Queeries for Mohammed Fairouz

Composer Mohammed Fairouz, 26, refuses to name a favorite poem but admits to being obsessed with texts.  He’s written 13 song cycles and his first opera, Sumeida’s Song, is due out on Bridge Records soon.  He’s also collaborated with poets Mahmoud Darwish, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney.  

October will be a landmark month for Fairouz. Besides the CD release, he’ll have a portait concert at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn that includes a new string quartet played by the Boromeo (October 11). Then the Metropolis Ensemble with mezzo Kate Lindsey will premiere his song cycle Audenesque at Le Poisson Rouge (October 21).  Finally the Cantus vocal ensemble is premiering A Source of Lightat the Cowles Center in Minneapolis, followed by tour performances throughout Minnesota. And that’s just October. Later in the season there will be performances and premieres with New York Festival of Song, Lucy Shelton and the Da Capo Chamber Players, the New Juilliard Ensemble.


What do you like to talk about, say over drinks or dinner, if not music and the arts?

The work of the great animators of the golden age of animation, retro video games, Japanese art-films, the latest Arabic poetry… lots of geeky stuff.

How much do you keep up with news and current affairs? 

I’m very keen on current affairs and the political climate of the day informs my work quite a lot. When the 2011 Egyptian revolution broke out, for example, I wrote my piece for clarinet and orchestra called Tahrir with the news on (and the sound off).

Is there a relationship between your sexuality and your creativity? 

There’s a long history of homoerotic poetry from Arab Andalucia. I’ve set a lot of that poetry to music.

Do you like to collaborate or be the boss?

I’m a total collaborator. I’ve written opera and work for dance and you have to be able to collaborate when you do that. In fact, you have to be able to collaborate to write any music even if the collaboration is to be with a conductor and orchestra for an orchestral work or a singer for a song.

Are most of your friends from the music world or not? 

Most of my friends are actually poets or writers. I’ve written a lot of vocal music and I’ve been lucky to work with many of the world’s finest poets. I’m totally obsessed with text. Even my purely instrumental works tend to be inspired by words. Small wonder that most of my best friends are writers.

With what historical figure (living or dead) would you like to have a date or an affair?

Oscar Wilde or Benjamin Britten or Abu Nawas… too many cool people to make up my mind!


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