Saturday, February 8, 2014

Casbah of Tetouan

Tetouan is one of the two major port cities in Morocco, situated on the north side of the country, close to the strait of Gibraltar. Composer/horn player Kerry Turner visited the city in 1988 and during this visit he was inspired to compose this work. Later, the composer recalled his impressions upon entering the city :
 "As we crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and first laid eyes on the North African coast, I knew we were in store for an adventure! The city of Tetouan was our destination; we were soon standing before its main gates. As we entered the city, our senses were overrun by the many exotic new sights, complementing the wild sounds and smells of the bustling ancient city. After proceeding only a few feet past hobbled live chickens, we found ourselves immersed completely in the endless, tiny alleys of the Casbah. It was a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways, lined with vendors and shops the size of walk-in closets. Anything could be had, including copperware, sacks of spices and grains, and silk. Street butchers displayed slaughtered lambs, goats and pigs, and a snake charmer with his cobra unnerved the unwary passerby. Somewhere around the urine-treated leather goods things began to swim before my eyes. After I informed the guide that I was ill, a young boy was sent to escort me to a quiet place. The boy knew every secret passage and shortcut in the Casbah. He led me through even tinier streets and tunnels, across nomad camps, and even through a kitchen! We sailed through the back door of a mosque, and out the other side. Finally we entered a large, dark and cool house, which seemed to be some sort of palace. The boy led me to a back room and laid me down upon a bed of large pillows. I passed out. I awoke thoroughly disoriented. The first things I saw were six elaborately cloaked elderly men, wildly discussing in Arabic what could possibly be wrong with me, I heard exotic music and aromatic food assailed my senses. After closer observation I discovered I was in a fancy restaurant, being entertained by a belly dancer. Somehow my wife and brother found me and we resumed our inspection of Tetouan. I still felt lightheaded and rather doped by the "therapeutic" tea; my impressions of the city were somewhat hallucinogenic" (

Originally composed for 5 horns, this great piece of music filled with rich sonorities, challenging technical passages and unusual sound effects, was later rearranged for brass quintet in 1993 by Turner himself. Other arrangements such as a trombone quintet version and a tuba quartet version have found their way into the brass chamber repertoire. 

1 comment:

  1. we should pick up the trombone quintet version. Very cool!