Dispatches from Oman: We’re with the Band

After four days of field work in the Western Hajar Mountains, Alex and I returned to Muscat to get clean and then joined up with William & Mary’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble.  Professor Anne Rasmussen directs this talented group of musicians who’ve been exploring and performing the music of the Middle East since 1994.  Seven students and Anthropology professor Jonathan Glasser made the trip to Oman.

On the road with the band! W&M's Middle Eastern Music Ensemble heads to their first gig in Muscat.

On the road with the band! W&M’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble heads to their first gig in Muscat.

On a bright sunny afternoon we tagged along with Anne, Jonathan, and the crew for the first gig of their Muscat tour at the U.S. Embassy.  The Ensemble commonly numbers 20+ musicians, but for my untrained ear the smaller Ensemble, with its nine performers (1 on bass, 1 on qanun, 3 on percussion, 3 on violin, and 1 on ‘ud), brought out the sound of the individual instruments.

We also accompanied the band to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence for an evening soirée.  Geologists like a party, so it was great to ride the Ensemble’s collective coattails right into the festivities.  Ambassador Greta Holtz and her embassy staff did an exceptional job at making the Tribe feel welcome.

While the Ensemble literally played and sang for their supper, Alex and I mingled with the assembled guests.  During the course of the evening we had the pleasure of discussing our geologic work with many Omanis.  The Omanis are rightly proud of their ophiolite.

As a geologist I study rocks and landscapes.  For me trying to understand both the processes and history of our planet is a creative endeavor.  But let’s face it; making music is a creative endeavor that provides joy in real time—it’s powerful stuff.  William & Mary’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble turned out its brand of powerful stuff here in Muscat.

The Ensemble making their music at the U.S. Ambassador's residence.  (Photo courtesy of Megan Porter)

The Ensemble making their music at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Muscat, Oman. (Photo courtesy of Megan Porter)

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