From Improvisation to Concert Hall: A Discussion with Composer Kinan Abou-Afach

When: Thursday, November 9 at 12pm
Where: Carl Becker House, Kramnick Seminar Room (Becker G32)
Lunch will be provided.

For this talk, composer Kinan Abou-afach will discuss his music’s journey from Syria to the United States, as a cellist, oudist, and composer. He will share selections from his compositions and explore how his background in improvisation has shaped his approach to music creation and performance. Kinan Abou-afach, recipient of the prestigious Pew Fellowship, is a Syrian-born musician.

He began his musical studies at the age of seven studying at the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus, where he eventually joined the National Syrian Symphony Orchestra and performed with the Middle Eastern Ensemble. Abou-afach has played under conductors Solhi Al-Wady, Daniel Barenboim, Cliff Colnot, Christopher Seaman, Roberto Abbado, Sir Andrew Davis, Pinchas Zuckerman, and soloists like Yo Yo Ma, Alex Klein and Larry Combs. As a composer, Abou-afach crafts music that is influenced by Eastern and Western traditions.

He seeks to create a reformed form of Arab music using a modern vocabulary based on the Arabic modal traditions known as maqam. He has composed for concerts, as well as film, live theatre, and visual art, notably commissions by Live Connections for Grammy award-winner Jason Vieaux, for Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture’s “Roads to Damascus – 2013”, and “Of Nights and Solace -2015”; and other works. More details about Abou-afach and his music can be found on his website:

Kinan Abou-afach is composer in residence at Cornell for the Department of (PMA) production of Hamlet Wakes Up Late, running at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on November 10-18.

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