct cultural elements as the starting point in a re-imagined environment of twenty first century’s global synthesis.

Participation in the orchestra is envisioned to encompass university and community members in sharing their skill and learning from one another. The orchestra will begin its work in September 2018 with an opening concert on 9/28, and a general interest meeting on 10/5 open to all, including novices at the start of the semester. No prior experience in Middle East music would be needed to participate. It will continue with weekly rehearsals, and three major performances in November 2018, February 2019, and May 2019. The Middle East Music Orchestra will promote interaction with the greater Newark community through performances at Rutgers-Newark and citywide, as well as open participation.