How Could I Know (2023) 5'00"

How Could I Know is a duo for clarinet and piano commissioned by Toronto-based clarinetist, Peter Stoll. It is inspired by Rumi's Ghazal, Swallowing the Sun.


How Could I Know explores my feelings and lived experiences vis à vis the Women, Life, Freedom movement. The composition begins with a melody based on the overtone series of clarinet, in an “incorrect” order and register. As the theme develops, this material transforms by way of spectral, atonal, and total serialist compositional techniques. The final thematic statement presents the same opening material, now in a corrected order and register. Through this transformation, from chaos to ordered arrival, I aim to depict the small, internal changes necessary to realize transformation.

HOW COULD I know this melancholy
Would make me so crazy,
make of my heart a hell
of my two eye raging rivers?
How could I know a torrent would
snatch me out of nowhere away,
Toss me like a ship upon a sea of blood,
that waves would crack the ship’s ribs board by board,
tear with endless pitch and yaw each plank
that a leviathan would rear its head,
gulp down the ocean’s water,
  that such an endless ocean could dry up like a desert,
that the sea-quenching serpent could then split that desert
could jerk me of a sudden, like a Korah, with the blend of wrath
deep into a pit?  

When these transmutations came about
no trace remained of that desert or the sea
How should I know how it all happened
since how drowned within Howlessness?

What a multiplicity of how could I knows?
But I don’t know-
for to counter that sea
rushing in my mouth
I swallowed a froth of opium

Ghaal 1855
Translated by late Dr. Franklin D. Lewis