The scope of the program approaches the topic of «contemporary music from the Middle East» from a wider perspective. Regional tensions reign high – internal conflicts in Lebanon itself; the Palestinian-Israeli question; the mounting gaps produced by the polarization of secular and fundamentalist Islamic forces are just some of the major areas that in one form or another leave an imprint on the cultural and contemporary artistic output of the Arab world. We do not intend to politicize these concerts. Quite the contrary: we strive to focus on the individual and the more personal question of identity – be it artistic or cultural – which can emerge to play an important part in the work of artists and particularly those living in exile. Identity,  understood here as a more or less fused mixture of collective and personal memory as well as cultural influences, looses definition if memory fades or is colored or even «overwritten» by other factors such as the experience of exile or the assimilation in chosen home countries and cultures. The feeling of «belonging to» may be challenged and hence may undergo dramatic mutations once other mechanisms of identification take a hold. Even at home such feelings can be triggered through civil war or the persistent threat of domestic terrorism. 
Many of the altogether twelve compositions performed in the concerts on September 27 and 28 revolve around such aspects. The transformation of the memory of a particular event in and out of time – the massacres of Sabra and Shatila in Western Beirut 1982 – was the point of departure for Iyad Mohammad’s «Silent Prayers»; Samir Odeh-Tamimi examines the dissolution of an ancient Sufi-ritual; Mazen Hussein and Karim Haddad return to memory and its impermanence; Nahla Mattar and Joan Karlen re-discover musical resonance as a metaphor for identity and the representation of remembrance; Yoav Pasovsky initiates a series of processes that gradually render sonic material into progressive abstraction. A work by Saed Haddad concludes the program with a premiere of his setting of text fragments by Mahmoud Darwish and Paul Celan, compiled by the philosopher Shulamit Bruckstein, a work commissioned by Berlin’s ha’atelier - platform for philosophy and art. The concerts will be performed by Ensemble United Berlin, conducted by Ferenc Gabor, and by Dresden’s ensemble courage  with guest conductor Manuel Nawri and singer Uta Buchheiser. We would encourage resistance to seeing the composers selected for this program as «representatives» of their respective national and cultural backgrounds. Rather, each is here as an individual and independent artist. Nor should any political paradigms be interpreted from this particular selection of works or composers. However, what clearly emerges within the framework of the festival «Beyrouth The Beirut of Education» is once again the importance of social, political and cultural realities in the creation and reception of contemporary concert music. Schoenberg’s idea of a composer’s strife towards self expression gains a new meaning in the context of shifting identities in a socio-politically instable environment. This will be the topic of a panel discussion with some of the participating composers and representatives from other disciplines which may provide some answers to questions on the relationship of identity, exile and artistic creation.   

ensemble united berlin / ensemble Sidare, Colon

The unitedberlin ensemble was founded in 1989 with the symbolic purpose of reconnecting classical musicians in a city long divided by the Cold War. Since its inception the ensemble has been transcending barriers not just musically but also geographically. Performances at festivals for contemporary music in Albania, Brazil, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Russia, China, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland have accompanied the activities in Berlin. Unitedberlin’s last performance abroad was at the Venice biennial in 2005, where the ensemble played a première of Michael Jarrell's Kassandra with Ida Marinelli as narrator. Whether at home in Germany or abroad, the unitedberlin ensemble presents contemporary music as well as selections from the modern canon, from Schönberg and Webern to Nono and Cage. Several
concert programs have been created in close cooperation with contemporary composers such as Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Mark Anthony Turnage, Christian Wolff, Toshio Hosokawa and Vinko Globokar. In each of these cases the composers played an important role in the working progress, from rehearsing and conducting together with the ensemble to giving lectures and workshops which accompanied the
performances. A characteristic feature of the unitedberlin ensemble is its interdisciplinary focus. For example, the five concerts in the series, Color, form, shape – music in dialogue, explored the points of contact between the visual arts and music in recent decades. The ensemble’s performance of Schönberg’s The Fortunate Hand also devoted itself to the
interdisciplinary theme, in this case theater. In Vinko Globokar’s musical theater piece, The Emigrants, two further disciplines, photography and film, were integrated into the performance. In the ensemble’s presentation of the monologue, Kassandra, the words of Christa Wolf, one of the best known writers to emerge from the former East Germany, formed a libretto for Michael Jarrell’s music thereby creating a fusion of literature, theater and music. The unitedberlin ensemble has released several compact discs that have received international acclaim. Regarding the latest cd from unitedberlin featuring the works of Luigi Nono, The New York Times said, “There have been a lot of Nono releases since the composer’s death in 1990.
This is one of the best.”

ensemble courage

The ensemble courage was founded in 1997 in Dresden. Meanwhile it has established itself as one of the leading ensembles for contemporary music in Germany. Since its debut concert ensemble courage has consistently received critical acclaim and enthusiastic audience support for its high quality concert performances and ambitious and unusually diverse programming. The group has a core of 15 musicians and presents concerts with repertoire ranging from solo compositions to chamber symphony size works. Alongside its own performance season in Dresden the ensemble presents concerts at festivals such as Ars Nova (SWR), Dresden Festival for Contemporary Music, Global Ear, INMF Darmstadt, International Festival of Contemporary Music Tashkent, Musica Viva Munich and Maerzmusik Berlin. Sponsored by the prestigious Siemens Arts Program, the City of Dresden, the Deutscher Musikrat, and the State of Saxony the ensemble has given premiere performances by established composers such as Chaya Czernowin, Gerhard Staebler, Sidney Corbett, Christopher Fox, Helena Tulve and Michael Hirsch
as well as dozens of premieres by emerging composers. In 2004 it premiered a program with miniature operas by Tamara Ibragimowa, Benjamin Schweitzer and Charlotte Seither as part of the Dresden Festival of Contemporary Music. Concerts of the ensemble have been recorded and broadcast by nationwide and European radio stations. In 2002 the ensemble's debut solo cd was released on the "en avant"-label. In 2008 ensemble courage will present the premiere
recording of Chaya Czernovin's Winter Songs. Additional recordings have been released on the Wergo and MD-Radio labels. In 2001 ensemble courage received the emerging artists Prize by the "Ernst-von-Siemens Foundation for Music" (Förderpreis für Musik) , in 2004 it was awarded the "Cultural Prize of the City of Dresden", and for its 2007-8 season it is the recipient of grants by the Music Council of Germany (Deutscher Musikrat). The main focus of the ensemble's repertoire are works by young, emerging international composers. In addition to traditional concert repertoire the group presents experimental and unconventional concerts involving improvisation, musical theatre and "cross-over"-projects, such as "noize-creator", a collaborative program with musicians from the ensemble and DJs from the Dresden underground music scene, as well as exchange projects with London's ensemble Apartment House and the Argento Ensemble from New York. Sponsored by the Goethe Institute and the German Academy Villa Massimo in Rome the ensemble has presented concerts in Finland, Slovenia, Usbekistan and Italy. Currently the group is preparing a tour of four countries in the Middle East for 2009. The ensemble courage was founded by the Dresden composer Benjamin
Schweitzer. In 2000 Titus Engel was appointed principal conductor. Since 2005 the ensemble is under the artistic direction of Berlin-based composer and curator Oliver Schneller. Carsten Gerth is its managing director. Since 2004 the ensemble is closely associated with the European Center for the Arts in Dresden-Hellerau.

ensemble sidare

Maqamat  (Plural von Maqam) are distinctive successions of notes that are being used in nearly all countries oft he near east. Depending on their root note they express a certain emotion. In the Iraq the word „Maqam“ describes additionally an ancient tradition of singing, that has been kept alive from generation to generation. It is only in Bagdad where this from of singing is still in practice today. And it is for this reason that the group chose the name Sidare which describes a special hat or kepi that is typically exclusively worn in Bagdad by maqam-recitators when making music.

Saad Thamir was born in Bagdad 1972. After having successfully finished his studies in piano and composition and worked as a teacher in conservatories in Iraq and later in Amman in Jordan in the music institute “Classic”. He is performing at numerous concerts in Arabic countries as well as in Europe and is leading the groups „Sidare“, „Lagash“ and „Ahoar“ as the musical director.

Bassem Hawar, was born in Ur (Iraq), he finished his studies of the instrument Djoze at the music institute for Maqam in Bagdad. Later he studied musical science at the University of Bagdad. He is living in Europe since 2000, where he is performing as solo musician or as a member in groups like
„Juri Honington Trio“, „Bagdad Trio“or „Lagash“.

Jamil Al-Asadi was born in Bagdad. He studied Kanun and oriental music theory at the Institute for Classical Iraq Music. He also studied western classical music theory at the University of Bagdad. He is living in Europe since 1996 and is founder and musical director oft he group „Muniryat“.

Layt Abdul Ameer was born in Bagdad. He studied in 1985 music at the Institute for creative arts in Bagdad having chosen Oud as his main and piano as his second instrument before adding further studies at the Music Academy at the University of Bagdad in 1993. Since 1999 he is living in Munich as a musician.
Adnaan Shanan was born in 1965 in Dikar (Iraq). He studied Ney at the Institute for Music of Iraq in Bagdad before enrolling at the Academie of Bel Arts, where he later worked as a teacher. He was a solo musician at the Television Orchestra of Bagdad and has accompanied nearly all well-known musicians and singers of the Middle East. Adnaan Shana is a renown virtuoso oft he Ney and is widely appreciated for his soulful, nearly romantic Improvisations.