BAGHDAD MONOLOGUE
for soprano & computer
2007
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Baghdad Monologue
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Baghdad Monologue
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The action takes place in a house in Baghdad. A woman comes in from the street carrying her shopping. The sound of a crowd in a street market fades in gradually. This sound transforms from within into an Azan -Muslim Call to Prayer-  which emerges in the distance as a sustained pitch first, coming closer, and turning into a very melismatic phrase. Eventually, the voice of the male singer (the Azan) is itself transformed via a sound morph into the voice of a woman which 'takes over' the singing of the Azan and turns it into a complex and multi-layered musical event.

woman (singing) . . ah . . . Kamil . . . . . a wild, harsh wind makes a sound  . . . . . a sound that calls your name   . .  .  so wild and fierce . . . so cold and barren  . . . desert  wind  . . .

a  harsh wind blows  .  .  . . with a  sounds that calls your name . . .

Kamil .  .  .  a wind so harsh . . . . Kamil . . .  calls your name . .

woman (speaking): . . . but first . . .. .   you have to move slowly . . . . it takes time . . .  you have to win their hearts and minds  . . . says George . .  . I understand . . .  like with Kamil . . .  same thing . . . convincing a child  . . . not easy . . . they can be stubborn . . .  at that age . .   the problem is the mind  . . .  never still  . . . .the insurgency of the mind. . .  to stomp it out . . .the mind  . . .  but it keeps coming . . . . and coming . . . the insurgency . . .  so to win their hearts  first . . . much better to liberate  . . . . that's what  I heard . . . no . . . not just in the market… the woman at the mosque . . . no question . . . and  it was on TV too… not to conquer but to liberate …. that's what he said… they were coming to liberate … yes ..….to liberate . .

loud clapping coming from a TV set or some other unknown source

. . . I really do believe we will be greeted as  .. . that's right … no . . no . .  not . . no . . not that George … the other one … whatshisname? … vice something or other……. He believed we will greet  them as liberators . . . imagine  . . .they had solid intelligence … the facts . . . . intelligence . . freedom . .  liberators….. the facts . . alone . . but the facts . . to liberate . . the facts . . intelligence . . clear freedom . .    people in streets  . . . playing music . . . cheering them . . . Kamil flying kites ? . .  why not  . . . it was in the news . .  no question . . . no question . . . … my decision . . . I . .  . . his  decision . . . my decision  . .  . . I   alone . . . to liberate Iraq . . . his  . . . alone . . no, not him . . George's decision . . .  no question . . .  they would be surprised . . . very  surprised . . . if there was not some grand square in Baghdad named after George . . . that's what I heard …  solid intelligence…  some military type  . . . no, I don’t no . . . black guy ? . . . what? . .  I can't remember . . . . . . solid intelligence… nuclear weapons …  I heard him say …  the danger to his country was grave….   Iraq had such weapons . . .  lethal . . .worst weapons ever   … no, no, not, no  . .  that was George… yes on TV …. solid intelligence …  in my line of work you've got to keep repeating things. .  . over and over . . .  . . . and over again . . .   I tell you . . . as a mother . . . I know that  . . . try telling Kamil . . . repetition . . . you must repeat . . all the time . . in my line of work you’ve got to keep  repeating .  . . .  we were seeking a nuclear bomb … …no!,  not you and I silly !….. Saddam's regime !… we'll give them Shock and Awe…. they said …  I told you . . they are coming because we have weapons, we are dangerous.  no !  they are coming because  they  have weapons, they  are dangerous.

no !

they are coming to liberate, to bring freedom.

no, not, no !

they are coming to take our oil.

They are coming to take our oil and  bring freedom

no, no

They are coming because they can, they must, they will.

They are coming for all those reason

They are coming for no reason at all

(impatient, exasperated)

they are coming because they are coming,

we  don’t know why . . .  they don’t know why  . . . . . . (pause)

in fact, they are not coming at all,

  . . they were always  here . .  .

but when  they come . .  it will be like an unstoppable tide

(with a sense of awe, as if standing in a large space )

 a wind from the desert . . . . blowing wild . . . . . untamed . .  strong. . .  

a mysterious  force . .  . . . .

singing:

oh, no! . . . wild like a fire . . . blowing fiercely . . . raging blaze . .  .

shrill like blade upon  blade . . .  a desert scream   . . .

burnt beneath the veil

a hundred . .  a thousand  tongues  . . .

a thousand flames upon flames 

mile upon mile of burning sands

of burning seas

and when the smoke is gone

a barren, cold and harsh wind blows

 speaking:

. . .  nobody  knows why  it blows . . . we just know it does . . . and when  it does . . there is not  safe place .  .  .… the sheer size of this . . . huge  . . . never seen before… never contemplated… no safe place in Baghdad….  a sledgehammer to smash a walnut … Shock and Awe . . and fear . . .. shock and awe …. and fear . . . going to the market . . . .  fear ….  going to work . . . fear . . going to the mosque . . .  in fear . …Kami-i-i-i-l  … Ka - a – a – a  . . . .

SOUND MORPHING of the vowel ‘a’  (F3) into actual recording  of a real AZAN. The AZAN phrase  is interrupted before it ends by a rhythm leading back to the monologue:

couldn't send Kamil to school .  . . too dangerous . . . playing in the garden?  not possible .  .  . no flying kites . . . I tell you . . . too dangerous . . .  shrapnel  . . ….  explosions . . . who knows . . .  at home we sit in fear…… . .      . (pausing, and with a matter of fact tone of voice)   .   anyway… . . I spent hours queuing out there… and then of course they can always take you out... my cousin was queuing for gasoline ….. bang … gone …. wrong time . .  . wrong place . . .

loud TV bursts into the scene interrupting her with the news, there is a talking head of George Bush giving a press conference

….  are you deaf!  . . turn it down! 

The TV sound fades out

. . now we have some electricity… no .. not yesterday…. we spend most of the day without it… … at the beginning  there was no electricity . . . none at all… that is when they took my husband . .  door  down . . .  smash the place.  .. . face-down ! . . . on the ground . . shut up !. . hands behind . . . you back  . . .  prisoner .  . shock and Awe . . prisoner… (fast)   down ! . . on the ground  . . .  Shock and Awe.  . .  smash the place . .  on the ground  . . . . hands behind  you back . . .shut up! . . shut up!  . .  prisoner . . prisoner . .  Shock and Awe  . . Shock and . . .  Awe . . prisoner . . face-down ! . . Shock and Awe . . Shock and Awe . .

face down on the ground  . .  . shut up !  . . .

the Americans brought electricity to his ass before they brought it to our home.…. Shock and Awe .. …no question….  you see … no safe place … . . not in Baghdad ……. nothing but fear…. (calling, anxious, even angry)  Kami-i-i-i-i-i  ! . . . watch out !  no flying kites . . . stay indoors. . . and your mind  . . . your mind !  . . .  I tell you . . . your mind does things…. imagine …. a man in the market swears he saw dogs eating the body of a woman…. depressing…. why should we hear about death? . . .  I would not tell Kamil …. such things . . .  not relevant, she said … not relevant at all  . .  …. no . . . not him  . .  . . she !   . .  George's wife  . . not relevant to hear about body bags and deaths …  . . .  she does not want to waste her beautiful mind on something like that. ….. … could get depressed …. What? . . . Prozac ? … she? . . .    I heard him say death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.. . . . . he says that they napalmed  bridges but unfortunately there were people there . . . wrong time  . . wrong place. . .  he thinks it’s no great way to die . . . .  but why should the first lady hear about body bags? . . . no point,  not relevant . . .    “body bags”  have been renamed . . . .   “transfer tubes.” . (slowly intentionally and rhythmically)  trans- fer  tubes.  … that does it . . imagine  . . the first lady’s beautiful minds will be spared .  . . better not to get upset . . . what's the point . . .. . . we all say things . . . just words . . .  children are the worst, eh?. . .  like Kamil  . . . come inside ! . . .  nothing . . . nothing . . . no reply . . . must repeat  . . . and repeat  . . . 10 times ! . .(calling with exasperation)  Kami-i-i-i-l !  (Azan is heard in the distant  background) . .  Kami-i-i-i-i-l !  . .   

no point in getting angry . . . specially with kids . . .  just words . . . not relevant . . .  they said they were heroes . . . heroes in error. . . . what was said before was not important . .  just words . . . no, not important to remember . . . who?  one of them . . . can't remember . . . . not important to remember  . . . never remember… better to repeat . .  and repeat  . . imagine  . .  condemned . . . condemned to repeat  . . . the past . . . repeat and repeat  .  .  the past  . .

loud clapping  coming from TV  interrupting her, George Bush is taking about the war (the word 'war'  is repeated many times in different contexts)

…. turn it down !  . . . turn it down !

The TV sound gets even louder and the word 'war' more prominent

…. better without electricity !

the TV continues with a  play on the word ‘war’ until it gets interrupted by a ‘scratch’ sound.

… who said war?. . . not him again! . . . . . is there war between man and ants? . . .   ants build cities . . . ant cities  . .  live their ant lives … have wars . . yes, ant wars and revolutions too  . . .  until  men want them out of the way . . .  then they step on them and destroy their ant houses . . .. .   … their ant cities  . . . that’s what  we are now . . just ants . . .Shock and Awe . . .just ants . .  .  schools destroyed . . . . just ants . .  not intentional . . . just ants . . not intentional  . .  wrong time . . . wrong place . . . not intentional  . . . just collateral . . .says he . . collateral damage.. . . .says the guy in uniform . .  no, they don't count civilians . . . not relevant . . .  on one stretch of highway alone there were more than 50  cars . . .  people incinerated inside . . .  they sat in the sun for 10  days …   15? . . .  perhaps  . . . they don’t count them …. not relevant…  it  wastes their beautiful mind …. and their nose too … imagine . . . sitting in the sun for 15 days……

mobile phone interrupts her speech (she looks back as if searching for the phone and then turns to the audience)

. . but what could they do  . . .  freedom is untidy . . .   no choice, they said . . . must act now . . . backed up by sources . . . solid sources . . . every statement . . . (slowly and with a rhythmic pattern) . . e-ve-ry  one . . . not assertions . . .. . no, no, no question. Backed up by sources . . . solid  . . .   what we’re giving you are the (interrupted by music) . .

solid! . .the black guy . . . the one in uniform . . . . .

what we’re giving you are the (interrupted by music) . .

 solid intelligence . . . 45 minutes and we could all be . . . gone . . .

yes the English guy was sure . . .

what we’re giving you are the (interrupted by music) . .

the facts! . . . that's it! . . . nothing but the facts (accelerating into a frantic pace) . . deadly gases, poison, mushroom clouds, al-Qaeda, Saddam, grave danger, clear evidence of peril . .  cannot wait . . must act now … before we get a mushroom cloud . . says he . . .no, not the English guy . . . the other one ….George  . . .

you can’t distinguish . . not possible . . . too dangerous he said . . .  all  the same . . . all the same . . all the same . .  al-Qaeda, Saddam, Omar Khayyam . . Alladin's lamp  . . .  all the same . . . perhaps Kamil sounds the same ?  . . .  too dangerous to distinguish . .  . no question . . .no question . . no question . .  all the same . . all the same . . not relevant . . .   freedom is untidy . . . . but all the same it's freedom  … .  McDonald’s , Starbuck’s,  . . .   . . . no question . . . . no. . . . . . the problem is in the mind … the mind . .  never still . . the insurgency of the mind . . . they can be stubborn.. . . stubborn . . . not easy  . . . to stomp it out . . . the mind …. but it keeps coming …(getting more anxious) . and coming . . . the insurgency! . .  .

MUSIC crescendo. From inside the crescendo comes her voice with a sustained  note G4:

-i-i-i--il - ka-mi-i-i--il ( a melismatic phrasing on the different syllables of the word' Kamil', ending in a sound morph . . . and back to the monologue:

not easy . . .

Coming from a loud TV  (a play with the word ‘freedom) followed by a repeated passage from a military march

damn electricity !  I hope they bomb the power station again . .  you are getting deaf ! ! You are worse than Kamil!

the military march slowing down and getting quieter

you have to repeat and repeat  . . . repeat and repeat  . .

you have to repeat and  . . . repeat and repeat

panic  . .  . pa-panic not, not, not, not . . . panic! . . panic!

you have to repeat and repeat  . . . repeat and repeat

the object of fear is

you have to repeat and repeat  . . . repeat and repeat

the object of fear is  . . .   fear

you have to repeat and repeat . . . . untidy  . . hardly breathing . . .

legs collapse . . .

you have to repeat and repeat . . . . a contortion  . .ah . just the mouth

repeat and repeat . . repeat and celebrate . . . .

the object of power is  . . .

(fragmented) . .  the object of power is power

relax, repent and repeat . . .. . .  how?  . . . how  is easy (sarcastic, with a long ‘e’ sound)  . . . anybody can do how. . .

power to do …. power to undo. . . e-e-e-easy  (long ‘e’ sound) . . .

you have to repeat and remember . . . . . . this fence is here for your protection . . . repeat and repeat .  .  .

(fragmented)  . . this fence is here for your protection . 

repeat and repeat .  .  .  do not approach the fence. .  . repeat and repeat . . . it's raining . . . . . . put your coat on . . repeat and repeat . . .. it's getting late . . hurry!.  .  but freedom is untidy . . . schools destroyed . . . or looted  . . nothing to be done  . . . can't send him to school . . . dangerous . . . can't play in the garden   . .  too dangerous  . . .  can't go next door . . . too dangerous . . . what?  . . .  in the street?   not possible . . . too dangerous  . .  . shrapnel . . . too dangerous  .  . explosions! . .  . we could not  leave the house . . . not permitted . . . no, not allowed! . . .  could no go to hospital . . state of emergency . . unable to leave the house  . . curfew . . .

(Azan is heard in the distance)

. . .Kamil was bleeding . . . wrong time . .   wrong place . . . I watched . . . yes . . . just 9 . . . and bleeding . . . freedom is untidy . . .  and bleeding . . .   I watched. . .   lips still moving . . .and bleeding  . . . . not intentional . . . still bleeding . . .  not intentional . . .just collateral . .  . . . no, no sound, no . . no! . . . but bleeding. . .  I watched . . . a contortion . . .  just the mouth . .  .  the mind still  (pause and silence)  . . . (fortissimo in pitch)  Kami-i-i-i-l 

(ornamented musical phrase ending  on one sustained note which slowly 'morphs' into an  explosion)

the cemetery?  . . no, not allowed. . . State of Emergency . . . unable to leave the  house . . . .  .   Kamil is in the garden. . .  below the big tree .  . .  .  . no flying kites . . .   freedom is untidy .  .  .  .  .