I'm incredibly proud to have one of my compositions included in this sonic tribute to Bassel Khartabil who was a Syrian coder and Creative Commons advocate. His life was violently cut short in a Syrian prison where he was held for promoting basic internet freedoms that most of us likely take for granted. His work with the digitizing the Palmyra site to help contextualize it for a contemporary audience really connected with me. Through his visualizations and renderings of the complex, I personally felt connected to his culture and the story of this place in unexpected ways. It hurt and angered me to hear of further destruction of the ancient city over the years by regimes bent on erasing traditions. I'm thankful to Marc Weidenbaum for his work with the Disquiet Junto in bringing the remarkable story of Bassel's life and work to my attention.
And now I want to give back something small and grow Bassel's stry even more. Anyone who knows my work and methods knows I don't generally ask for payment. But this time is different in several ways. First I'm asking you to please financially support this project. All proceeds will seed a Creative Commons fund named in Bassel's honor. Second I'm asking you to please share this as much as you can in your networks. Bassel died for a cause he believed in and his story should be heard far and wide. Finally, please read my friend Rupert Lally's (who helped bring this tribute to life) write up included with this post as he beautifully introduces the story of Bassel Khartabil.
"He was held in a small cell, from which he could view a small patch of sky for a small part of the day. That was after nine months he spent in a cell with no light at all. Before he was imprisoned (detained, held — the words have varying shades of truth and meaning, emphasis and appropriateness, detail and futility), he made three-dimensional CGI renderings of an ancient city. In his old life he created these virtual spaces to help us remember what the world once looked like. Perhaps those powers of imagination helped him envision a world beyond his cell once a cell became his world.
His name was Bassel Khartabil. He was a coder and open-source advocate born in Syria, the same country that would later imprison him and execute him. During his incarceration, and during the extended period when his death was presumed but not yet confirmed, his story became a rallying point around the world. His plight inspired essays, and conference sessions, and political statements. And it inspired music. All the tracks in this collection are sourced from different projects undertaken by members of the Disquiet Junto music community to keep Bassel's story alive.
The Disquiet Junto is an open community of musicians who respond weekly to shared compositional prompts. Facets of Bassel's life provided several such prompts over the years. We created soundscapes to bring a new dimension to his CGI renderings. We sampled his voice and turned it into music. We created VR scores, and we tried to extrapolate sound from the poetic language of his correspondence. In the end, what we tried to do was spread word of his plight, to keep his story alive even after he was no longer.
The "commons" is an essential metaphor that inspires open source activity. It is in the Creative Commons that people can build on each other's work, to freely create things that neither party would have imagined possible separately. We often speak of the commons through related words, such as "community" and "communal." We speak of the open-source community, and of communal effort. Through the Disquiet Junto projects, we've tried to connect with Bassel in yet another way — to commune with his spirit."
- Marc Weidenbaum (Disquiet Junto Founder)