• Songs for a Set
    Joe Namy

Halim El-Dabh's Color Notation painting “Crimson Orchid,” at his home in Kent, Ohio, 2019. Courtesy Joe Namy and Halim El-Dabh Music. Photo: Joe Namy

Songs for a Set is a research project that explores the extended cosmos of Arab American composer Halim El Dabh (1921–2017), known as the godfather of African electronic music. Throughout El Dabh's prolific seven-decade career as a composer, musician, ethnomusicologist, and teacher, architecture and the designed environment served as a catalyzing mediant in his sonic milieu. Early on he began researching the connection between agricultural architecture and sounds/songs of rural Egypt. He went on to write the iconic score for modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham's masterpiece Clytemnestra (1958), transpired from a collaborative communion between himself, Martha Graham, and the stage set designer Isamu Noguchi. Through installation and performance, Songs for a Set activates the archives of Halim El Dabh and the correspondence and impact of this groundbreaking triad, in order to better understand the latent reverberations resonating in El Dabh’s repertoire.

Joe Namy is an American-born, London and Beirut-based artist, educator, and composer, who often works collaboratively across mediums—in sound, performance, sculpture, and video. Their projects focus on social constructs of music and organized sound, like the pageantry and politics of opera, gender dynamics of bass, colors and tones of militarization, migration patterns of instruments, and the complexities of translation in all this—from language to language, from score to sound, from drum to dance. Namy graduated with a master’s in fine arts from New York University, and has independently studied jazz, Arabic, and heavy metal drumming. In 2011, they took part in the inaugural Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace ISP in Beirut, and now serves on the curricular committee and mentor. Namy has been awarded a Sharjah Art Foundation Production Grant (2018), a Mophradat Consortium Commission (2019), and research support from Beeler Gallery at Columbus College of Art & Design, Ohio (2019).