04 March 2019

4 March 2019

 4 March 2019 is Casimir Pulaski Day, Idaho Day, and Maha Shivaratri. It’s Guy Wetmore Carryl’s birthday, too—he’s the author of the extraordinary Kipling parody that begins “As I was walkin’ the jungle round, a-killin’ of tigers an’ time…” And it’s Halim El-Dabh’s birthday as well. The Egyptian composer is responsible for the standout track on the 1964 Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center album, “Leiyla and the Poet,” one of my favorite compositions of all time. Beginning and ending with a piercing whistle, the piece sets two contrasting voices to work in an expression of desire for a possibly unattainable woman. Against a rhythmic background of drums and plucked strings the one chants of love (the poet?) while the other bellows the name “Leiyla” in an unearthly sort of howl that starts low, rises a couple of octaves and drops again. It is a disquieting, even frightening, piece.

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