Bushra El-Turk’s ironic and allegorical musical vocabulary derives as much from theatre, dance and literature as it forebears the influence of her Lebanese roots, life as a Londoner, and love of Eastern European and Middle-Eastern folk music. Bushra El-Turk began to study the cello and piano from a young age at the Centre for Young Musicians and then went on to study composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Julian Philips, where she graduated with a Bachelor and then gained a Master in Composition with Distinction, supported by a PRS Foundation Scholarship.
She has written various works for the concert hall, both performed and broadcast on radio and television in the UK, across Europe, the Americas and the Middle-East. She has had a particularly fruitful artistic partnership with choreographer Aya Jane Saotome, with whom she has exchanged surreal and absurd themes in music and movement with the dance productions Tende(r)age and Peck! at The Place Theatre in London. Most notable theatre productions include I Capture the Castle (dir. Christian Burgess) and Twelfth Night (dir. Christopher Luscombe).
Recent projects have included her piece, Kilamuwa I of Zenjirli, based on early Phoenician text, for Orkest de Ereprijs after being selected to participate in the 13th International Young Composers Meeting with Louis Andriessen in the Netherlands, following on from a recent invitation to the Sentieri Selvaggi International Composers Masterclass in Milan with Julia Wolfe; Metaphysical Enemy, a piano duet commissioned by Sounds Underground; and a piece for flute and piano commissioned by Wissam Boustany. Her string quartet, Eating Clouds, was among the five selected pieces in the University of Aberdeen International Music Prize and was performed by members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in April.
Ta’attalat Loughatul Kalami (speech broke down), for cello and piano
This piece was commissioned by the singing cellist Cordelia Weil. It is based on Ahmad Shawki’s poem to Zahleh (my home town in Lebanon) and coincidently premiered on the first day of the Summer 2006 conflict in Lebanon.
Eating Clouds, for String Quartet
Eating Clouds is a baby’s view from a moving carry-cot. How it might familiarize the clouds and abstract shapes and prints of everyday objects into one of the most basic and essential human needs and desires. It is comprised of three movements.
First movement is based on the note sequence B flat-E flat-B-A (of which the equivalent German designations constitute the initials of my first name). Second movement contains two strata: long lines that gradually metamorphose into various chords in the lower stratum and natural harmonics in the stratosphere. It is tutti glissandi which means all strings glide gradually just before their next note. Third movement is highly chromatic and scuttery. It is based on a min. 2nd above and below a fundamental note.
You’d Better Learn Your Alphabet, Dear (from The Nut Case of Songs), for soprano and piano
(words by composer)
You’d better learn your alphabet, dear
And your numbers too
Or something strange will happen, dear
As strange as it is true
You’ll grow a tail and long, long ears
And the ocean will run dry
A bit of fur and two large teeth,
A rhino from the sky.
You’d better learn your alphabet, dear
Or things will get all wonky
Also forgot to mention that you’ll turn into a donkey.
This is a children’s song. Irony is that all these absurd things will happen to this child while the mother sings on monotones a major 2nd above the tonal centre until a descending demonic augmented fourth. This shows a sense of nonchalance in the mother’s attitude towards her child but also quite an evil tone. The dance (Bolero, I think) is also used to soften the blow of the scary words she sings to the child.
Dramaticule 1, for Two Pianos, Four Hands
A ‘dramaticule’ is Samuel Beckett’s word for a small dramatic piece. This is the first in the series of dramaticules.