Dast be Dast ('Hand to hand in friendship') was commissioned by Cuatro Puntos, a pioneering ensemble of chamber musicians dedicated to global cooperation and peace through the writing and performance of new music worldwide. The piece was written specifically for their violist Kevin Bishop, and for rubab player, Samim Zafar, a student of the extraordinary Afghanistan National Institute for Music (ANIM) in Kabul. Kevin suggested that the piece should represent the two distinct but equal musical cultures of the performers, and as such both players are required to adopt characteristics of each other's traditions, both techniques and languages. Dast be Dast illuminates various aspects of Afghan and Western music-making, with both instruments exploring improvisation alongside notation, controlled imitation with spontaneous elaboration, and Western tonality within Afghan scales. The piece is based on three Afghan songs each heard clearly in the three movements which are played without a break:
I Anar Anar (Pomegranates): a fast song where the two instruments imitate each other, gradually becoming more and more elaborate.
II Allah Hu (This is God): a meditative movement for solo viola based on a specific interpretation of Allah Hu sung as a lullaby by Veronica Doubleday in 2004.
III Watan Jan (Dear Homeland): based on a whirling atan dance in 7/8. Gradually getting faster and faster the players have to keep up with each other's virtuosity!
The work was premiered by Samim and Kevin on 23 June 2014 at ANIM, Kabul, Afghanistan. The work is dedicated to them both with admiration. With thanks also to Veronica Doubleday and John Baily for their continued help and inspiration.