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Three Gardens
for pipe organ

Work no. 223


    Collecting art books has been my passion since I was in my mid-twenties. Perhaps "collecting" is too strong a word, since my buying choices were usually severely limited by my budget. But I was very fond of my little library nonetheless. A large chunk of it was dedicated to non-Western arts – Chinese calligraphy, pre-Columbian South American art, African masks, prehistoric rock paintings of Siberia and Mongolia, and others. Apart from the immense visual appeal, these books had the added benefit of teaching me how art could provide a glimpse into the workings of the society in which it was created. Not necessarily through the subject matter, or the function of the objects, but even just through color or geometry.

    I had to abandon my library after fleeing Russia in 2022. Luckily, after settling in Istanbul, I had some money left, and I combed the local shops for used books on my favorite subjects. One of the first ones I bought was an old Taschen volume on Middle Eastern saddle bags, which I had never heard of before. These bags look like miniature oriental rugs, and come in the same dazzling variety of mostly abstract traditional patterns. The layout of a saddle bag is symmetrical, with two ornamented sections on the sides, forming a pouch, and a connecting middle section, which has simpler decoration than the sides.

    Oriental ornaments are very frequently stylized depictions of gardens. Looking at these little bags' ornaments, I dreamt of such gardens as could have informed the original patterns, centuries ago, and the experience was on my mind constantly when I was composing Three Gardens. The music seemed to have a desire to express itself in the same way: the near-symmetry, the same elements appearing over and over again, the horizontality of the ornaments of the middle sections. I guess the jubilatory feeling of the middle movement must be a reflection of my circumstances at the time: finally having some certainty in my life, able to relax a little, and even dream about things other than shelter and safety.

    Three Organs was commissioned by Manfred Grob, and premiered by him at Dortmund's Marienkirche on 3 September 2022; the audio above is a recording of that premiere.

    Three Gardens – PDF score

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