Syrian Symphony orchestrates music, painting, and media arts by some of Syria’s leading artists and musicians. Along with contributions from other organizations such as Iconem, Atassi Foundation, COSTI, and Silkroad, this exhibition explores the roles of art and artists during times of upheaval and conflict.
True to its name and similar to a musical symphony, the exhibition is divided into four distinct yet connected “movements” composed of various media including site-specific paintings on gallery walls, original musical pieces recorded at the Museum, and interactive installations that allow visitors to show their support for Syrians.
Together, the creative voices of such artists as Kinan Azmeh, Kevork Mourad, Ahmad Moualla, and Malek Jandali speak of the struggle to protect the region’s cultural heritage, and of the determination to rebuild.
In May of 2017, visual artist Kevork Mourad created a spectacular series of paintings directly on the walls of the Aga Khan Museum’s second-floor special exhibitions gallery. The painting is part of “Layers We Are,” a piece which also features the music of Damascus-born clarinettist Kinan Azmeh. It took several days to realize the collaboration. Azmeh recorded his improvisational music performance at the Museum on May 9, 2017. Between May 16 and May 18, Mourad responded to Azmeh’s recording with the gestural images that now fill the walls of the gallery space dedicated to the first movement of “Syrian Symphony.”
In May of 2017, the Aga Khan Museum welcomed musician-composer Malek Jandali to perform his adaptation of “Hurrian Hymn no. 6,” the oldest known written piece of music. The performance was recorded on a modern Disklavier, an acoustic piano outfitted with sensors that recognize the movements of the keys, hammers, and pedals during a performance. On playback, the keys and pedals of the Disklavier reproduce Jandali’s interpretation of the piece, retaining the tone and energy of his original performance — and demonstrating art’s ability not only to endure, but to also remain relevant century after century, generation after generation.