Green Memories

Green Memories (2008)
Composed by Shahrokh Yadegari

Azam Ali: Vocals
Keyavash Nourai: Violin
Shahrokh Yadegari: Lila

Premiered in Los Angeles, Japan America Theatre. November 2005.

Green Memories

Green Memories is a meditation on the global ecology and it is inspired by the poetry the highly acclaimed Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. Green Memories is a sad yet hopeful meditation on our natural and mental ecology.  This work is inspired by the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad, who has been hailed as one of the most important contemporary poets of Iran.  Farrokhzad’s writing is revered for her depth of feeling and poignant philosophical approach toward the social and political issues of her time. In many of her poems written in the 1950s, such as I Pity the Garden (Green Memories), Earthly Verses, and Only Sound Remains, Farrokhzad expresses profound personal thoughts and feelings in simple words. In doing so, she foresees the future of our social, political, and natural ecologies.  Apparently written for a small patch of ground in her home, what she saw in I Pity the Garden has now become a global problem threatening our survival. Her words are simple and clear; how could we not have heard her voice, nor the call of so many scientists in recent decades?

The ancient Greeks separated mythology (poetry) from philosophy.  This prompted the conceptual divides between mind and body, man and nature, subjective and objective, which are at the heart of Western consciousness.  This Western model of duality led to Darwinian notions that a species can be viewed as a separate entity from its environment, and that humans could be viewed as separate from the earth.  Social Darwinism has championed the “laissez-faire” model of recent social and economic developments, which, in my opinion, have caused the most damage to our physical and mental environments. Almost all other cultures share a view of the world which considers the interaction between humans and nature, as a shared understanding of “oneness of mind.”

The construction of Green Memories follows a model in which concepts of form and content, foreground and background, and improvisation and composition, are not separated from each other.  Thus, the piece may at times sound like ambient music, or at times like a highly directed narrative piece.  While the musical structures are  defined and delineated precisely, all performers have considerable  freedom in their improvisational expressions.

Green Memories utilizes a vocal technique developed by Azam Ali, in which she uses her voice like an instrument and where the words she sings are not of any natural language. The angelic and graceful vocals of Azam Ali, and the virtuosic and soulful violin playing of Keyavash Nourai, are recorded, processed, and played back by me using the  computer music instrument I have designed called Lila. In this model every performer (acoustic or electronic)  is able to express a musical idea as local content, or as a vehicle for developing a formal gesture. Thus,  the performers interact with each other in a network model rather than in a hierarchical one. Keyavash Nourai’s vast range of techniques and knowledge (Persian, Indian, Jazz, extended techniques) plays an important role in developing the form of movements within the defined structures. What guides the piece is a shared musical feeling within the framework of an agreed upon formal structure. While some minimal over dubbing was done and some layers were added in the post production process, the main content of the piece was recorded in a single take after extensive rehearsals.

In Iranian culture, Omar Khayyam is one of the main references for understanding the meaning of one’s existence (i.e., ontology). He repeatedly points out the circularity of life, and that we are nothing but the dust of the earth, and thus, not different from it.  The Sanskrit track titles are meant to suggest such a view of life.  We should strive for Vidya (knowledge and wisdom) and Mithra (truth, justice, and affection). Maya (the illusion of duality) will eventually manifest itself in Samsara (the cycle of destruction and creation), and we should understand that it is only by seeing through Maya in the state of Samsara that we can reach Nirvana (peace of mind). The recent fires around the globe may suggest that today the earth is going through a Homa (sacrifice by fire).  Green Memories suggests that our Mantra (repeated verses) should be “we can cure the garden of its ail.”  Or, in Farrokhzad’s words, “we can take the garden to the hospital.”

Shahrokh Yadegari
Spring 2008

I Pity the Garden
by Forough Farrokhzad
Translated by Bijan Mottahedeh
Adapted by Shahrokh Yadegari


No one thinks of the flowers
No one thinks of the fish
No one wants to believe
that the garden is dying
its heart swollen under the sun
its mind slowly draining of green memories
So many faces, so many hands
Alien faces, idle hands,
I am afraid if this image,
I am afraid of this thought,
I am afraid of the age that has lost it’s heart

I believe that we can cure the garden of its ail
I believe and I think
I believe and I think
I believe and I think.


I am frightened
by the thought of so many futile hands
by the image of so many estranged faces
I think that the garden can be saved in a hospital

I think …
I think …
I think …


دلم براي باغچه مي سوزد

كسی به فكر گل ها نیست
كسی به فكر ماهی ها نیست
كسی نمی خواهد
باوركند كه باغچه دارد می میرد
كه قلب باغچه در زیر آفتاب ورم كرده است
كه ذهن باغچه دارد آرام آرام
از خاطرات سبز تهی می شود
و حس باغچه انگار
چیزی مجردست كه در انزوای باغچه پوسیده ست
من از زمانی
كه قلب خود را گم كرده است می ترسم
من از تصور بیهودگی این همه دست
و از تجسم بیگانگی این همه صورت می ترسم
و فكر میكنم كه باغچه را میشود به بیمارستان برد
من فكر میكنم
من فكر میكنم
من فكر میكنم
و قلب باغچه در زیر آفتاب ورم كرده است
و ذهن باغچه دارد آرام آرام
از خاطرات سبز تهی میشود



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