the drowning meadow (2021)
from the composer
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” – Arundhati Roy, April 3rd, 2020
What we come to view as the blossoming fertility of the Earth, as depicted by Botticelli’s Primavera and then reimagined by Charline von Heyl in 2020 and in the years since the pandemic has changed our lives, opens up a portal into past and future spiritual planes, where music can serve as a conduit for healing and change, and in some cases, social and economic justice.
The Drowning Meadow is a reimagining of Flora as an indigenous Palestinian harbinger summoning ancestral spirits from the land.
Imagine a Ferris wheel made of herbs and flowers in The Drowning Valley (Marj Sanur), in Sanur, Jenin. It exists on another plane that is accessible only by Palestinians and ancestral spirits. The Ferris wheel transports you to the sea and into the ether. In this mode of the future,
Palestinians have developed supernatural powers and teleport in and out of different spiritual planes. Their powers and teleportation devices such as the Ferris wheel are passed adown by the spirits of children.
Sanur Lake is present in Palestinian oral and written folk stories as a sign of the abundance of rainwater. Located in the northern occupied West Bank, in Jenin, its valley transforms into a grey, shallow lake after the rainy winter season, giving it the nickname “The Drowning Valley”. Jenin, my father’s home village, is part of a coastal strip extending along the Mediterranean Sea. However, most occupied West Bank Palestinians do not know this coast and have never been able to visit it because Israel’s Apartheid Wall has turned the territory into isolated cantons.
Sanur Lake is located in an area surrounded by a mountain chain in the towns of Sanur, Meithalun, al-Judeida, Siris, Sir, Misilyah, and Jarba.
The mountain chains are the reason for the rainfall accumulation, and the lake, while beautiful to witness for most, means the destruction of crops for Palestinian farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture has been unable to solve the problem. In the past, the drowning valley only appeared every decade or so, but due to climate change, and more heavy and regular rainfall, the lake is now a permanent fixture in the winter.
Donia Jarrar is an Arab-American composer-pianist, improviser, producer and interdisciplinary artist. Born to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother, she grew up between Kuwait City, Alexandria, Ramallah, and New York. Her personal experiences have strongly shaped her compositional voice, leading her to explore themes of intergenerational memory, trauma, identity, exile, displacement, and cultural narrative in her work.
Jarrar is a composer-librettist member of Decameron Opera Coalition, which was recently awarded a Freddie Excellence in Opera award by NY Public Radio/WQXR. Her concert aria, produced and commissioned by Houston’s Opera in the Heights, was described as “weaving a spell of surreal mystery around a woman on the edge”. Jarrar was recently awarded the 2019 Discovery Grant for Female Composers from the National Opera Center of America for her work Seamstress, a documentary multimedia opera based on oral history interviews conducted with Palestinian women and girls from her community. She has been commissioned by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and is a featured musician on the Emmy-award winning series Arab American Stories.
Jarrar releases experimental music under the solo moniker Phonodelica, with her debut album Hidden Assemblages listed as a best-selling contemporary classical album on Bandcamp, alongside Nils Frahm’s Encores 1. Her album single “Bodies” was also featured on four Spotify editorial playlists.
Jarrar holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan. She is based in Los Angeles.