Adam Shatz on John King’s “Free Palestine”:
Seldom have the traditions of Western and Arabic music been fused with such intelligence, integrity, and feeling. King, an experimental New York composer born in 1953, discovered Arabic music late in life, but he has more than made up for lost time in his study of the maqam’at (melodic modes) and iqa’at (rhythmic units), the building blocks of the improvisatory form known as taqsim. Yet Free Palestine wears its diligence lightly. Although rigorous in its exploration of Arabic music, it is also playful, relaxed, and joyous, the work of a mature composer who has replenished himself thanks to a love affair with a new form. The freedom King’s title invokes has as much to do with the liberation of sound as it does with the liberation of Palestine.