Samir Odeh-Tamimi's Rituale at Ultraschall Berlin

Samir Odeh-Tamimi's Rituale at Ultraschall Berlin

In his orchestral work Rituale, Samir Odeh-Tamimi addresses the religious ecstasy he experienced in Sufi spiritual practices. Premiered in 2009 at musica viva in Munich, the work will now be heard again in concert, at the 20th anniversary of the Ultraschall Berlin, with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Simone Young. 

Rituale (2008)

for orchestra -  4. 4. 4. 1 - 3perc -
Duration: 18'
WP: 06.02.2009, Munich

Concert on January 20, 2019
Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin, Simone Young (cond.); Haus des Rundfunks, Berlin

About the work

Samir Odeh-Tamimi: Rituale for orchestra (2008)

Samir Odeh-Tamimi’s orchestral work Rituale received its world premiere in 2009 in Bavarian Radio’s musica viva series, with the BR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Tamayo. The inspiration for the piece dates back to the composer’s youth in Israel: as a young man interested in music, Odeh-Tamimi experienced in his Palestinian community the close connection between prayer rituals and musical sounds in Sufism, the Islamic mystical practice.

Many of the men among his ancestors on his maternal side were Sufis. His step-grandfather was a healer and leader of a Sufi brotherhood. As a youth, on numerous occasions, Odeh-Tamimi provided the musical accompaniment to rituals for his step-grandfather’s brotherhood, but without the knowledge of his mother, who would have forbidden him from participating in this practice, which she considered too extreme. The composer revealed this information in a conversation before the Berlin premiere of Rituale at the 2019 Ultraschall Berlin festival. “One associates Sufis with meditation and inwardness, for example with gently whirling dervishes in Turkey. The rituals of my grandfather’s group, which belonged to the Naqshbandīya order, took place in a darkened room and included singing and drumming, but they could become wild and unpredictable when the participants fell into a state of trance.”

Samir Odeh-Tamimi, who stresses that he is not religious, was already interested at that point in the musical components of these ceremonies: the archaic qualities, the concentration, the depth of feeling, the ecstasy. The impression of ecstasy, in particular, is directly conveyed in the instrumental impact and rhythmic pulse of many passages in his orchestral work Rituale. He is not consciously seeking to recreate a particular ritual in music or to quote the chanting of the Qur’an or dance rhythms. Rather the composer is attempting to translate their essence using his own musical means. He compares what he has incorporated from the songs and drum rhythms of Sufi rituals with the reverberation of bygone sounds in a space. They are traces, the echoes in his personal memory.
The vehemence of deep wind chords at the beginning of Rituale suggests ancient fanfares. The dynamics are fuelled by shimmering strings. In the middle section of the piece, the strings move more prominently into the foreground in chromatic and microtonal lines played in high registers and in different layers – instrumental parallels to the melisma of songs from the Arabic tradition. From time to time individual voices emerge. Towards the end of Rituale, several quasi-independent musics are layered together. This corresponds to the phenomenon which made the most powerful impression on the young Samir Odeh-Tamimi at Sufi gatherings: on the path to ecstasy during a ritual, individual patterns increasingly emerge from the singing and dancing collective as enraptured participants, immersed in themselves, introduce their own melodies at their own tempos. In Rituale, Samir Odeh-Tamimi has thereby trenchantly captured and elaborated for the collective of a modern orchestra his personal impressions of complex musical interactions transpiring during a Sufi ritual.  

Eckhard Weber (translation: Richard Evidon)

Score of Rituale