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(1971-09-29) 29 September 1971 (age 47) Jerusalem, Israel
Yitzhak Yedid (Hebrew: ? ?, born 29 September 1971) is an award-winning Israeli-Australian composer and improvising pianist.
Yedid's style of composition described as: "eclectic, multicultural and very personal style that combines jazz and Jewish cantor music, classic European and avant-garde, randomness and a blend of techniques.". Barry Davis wrote in the Jerusalem Post (2017) that: "Over the past couple of decades or so, Yedid has put out an almost bewilderingly eclectic range of works and recordings. His disciplinary backdrop takes in Western classical music, jazz, free improvisation, Arabic music and liturgical material. His compositions are generally viscerally and cerebrally engaging, and often visually striking, with the piano- playing role requiring a certain amount of calisthenic activity and a significant dosage of emotional and technical investment."
Yedid has composed a wide range of works including chamber, orchestral and vocal music, music for solo instruments, choral and music for improvising ensembles.
Yitzhak Yedid was born on 29 September 1971 in Jerusalem, Israel to a Jewish family of Syrian and Iraqi descent. His initial formative musical experiences included attending liturgical services at his local synagogue where he imbibed the heady sounds and rhythms of Syrian-style Baqashot. He studied at the Rubin Academy of Music and the New England Conservatory in Boston with Ran Blake and Paul Bley in 1997 and 1998. Yedid lives in Australia. In 2012 he gained a PhD from Monash University in Melbourne and subsequently published a tome with the grand and culturally expansive title of Methods of Integrating Elements of Arabic Music and Arabic-Influenced Jewish Music into Contemporary Western Classical Music.
Yedid writes "Looking for new compositional approaches and challenging musical conventions through the synthesis of a wide spectrum of contemporary and ancient styles is what motivated my work. Intellectual conflicts such as the confrontation with philosophical matters and religious and political aspects have always been of interest, and also underlie and motivated my work. I have been influenced in particular by Béla Bartók and Arnold Schoenberg to develop a personal vision as a composer." This words by Yedid are inline with what the critics write about his music: John Shand from the Sydney Morning Harald wrote in 2014 about Yedid's Myth of the Cave "a vividly expansive composition"; Noam Ben-Zeav (Haaretz) wrote in 2013 that "Yedid music is an authentic expression of new music which incorporates a wide spectrum of contemporary and ancient styles"; and Ake Holmquist (NorraSkåne, Sweden) wrote in 2004 that "Yedid integrates specific stylistic influences into a personal created unity. The manner in which he describes folkloristic influences and melancholic specific themes can remind of Béla Bartók; improvisatory float of hovering à la Keith Jarret".
Some of Yedid'd works have been described as pertaining to the Third Stream category, which marries contemporary classical material with jazz improvisation, and much of Yedid's output, precise writing notwithstanding, includes slots where soloists can break free and improvise on the score to their heart's delight.Yedid has often said he is delighted when the performers surprise him with their inventiveness.
Yedid has put out 11 CDs under his own name through some prestigious international record labels and distributors (Challenge Records International, Sony, Naxos, -btl-, Muse, MCI and Kaleidos) and has collaborated in a slew of other interdisciplinary synergies, including an intriguing confluence with Ethiopian-born saxophonist and vocalist Abate Berihun, as the Ras-Deshen ensemble.
Yedid's works for strings - 'Visions, Fantasies and Dances' for string quartet (2006-09) and 'Delusions of War' for string orchestra (2014), "show sophisticated and idiomatic writing for the strings - both individually and as an ensemble. These works are impressive in their scope and colour and variety of instrumental technique. It's also inventive throughout." Yedid's compositions 'Oud Bass Piano Trio' (2006) and 'Arabic Violin Bass Piano Trio' (2008) are works that combines a classical Arabic instrument with Western instruments. Randal McIlroy, Coda Magazine (Canada) wrote "Pianist/composer Yitzhak Yedid's Oud Bass Piano Trio conveys terrific tension, aggravation and release. It's a stunner. Minimizing the distinction between composition and improvisation, the music is entrusted to supple hands.", and jazz journalist Alain Drouot wrote for the prestigious Downbeat Magazine (US) that "Yedid's trio explores a wide range of emotions and tones, even if a dark and mournful mood prevails. The musicians' vivid interpretations produce a positive flow of energy that keeps the music alert and compelling, and Yedid is capable of striking lyricism. Jazz musicians often describe their art as storytelling. Yedid embodies this."
Musically, Yedid creates a confluence between the Maqamat (Arabic music modal system), heterophonic textures of ancient genres, and compositional approaches of contemporary Western classical music, to produce an original sound. Yedid introduces microtonality in his works in a range of different ways. He examined ways of using microtonal pitches that in Arabic music function as ornamentation and as part of improvisational gestures. He has extended the use of traditional ornamentation to compose microtonal sounds with microtonal qualities that unfold at different tempi without a definite pitch. This can be seen in many of his works. In his string quartet Visions, Fantasies and Dances, the microtonal intervals function in the context of diatonic and chromatic intervals and the method of a tension-and-release for intervals of a quarter-tone and three-quarter-tones have been employed.
Yitzhak Yedid also writes "my work could be viewed as the beginning of my research of integrating classical Arabic music, Arabic-influenced Jewish music and contemporary Western classical music. There are areas that need further exploration in different contexts. These include examining the possibilities in compositions with different types and combinations of instruments. The possibilities drawn in my works should be examined with these instruments and with the new challenges associated with its performance practice. Large ensemble works and the integration of various instrumental combinations of performers from Group A and Group B are other aspects that merit exploration. This includes examining how traditional Arabic instruments can be integrated into Western ensemble as a soloist (perhaps in a concerto format), and also how mixed ensembles of various performers including traditional instruments could be integrated."
Yedid have shown a new direction in his later works and courage to make a commentary on international currant political/religious problems that continue to find no resolution. The Crying Souls (commissioned by the Australian Voices) and Delusions of War (commissioned by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra) are both anti-war works. The Crying Souls was written as a response to the chemical weapons attacks that happened in August 2013 in Damascus when more than 1,300 innocent civilian including children were massacred. Yedid writes "This work expresses my endless sadness to the death of innocent people". In the notes on Delusions of War he writes "The music aims to make the listeners "feel" the human suffering that the war causes, and, without assuming to have answers, to encourage them to pause for a moment and to envisage better ways than force to resolve crises. The music captures emotions of anger and fear, and feelings of sorrow, tragedy and righteousness.
Yitzhak Yedid has won the 2017 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship worth $160,000 over a two-year period. The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships recognise outstanding talent and exceptional courage. Yedid awarded the top two prizes in Israel for composers and performers: the Prime Minister's Prize for Composers (2007) and the Landau Prize for Performing Arts (2009). In 2008 he was awarded the first composition prize for solo work for harp at the 17th International Harp contest which led to numerous performances of the piece worldwide and to two commercial recordings. Yedid has also been awarded a composer-in- residence position at the Judith Wright Centre (Brisbane, 2010) and at the Western Australian Academy of Performing arts (2008). His album Arabic violin Bass Piano Trio was nominated for the 2012 Australian Jazz Bell Awards.
Yitzhak Yedid in 2009
In 1999 Yedid released his first CD, Compositions for Solo Piano, for the Musa label. This led to an invitation to perform in Scandinavia as the guest of the pianist Michael Smith, and to a joint recital in Sweden with the pianist Roland Pontinen. In 2001, Yedid's second recording, Inner Outcry, was released, also for Musa. Yedid was commissioned to compose the suite Tachanun for the opening of "The Third Stream" festival in Vienna, Austria, in 2002. This composition has been performed many times in Israel including at the Kfar Blum Chamber Music Festival.
Myth of the Cave was commissioned by German record label Between the Lines. It was released in 2002. The five-movement piece has been performed at festivals in Germany and Austria, at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in Canada and at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival in Israel. It is based on Plato's allegory of the cave, about cave dwellers imprisoned in near-darkness since birth whose sense of reality is distorted. One of them escapes to the outside world, reports on what he has seen and is put to death for his revelations.
In 2003 Yedid composed Passions and Prayers - Sextet in homage to Jerusalem for Between the Lines. It is a technically complex and conceptually melancholy composition that premiered at the 2004 Israel Festival. The CD was released in August 2005.
Reflections upon Six Images was commissioned for the Third Stream Festival in Vienna Austria in 2004. The music depicts the union and division of images, colours, textures, styles and cultures inspired by the world of the imagination. The composition was performed at the Vienna festival in September 2004 and at the Etnakhta concert series in November 2004 in Israel. The CD was released at the end of 2005.
In 2005, Yedid composed the Oud Bass Piano Trio, performed at the Sibiu Festival in Romania, as well as in Australia, Canada, and the US in May and September 2005. In 2002, he joined Israeli jazz saxophonist Abatte Barihun to form the duo Ras Deshen. They recorded their maiden album in September 2002, which featured a blend of Ethiopian music and Free improvisation jazz.
Since immigrating to Australia in 2007, Yitzhak Yedid large scale works include (as of November 2017): seven string quartets (Visions, Fantasies & Dances), commissioned by Israel's Sapphire String Quartet; Piano Concerto (2016), commissioned by Michael Kieran Harvey and the Tel Aviv Soloists; Kiddushim & Killulim (2017) commissioned by Christian Lindberg & NK Orchestra; Delusions of War (2014) for 22 string soloists or string orchestra, commissioned by Divertimenti Ensemble and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; Mandolin Concerto (2016), for mandolin and a large orchestra.
Yitzhak Yedid's chamber and solo works include: Chad Gadya (2017), quartet for clarinet, violin, cello & piano, commissioned by Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival; Sensations (2010) for piano, violin and cello, commissioned by Atar Trio; Angles' Revolt (2017) chaconne for solo piano, commissioned by Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition; Out to Infinity (2009) for Harp solo, commissioned by the 2009 International Harp Contest for their 50th Anniversary; The Crying Souls, Lament for Syrian Victims (2013), a cappella choir, commissioned by the Australian Voices (TAV)
Musical style and influences
Yedid says his music is influenced by Arabic music. "When I was a child I went to the Syrian synagogue, where you hear all the melodies in the Arabic scales. I'm using microtonals in my compositions, and also using the Hassidic and Orthodox Jewish scales. This is all with free jazz and classical music, in equal parts."
Yedid's music contains a mix of elements. He says: "I'm dealing with very classical things, also with jazz and folk things--but it's not classical and it's not jazz and it's not folk. I'm using various techniques, like a painter who's trying to use all the materials he knows about. I'm trying to bring all these different elements together. My music is like a story - it's like a film or a play."
Yedid writes "In Israel, I grew up acutely aware of the tensions caused by the animosity between Palestinians and Israelis. Of profound significance were the sensory images of the shocking terror attack that occurred in a mall in central Jerusalem on December 3, 2001. The destruction and suffering caused by the two suicide bombers was devastating and continues to haunt me to this day. This attack killed eleven innocent boys including my relative 19-year-old Moshe Yedid-Levy. However, in my music, my intention is not to refer directly to experiences such as this but rather to look at Arabic and Jewish matters from a human perspective and in conjunction with philosophical and religious concerns. I am a strong believer in the power of music to bring about understanding, change and reform in societies, and perhaps also between nations. It is my wish to convey the idea of cultural pluralism."
And "My music presents a philosophy that I believe should also apply in our day-to-day interactions between individuals and between nations and religions. We should acknowledge the past (our tradition and our history) accepting that, no matter what, we are not able to change that which has already occurred but we can try to understand why it occurred. We must also cognizant of the fact that we are the ones who are creating the "new tradition" and that to this we are able to make changes. My music reflects my passion to create progress and change in composition and in performance of Western classical music; it is a product of what I believe is a natural process of integration over time. I was born in Jerusalem to a family that migrated to Israel from Syria and Iraq early in the 2oth century. At home, we harboured a deep desire to preserve our musical heritage of hundreds of years. However my formal music education was in Western classical music and I have studied and played the piano. I have an intimate connection to my past, to my historical traditions and culture, and to my musical traditions as well as to Western music. Out of these influences, I was able to compose and to propose new compositional approaches to Western classical music.
Rabbi Hillel the Elder, the renowned Jewish sage and the principal of the Sanhedrin, an ancient Jewish court of sages, used to say:
"If I am not for myself who will be for me? Yet, if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?" (Avot 1:14).
This quotation from Rabbi Hillel the Elder about the duty of a person to not only be concerned for himself but also to worry and contribute to society reflects my feeling about composing. I believe that one should strive to develop a personal voice and be an individual, not solely for oneself, but also for others, as individuality is a necessary step in any contribution to broader society."
CD released in 1999 by Musa records; reissued in 2005
Yitzhak Yedid - piano
Remembering Yitzhak Rabin (2004) for piano solo (ca. 15')
Commissioned by Musa Records 1999
CD released in 1999 by Musa records
Yitzhak Yedid - piano
Caravan for orchestra and jazz ensemble (ca. 17')
The Rubin Academy
2008: Analysis of "Out to Infinity"
2007: Oud Bass Piano Trio - New music incorporating a spectrum of contemporary and ancient styles. Sibiu Festival booklet (Romania), Vienna Festival booklet (Austria), International Oud Festival booklet.
2006: Analysis of "Since my soul Loved" Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), Israel
2005: Analysis of "Oud-Bass-Piano Trio" IBA channel, Israel
^This hall was named in honour of Ian Hanger, AM QC, a distinguished Queensland lawyer who had been a longtime supporter of the Queensland Conservatorium. In 1991, when the Conservatorium was amalgamated with the Griffith University, he was elected as Chairman of the newly-created Advisory Council. During that time, he made many important contributions to the Conservatorium's development including its relocation to new premises. For more information, see https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/134649/hanger-plaque.pdf
^Divertimenti is the premier string ensemble of the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Their director is Graeme Jennings.