The Conference of the Birds or Book of the Search was premiered by Philip Mead in London on 2 March, 1993. The first book concentrates on the exuberant imagery of the "Conference" or "Parliament" section of the poem up to the point when, "drawing cries of fear and apprehension" the birds decide to "face the road without end, where strong winds split the vault of heaven."

The form of the first movement ("Invocation") is that of a classical Indian Alapa, which is marked by the absence of rhythm. The emphasis, then, is on the temporal proportions (duration) of tones. Each note of the harmonic-melodic mode is introduced sequentially, elaborated upon and embellished.

  1. Praise to Him, who has placed his throne upon the waters ... To the heavens He has given movement, and to the earth uniform repose ... In the beginning He gilded the stars ... then He dried up the bed of the sea and from its stones brought forth rubies ... sometimes He made clusters of roses spring from the face of the fire.

simurgh (book I)

the conference of the birds

for piano and electronics (1991)

The second movement ("The Conference Opens") can be thought of as an extended rondo. The piano plays the part of the elected leader of the flock -the Hoopoe-, who proceeds to address the objections raised by the rest of the birds, as played by the electronics.

Each bird has its own rhythmic cycle -a tala- and a distinctive sound world that relates to its symbolic significance in the text.

invocation (excerpt)

the hawk

the hoopoe

the heron, the owl, the sparrow and coda

  1. All the birds of the world, known and unknown, were assembled together ... and begun to consider how to set out on their quest ... we have a true king ... He is close to us, but we are far from Him ... before Him hang a hundred thousand veils of light and darkness ... first the birds begun excitedly to discuss the glory of this king ... but when they begun to realize how long and painful their journey was to be, they hesitated and begun to excuse themselves, each according to his type ... then begun a commotion, everyone talking at once ... and their eagerness to renounce everything revived.

In the third movement ("The Birds Set Out") motives interrupt one another creating a discourse where the listener may selectively understand larger structures of juxtaposed thematic materials as units of meaning or conversely focus on the development of each musical idea independently. Overall, there are three sections identifiable by the return of the initial tremolo texture unfolded into rhythmic patterns.

The Birds Set Out (excerpt)

  1. Fear and apprehension drew plaintive cries from the birds as they faced a road without end, where the strong wind of detachment from earthly things split the vault of heaven ... at the setting-out place, so great was the number of birds who flocked there that they hid the moon but when they saw the entrance to the first valley, they flew up to the clouds in fright ... then the Hoopoe spoke to them ... and the Nightingale gave forth a melody so sweet that all who heard were lifted out of themselves.

The Birds Set Out (excerpt)


ezequiel viñao

(audio samples)