On Music (2014)

Before I started to compose seriously, I was a choir member all through school and at the Lutheran church I attended. While this exposed me to a wealth of wonderful music, it made me a very lopsided type of musician and appreciator of music; the extent of my musical knowledge included a hodgepodge of various choral-specialist composers, all of the hymns in the Lutheran Hymnal, and at the heart of it all, Bach. I had never really appreciated any music outside of this small box I had created for myself. I even remember specifically thinking, “How can any other music make you feel like choral music does? There are no words! You can’t feel the same way without words and voices!” I held this belief firmly until I saw a performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, so-called “Titan”, played by the University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro David Itkin. This experience really warped my mind and changed how I think about not only music, but art in general; it was and still is one of the main reasons I made the decision to pour my soul into art.

I went into the concert very skeptical: there were no voices, how was I supposed to really feel anything from this music? However, this was my first time seeing a full orchestra live, and I decided to give it a shot. The concert started and just as it begun, the performance seemed to end in an instant; I could not believe where the time went. The almost hour long piece had flown by and I was left agape. The performance with no voices, no words, no choir; the orchestra alone had made me feel something real, something palpable, something unlike anything I had heard or experienced up to that point in my life; it engendered a storm inside me, a fierce and intense burning that seemed unquenchable. Something had to change in my life after this, and it did. I decided to change majors from Biology to Music Composition. I knew I had to make other people have that selfsame feeling I had experienced listening to an orchestra play Mahler.

This performance made my musical and artistic box grow exponentially: I was now hungry for any and all types of music and art available to me, hoping to find another work that could make me feel outside of time for that brief instance in the concert hall, the gallery, or at home on the computer. I found that, for me, as an artist and human, all of the best art seemed to have this otherworldly effect on me: my hair stands up, I seem to get tingles like electricity over my whole body, pleasure rushes over me, and time seems to stand still for the duration I’m consuming that specific work. These, I realized, are the things I want to accomplish with my music.

I study music so I can realize this sentiment as thoroughly as possible during my lifetime, and hopefully after as well; I would love for my work to arouse these emotions after my passing as well. I want to hone my craft of composition and my knowledge and mastery of the entire palate of colors available to me as a composer. I want to thoroughly develop the technical side of my composition: my understanding of as many instruments as possible, my clarity and innovation in notation, and my orchestration. I want to become an even better performer, and not just using my voice. I want to get on an intimate level with more scores and composers so I can know the voices and souls of those who have come before me. I want to build deep connections with performers, conductors, other composers, and audience members. I want to do all of these things so that I can bring these moments I have experienced personally, to life in my own work.

I believe these aforementioned moments are the best in life, and I aim to create them in my work every time I write. These instances that occur in each person’s journey, these happenings where you are so absorbed in the moment, in the art, in the music, in your love, that you seem to be outside of time for that singular blip. These precious truffles are scattered throughout our lives and let us escape from the realities of the world: the blandness, the pains, the sorrows, the heartbreaks, all of the inexorable, unforgiving, ugliness that can occur on Earth. These substantial, yet seemingly brief, almost metaphysical moments, are why I compose, and why I feel I exist; I want to make these moments for anyone listening.

Whenever an audience, all amassed to witness a particular piece, a stage full of devoted performers, with their hearts set on the performance, a conductor, deeply intimate and personal with the score, and a composer, whose work brings all of these people into one place, when they all congregate to realize a work, and everyone is on the same level, something different happens, something special, and something unique. All of the pieces fit together to bring about this otherworldly moment that makes life such a beautiful thing. Everyone in the room shares what I feel is one of the quintessential forms of empathy; it is unspoken, everyone is quiet, except for the performers who are not speaking as much as they are exposing themselves, their hearts, to everyone involved in this art; no one talks about this feeling, but it is there, it is palpable; the air is thick with understanding. Each individual is liberated from the baggage of “I” and “self,” instead becoming part of this intricate vehicle made of one consciousness that transports itself to places not often seen or experienced, places outside of time, places that each member, or piece, of the vehicle experience differently but also as one: one unit drifting through this piece of art, creating something that blossoms from the music, something that exists as a vital part of the work as a whole, but also as something entirely self-sufficient on its own outside of the art, something that affects each individual in a deeply personal way yet is still felt by the group as whole, something that connects us all as artists, musicians, audience members, and people.

-Daniel Sabzghabaei (2014)

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