Xarja, pronounced Shar-ja, is a Spanish or Catalan spelling of the Arabic word Kharja (خرجة) which means ‘exit’ or ‘final’, but is also the last stanzas of genre of Arabic poetry (called muwashshah) that originated in Arab Spain around the tenth century. These ending stanzas were often in Classical Arabic but some mixed Arabic with Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Catalan etc.). On a personal level, this work marks a creative ‘exit’ from a musical language which has been inspired by the music of the muwashshah genre.  The work begins in a traditional sounding mode but quickly morphs into a more chromatic language with a more irregular musical pulse. Like the speaker of the poet, the sense of loss is one filled with sadness and desperation. Like the grief stricken lover, ‘death is my state’ can be applied to the musical language I’ve been using for sometime. However, out of ‘death’ comes ‘rebirth’ and the opportunity to begin anew. The text is taken  from from the “Waterfire” muwashshah  by Al’Ama al-Tuttli (d. 1126 Tudela, Spain) and other poets of that era.


This piece is a section of a collaborative performance work with New Mexico poet Arthur Sze (commissioned by the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Art) based on his long poem “The Silk Road.” It was first performed by Joan LaBarbera and Christopher Shultis. The rhythms of English verse are combined with the tonal qualities of Peking Opera in a linear structure, much like the connected brush-strokes of calligraphy.