Tongue of the Invisible

surely one of the strongest compositions to appear in the last couple of years. (Alex Ross, keynote, The Rest is Noise Festival, London Southbank Centre, December 2013)

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Hafez’s verses are unbelievably ecstatic and intimate, yet also very fleeting – the way in which he mixes and shifts levels of meaning gives rise to complex and indeterminable frames of mind in oneself. (Lim) more information

Listed in The New Yorker’s ‘Notable Classical Recordings of 2013’ and The Sunday Times ‘100 Best Records of the Year’, Tongue of the Invisible was commissioned by the 2011 Holland Festival and Ensemble musikFabrik and is an hour-long song-cycle composed for legendary jazz pianist Uri Caine, the singer Omar Ebrahim, Ensemble musikFabrik. Setting the poetry of 14th Century Sufi mystic and poet Hafez  adapted and translated by writer Jonathan Holmes, the work explores a “story of ‘fixed’ and ‘open’ things”. Alex Ross in his long article on Lim’s work for The New Yorker says:

“Tongue of the Invisible,” an hour-long vocal-instrumental work that Lim completed in 2011, and that the British baritone Omar Ebrahim and the German group Ensemble musikFabrik recently recorded for the Wergo label. One is tempted to call the composition a masterpiece, except that the word seems too egotistical for an artist so keen on collaboration and so attuned to the experiences of others.
Lim here turns her gaze to the Middle East, where multiculturalism meets its nemesis. “Tongue of the Invisible” is based on the poetry of the fourteenth-century Persian mystic Hāfez, who blended the sacred and the profane in scenes of ambiguous rapture. Lim confronts a majestic tradition that few people outside of Iran can claim to know. Her response is not to mimic Persian sounds directly but to set up an open-ended structure in which performers alternate between playing precisely notated sequences and improvising on given themes, in a nod to the double nature of Persian classical practice. Furthermore, the psychic pressure of improvisation is intended to capture the mystical heat at the core of Hāfez’s poetry—the frenzy of Sufi rites.

Tongue of the Invisible, Omar Ebrahim with Ensemble musikFabrik & Uri Caine, Bimhuis Amsterdam, June 2011 Holland Festival.

Tongue of the Invisible, Omar Ebrahim with Ensemble musikFabrik & Uri Caine, Bimhuis Amsterdam, June 2011 Holland Festival.