In Gulistan, I bring together traditional songs from my Western and Middle Eastern heritage. The title comes from the thirteenth-century Persian poet Sa’di, whose monumental work Gulistan (“flower garden” in Persian) uses flowers as a metaphor for wisdom. Folk songs may be said to represent the collective wisdom of a culture, preserving generations of values and worldviews. Inspired by Sa’di, I chose folk songs that make reference to flowers, each with different metaphorical implications.
Part 1 combines the traditional Azerbaijani song “Sari Gelin” with the American folk song “Wildwood Flower.” The former describes a man helplessly longing for his distant lover, while the latter tells the story of a heartbroken woman whose lover has abandoned her. I intertwine the songs, suggesting a dialogue between two inconsolable lovers, each pining for the other.
Part 2 unites two metaphorical commentaries on the nature of love: the traditional Iranian song “Saye Chaman” and the English folk song “Seeds of Love.” I set the Iranian melody in an American folk style, and the English melody in a style evoking Iranian classical music. The melodies are often presented in counterpoint—a kind of musical metaphor for the mixture of cultures in my own life.
This work was written expressly for mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, who shares in common with me a diverse heritage comprising Eastern and Western cultures.