The Conference of the Birds
Original Score and Soundtrack by Randy Armstrong
On September 9 - 11, 2016, the theater and dance production of The Conference of the Birds premiered in San Jose, California at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Auditorium to enthusiastic and appreciative audiences. The new production presented the timeless play by Academy Award Winning Playwright and Actor, Jean-Claude and celebrated Theater Director, Peter Brook as envisioned by Vinita Belani, EnActe Arts & Usha Srinivasan, Sangam Arts. Over 50 actors & dancers ages 4 to 84 where on stage with ten international dance traditions representing the vision of the Sufi poem, The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar.
Randy Armstrong scored and recorded the original music. He performed on many instruments from around the world to capture the spirit and diversity of the message in The Conference of the Birds.
Opening night speech and narrative presented by Usha Srinivasan:
Over 800 years ago, in a land of Persia, lived the son of a wealthy chemist. He had received excellent education in many fields including theology and practiced the profession of his father. Over the years, he served large numbers of customers who came to him seeking cures for their ills and confided in him their deepest sorrows and greatest fears. This had a profound impact on the man – he gave up his profession and traveled far and wide across Asia, from India to Arabia and Turkistan. Along the way he met many scholars and mystics. He returned home an enlightened man and went on to become one of the greatest Sufi thinkers and poets of all time. His name was Farid ud-Din Attar. Indeed, Attar dandled a young Rumi on his knees and given him the book Asrar Nama – which greatly influenced Rumi’s spiritual development. Attar’s most famous work is Mantiq al tayr – The Conference of the Birds. This 4500 line poem tells the universal story of the soul’s search for truth. It has stood the test of time and transcended geographical and cultural boundaries. In 1972, Peter Brook & Jean-Claude Carriere traveled across Sub-Saharan Africa with a troupe of 20 actors that included a young Helen Mirren. They used the parables in the poem to stage plays in villages. The result of this 8500 mile journey was the play, The Conference of the Birds.
Today, we stand before you humbly to present an interpretation of the play that is a result of a different, yet significant journey. One that began over 2 years ago and brought together artists from many different cultures and walks of life – united by a mission to create a work of art that not only entertains but also educates and elevates.
This is a complex, multi-layered play. There is something in this for everyone. Some of you may find resonance in the Sufi philosophy that underlies it. Others may be drawn to the music and dance. It is our fervent hope that all of you discover today the breathtaking beauty of the cultures that call our great nation home. We may not all be birds of the same feather. But if we flock together, we can soar!
Artists include Volker Nahrmann: Upright & Electric Bass, Dilruba, Cello, Keyboards; Marty Quinn: Tabla; Ken LaRoche: Concert Flute, Indian Bamboo Flutes, Apple-Log Mbira; Cynthia Chatis: Concert & Alto Flute, Vocals; Brett DesChenes: Trumpet; Antara Bhardwaj: Vocals; Raghav Bhat: Carnatic Violin; Vidyha Bhat: Vocals
- Awaken My Soul – Sufi Dance
- World Gathering of the Birds
- Hoopoe Answers – Hawaiian Duck & Arab Partridge
- Princess and the Slave
- South Indian Parrot – Dance of Freedom
- Chinese Peacock- Dance of Color
- Hoopoe Leads The Way
- Afro-Haitian Owl In Ruins
- Flight of the Birds
- Desert Flight
- The Hermit's Aubergine – Nightscape
- Nature Soundscape
- The Flying Birds – Joyful Fanfare
- Azteca Walking Bird
- Stormy Flight
- The Phoenix
- The Valley of The Quest
- The Valley of Love – Part
- The Valley of Love – Part 2
- The Valley of Detachment & Annihilation
- Fire and Moths
- The Journey's End
- Simorgh – The Reflection Withi
- The Conference of the Birds – Finale
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