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April 14, 2017

UMS in the Classroom: Amir Elsaffar’s Rivers of Sound


Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound 3 by White Cube

Interested in using a UMS performance in your university classroom? For each performance on the season, we provide suggested curricular connections, links to contextual material online, citations for scholarly material, and prompts for classroom discussion. For additional resources and individualized curricular support, please contact Shannon Fitzsimons Moen, UMS Campus Engagement Specialist, at or (734) 764-3903.

UMS is also committed to making our performances an affordable part of the academic experience. Our Classroom Ticket Program provides $15 tickets to students and faculty for performances that are a course requirement. Please email to set up a group order.


This performance may connect meaningfully with courses in the following schools and disciplines:

  • American Culture
  • Anthropology
  • Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Comparative Literature
  • Global and Intercultural Studies
  • History
  • History of Art
  • Islamic Studies
  • Middle Eastern and North African Studies
  • Near Eastern Studies
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Composition
  • Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation
  • Musicology
  • Piano
  • Strings
  • Winds and Percussion
  • Business
  • Public Policy
  • Social Work



  • In performing Not Two, an original composition by Amir ElSaffar, each musician interacts with the group through both improvised and composed material to create a novel composite sound. How do the differences and similarities between these different musical styles complement each other?
  • Given the political, social, and cultural conflicts befalling the world today, why are performances of traditional Middle Eastern music important? What does combining both traditional and contemporary styles of music achieve in a larger cultural context? How?
  • “The highest ideal in maqam music is to reach a state of tarab, or “musical ecstasy,” which results from the melting away of borders between a notion of self and other, as performers and audience revel together in the music.” Describe your experience listening to Elsaffar’s composition, Not Two. Does the music affect you emotionally? If so, in what ways?