For ten years Belgian composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps has written music inspired by and named after the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet. He has now written pieces for 13 letters. Fifteen letters still remain.
His compositions are influenced by a Sufi correspondence chart linking each letter to a multitude of symbolic attributes and sympathetic meanings. The letter Kaf, for example, is associated with “love” “sun” “That is sufficient” and “sheets of white roses.” These connotations are then used by Fafchamps to draw compositional associations. Influenced by the figurative imagery of the alphabetic symbol, the composer makes aesthetic decisions related to the instrumentation, energy, and structure of each piece; as well as securing more abstract emotional guideposts such as the character traits, emotional presentation, and elemental manifestation of the work.
Once you have letters you can make words, and this recording from a 2006 concert the Palais des Beaux-Arts consists of six of Fafchamps’ letter compositions arranged to spell the word KDGhZSA. Referring to the letters, Fafchamps says “I approach them as open oracles.” As do I, the listener. But, for the composer, the oracular is sought in the letters’ symbolic parameters- an instance of creative limitation as creative catalyst. For the listener, though, the oracular is present in the compositions themselves, meaning that the mystery is transmitted by the composer and given form while remaining miraculous.
I’m purposefully limiting my discussion to the composer’s method of operation. Due to my limitations as a reviewer with regard to orchestral and symphonic music, I’ll not going to go into great detail about how this record sounds, beyond saying it is an incredibly chilling, atmospheric, and dynamic achievement. There is also a great sense of mystery at play, which I would rather not dissect too critically. So, it is with a sense of respect for Fafchamps creative triumph and for the mystical logos that is its influence that I wholly recommend we listen to what is here spoken.