Creation and direction of original performances:


“Ecstatic Dissent” is a project by composer/percussionist Michael Zerang that brings together six innovative musicians to realize compositions that are based on Aramaic song and chant forms. Through improvisations and exploration, the musicians bring an extended vocabulary into play that illuminates these ancient forms and place them in a contemporary setting. The concert took place on Saturday, December 13, 2003 at the Hot House in Chicago as a part of the Innovative Composers Commission Series that is funded by the National Endowment of Arts.

The Musicians for this project are:
Alan Kushan - santour
Nicole Mitchell - flutes
Guillermo Gregorio - clarinet
Fred Lonberg-Holm - cello
Kent Kessler - contrabass
Michael Zerang - darabuka


by Blair Thomamas and Michael Zerang


by Michael Zerang

In the House of Sargon is a performance works by Michael Zerang and is the third piece in the trilogy entitled Mesopotamia that deals with various aspects of middle eastern culture. In the House of Sargon is a multi-disciplinary work that utilizes voice, text, music and movement elements along with stylized sets and costumes. The work involves the relationships between the Assyrians, Armenians and Kurds in the 20th century beginning with the massacre of the Armenians and Assyrians by the Turks and Kurds in 1914-1916 and ending with the devastation of the Persian Gulf war. The piece concentrates on the region that is present day Northern Iraq, Southeastern Turkey, Northwestern Iran, and Armenia.

Arrangements of chants and songs in the ancient Aramaic language are juxtaposed with contemporary, non-traditional vocal stylings. A variety of instrumental music from the region are performed live and used as an accompaniment to movement and gestural tableaus. The musical instruments include; Saz (a three stringed predecessor of the European lute), Tar (frame drum), Zurna (Double reeded horn) and Dumbek (ceramic single headed drum). Multiple shortwave radios will be used live to tune in various music and voices from the Middle East region. The cast consists of four vocalists, four musicians and three dancer/actors.

The relationship between these three distinct groups has rarely been addressed in the West. The Assyrians, Armenians and Kurds are all non-arab minorities that exist together in the same small region for the better part of the millennium and their conflicts and alliances have been many. This work will attempt to highlight the resultant cultural similarities and differences through a series of visual and aural tableaus using ancient texts, cultural hybrids and contemporary, non-traditional performance devices, i.e., electronic sound, gesture, extended vocal techniques, and to show the extent to which these similarities and differences have been shaped by war and conflict.
Links Hall Studio

Woman in Cab
Kimberly Bruce

Woman in Black
Lydia Charaf

Carol T. Genetti

Dead Man
Eric Leonardson

Short Wave Radio
Don Meckley

Daniel Scanlan

Man in Cab
Paul Tamney

Taxi Driver
Michael Zerang

Technical Director
Otto Sohn

Aramaic chant and Assyrian story performed by
Edward J. Zerang

Special Thanks
Gene Coleman, Nancy Bardiwil, Kent Kessler, Greg Snyder, Paul Zerang, Katy Maguire, Bob Eisen, Kay Wendt LaSota, Ron Bieganski, and Lukie Marriott.

This project was supported in part by the Regional Artists' Project Grant, a partner program of the Artists' Projects Regional Initiative, which supports artists in the fourteen different regions across the fifty states and Puerto Rico. The Regional Artists' Project Grant is administered by Randolph Street Gallery and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center and is supported by funds from the Presenting and Commissioning Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Illinois Arts Council, the Ohio Arts Council and Randolph Street Gallery.


by Michael Zerang

The Death of Mar Shimun is a performance work by Michael Zerang and is the second piece in the trilogy entitled "Mesopotamia" that deals with various aspects of middle eastern culture. Genocide by the Turkish soldiers and the Kurdish mountaineers displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and Armenians from the area now encompassed by Iran, Iraq, Soviet Union and Turkey.

The primary motivation for the genocide was the decline of the Ottoman empire and the consequent attempt to hold as much land as possible for a future Turkey (and potential Kurdistan) by removing the non-moslum inhabitants from the land. Also, age old hatred between Christians and Muslims fueled these attacks.

The Death of Mar Shimun reflects the torture/murder of the high priest of the Nestorians or Chaeldean Assyrians. As was the practice during these years, the Turks would empty villages and set their inhabitants in exile, keeping as hostage the most important members of the community, who in most instances were the village priests, and asking a large sum of money for their release. Mar Shimun's ransom was paid in full but he was executed anyway.

The singing in this piece is from the ancient Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ spoke, and is found in the mass of the Nestorians and Chaeldeans.
Club Lower Links

Conceived, written, directed and performed by Michael Zerang

Aramaic texts sung by Edward Zerang

Sound Design by Michael Zerang

Sets, Costumes, Lights by Nancy Bardawil

Technical Director Mathew Owens


Conceived and Directed by Michael Zerang

Hot Sands is the first piece in the trilogy entitled "Mesopotamia" that deals with various aspects of middle eastern culture. Hot Sands is a tale of two U.S. soldiers recently placed in a Middle Eastern desert. The two grunts are charged with doing the dirty work for their leader -- a spoiled, sadistic, billionaire car-freak. Using a combination of sound, movement, and dialogue, Hot Sands explores the forces that have divided the Middle East throughout this century, and the impact they have had in encouraging fundamentalism, terrorism, and militarism.

Randolph Street Gallery

Lydia Charaf
Kathleen Maltese
Donna Mandel
Jean Parisi

Arab Soldier
Eric Leonardson

U.S. Soldiers
Douglas Grew
Gino De Grazia

Martin Stewart

Carl Watson

Paul Zerang
Michael Zerang

Structured by Michael Zerang from material developed by the performers.

Costume Design
Katy Hoffer
Lionel Bottari

Technical Director
Joseph Medosch

Props & Sets
Nancy Bardawil

Special Thanks
Lukie Marriott, Mathew Owens, Mary Jo Schnell, Link's Hall Studio, and Kaja Overstreet

SITE INDEX contact Michael Zerang at drum777@aol.com