Ori’s Fearful Symmetry (2005)

take a listen – hear an audio preview:

Program notes © by Zoe Kemmerling

As any artist in the thick of creation knows, lines between composition and performance become blurred—a piece of music can go through multiple lives in arrangements and yet more in semi-improvised performance, picking up other accents and influences as it makes the acquaintance of different musicians. Such has been the life of Ori’s Fearful Symmetry. Germinating during a hike/film shoot in the gorges of Ithaca, Ljova assembled the first version in multi-tracked viola parts on what became his album “Vjola: World on Four Strings.” Working its way into the repertoire of Ljova and the Kontraband, the tune expanded and was eventually notated in multiple chamber arrangements.

Ori’s Fearful Symmetry, like much of Ljova’s music, displays the rhythmic, seductive bones of dance—a commonality that ties together far-flung musical traditions. There are Middle Eastern and Klezmer flavors, yet also the idiosyncrasy that marks the work as a contemporary and personal creation. Meanwhile, the apocryphal Ori is preserved in a mashup with William Blake—returning full circle, perhaps, to the inevitable balance and symmetry of a not-quite-tame, slightly off-kilter dance. Of the work, Ljova says:


Ori’s Fearful Symmetry was originally intended to be a sort of an unofficial anthem for Israeli youth. I sketched it while hiking in the gorges of Ithaca, New York, where director Zohar Lavi was shooting the short film Chronicle of a Jump, starring our friend Ori. I was hoping this music would become the theme, an inspiring courageous dance in an unusual grouping of 9/8 (3+2+2+2). Alas, it was decided that the film worked better in silence, and the music found an audience of its own.


“As people heard the multi-track viola version, and we began playing the tune live with my ensemble Ljova and the Kontraband, it became apparent that the tune could use a middle section. At that point, I had been working with the Iranian kemancheh master Kayhan Kalhor on his work “Silent City” (which I co-arranged with him). The middle section reminds me of Kayhan.”

CATEGORY Chamber music, multi-track viola music
INSTRUMENTATION Original instrumentation: multitrack violas.
Arrangements available:
— string quartet
— string trio
— lead viola / 2 violins, cello, bass, mandolin, banjo
— 1 or 2 clarinets, 3 violins, viola, 2 cellos
— flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, strings– Also available as a jazz “lead sheet”, which includes a separate sheet for the bass line. Arrangements for other combinations may be commissioned upon request.Also available as part of the Vjola Suite set.
DURATION approximately 5-6 minutes
WORLD PREMIERE Om Factory Yoga, New York; June 16 2006
WORLD PREMIERE PERFORMERS Ljova and the Kontraband: Ljova, viola; Patrick Farrell, accordion; Mike Savino, bass; Mathias Kunzli, percussion
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES Enso String Quartet at venues throughout the US; Brooklyn Rider with Kinan Azmeh at the Angel Orensanz Foundation. The Knights chamber orchestra at Tanglewood and at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, and on tour.
Recorded on Ljova’s debut CD – Vjola: World on Four Strings [album details].
SCORE AVAILABILITY All arrangements are available for sale via PDF or mail delivery; arrangements for combinations not listed above may be commissioned on request. [contact for more info]

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