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The Enchanted Dawn

4500 years of music for flute + harp

White Earth

In the late 1920s, deep in the southern Iraqi desert, British archaeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered the most lavish Mesopotamian tomb ever discovered.

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There was a 4,500-year-old skeleton was draped in

gold and precious stones.

Golden rings decorated each finger


a golden-looped belt lay across the waist


and a golden headdress with intricately wrought leaves and standing flowers adorned the head.


But the resplendent grave goods are not the only reason the discovery rocked the world in the early 20th century:

this tomb belonged to a woman.


there were nine lyres, two harps


a silver double flute


The Enchanted Dawn, is a musical program inspired by the Penn Museum’s collection of artifacts from the ancient city of Ur, Mesopotamia, celebrating the importance of music in the lives, rituals, and laments of people from that time, to today. Moved by the artifacts and stories of flute and harp music from the city of Ur, Emi Ferguson and Ashley Jackson delve into the role of the flute and harp in that culture, as well as the flute and harp’s ongoing musical legacy with works reimagined from that time alongside works by composers of today.


Danielle Eva Schwob

Sébastien Le Camus

arr. Emi Ferguson

Arooj Aftab

as performed by Arooj Aftab, Maeve Gilchrist,

and Anoushka Shankar, arr. Emi Ferguson


Cécile McLorin Salvant

arr. Emi Ferguson

Jocelyn Morlock

Seyfollah Shokri

arr. Emi Ferguson


Erik Satie

arr. Toru Takemitsu


Dan Tepfer

arr. Emi Ferguson

Rabe’eh Zand

arr. Emi Ferguson

Mbarak Achieng, Nick Otieno, and Black Savage

as performed by Ayub Ogada, arr. Emi Ferguson


Ravi Shankar

Traveling North [2017]

Laissez durer la nuit [1661/2018] 

Udhero Na [2022]

Fenestra [2023]

Melusine [2023]


Twilight, from Vespertine [2005]

Improvisation [2021]


Le fils des étoiles (The Son of the Stars)

Prelude to the 1st Act “La Vocation” [1891/1975]

Natural Machines Ep. 2: TriadSculpture



In the Middle of the River [2016] Rabe’eh Zand

Koth biro [1976/1993]


L’aube enchantée (The Enchanted Dawn), sur la raga “Todi” [1976]


Ashley Jackson

Praised for her “soulful” and “eloquent” playing (Musical America), harpist Ashley Jackson enjoys a multifaceted career as a highly sought-after musician and collaborator in New York and beyond. 

As a soloist, she has performed at Lincoln Center, Celebrate Brooklyn! and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolis Ensemble, the Qatar Philharmonic, and is the principal harpist of NOVUS NY, the contemporary music orchestra of Trinity Wall Street led by Grammy-nominated conductor Julian Wachner. She is a member of the Harlem Chamber Players, with whom she has developed a number of projects, including her first film, In Song and Spirit and the Harlem Walking Tour Series. 


Throughout her academic and professional careers, Ashley has demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion within higher education and the performing arts, firmly believing that a deeper understanding of cultural and ethnic diversity is critical to intellectual and artistic development. As a recipient of the Theodore Presser Award, she pursued her doctoral research on black female composer Margaret Bonds and her collaboration with Langston Hughes, and presented her findings in lectures at the Studio Museum of Harlem, WMP Concert Hall, and the University of North Carolina. Her research culminated in the release of the album, The Ballad of the Brown King and Selected Songs (Avie Records) on which she is a featured performer, as well as the author of the liner notes. Her speaking engagements have included “1960: Margaret Bonds and a Message for Civil Rights” (Juilliard), “Affinities: Margaret Bonds and Langston Hughes,” (Studio Museum of Harlem) and “Representation as Resistance: How an Activist Orchestra Redresses the Push-out of Black Practitioners from Classical Music” (Harvard University). As a writer, her works have appeared on NewMusicBox (“The Cultural Citizen: How Classical Music Got Me Woke") as well as in the International Journal of Women in Music (“Margaret Bonds and The Ballad of the Brown King: A Historical Overview”). She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Music Department at Hunter College, where she teaches chamber music, harp, and courses such as the Arts in New York City.

Ashley holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Juilliard School, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University.

Emi Ferguson

A 2023 recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Emi Ferguson can be heard live in concerts and festivals with groups including AMOC*, Ruckus, the Handel and Haydn Society, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Manhattan Chamber Players, and as the music director of Camerata Pacifica Baroque. Her recordings celebrate her fascination with reinvigorating music and instruments of the past for the present. Her debut album, Amour Cruel, an indie-pop song cycle inspired by the music of the 17th-century French court, was released by Arezzo Music in September 2017, spending four weeks on the classical, classical crossover, and world music Billboard charts. Her 2019 album Fly the Coop: Bach Sonatas and Preludes, a collaboration with continuo band Ruckus, debuted at #1 on the iTunes classical charts and #2 on the Billboard classical charts, and was called “blindingly impressive ... a fizzing, daring display of personality and imagination” by The New York Times.


Emi has been a featured performer at the Marlboro, Lucerne, Ojai, Lake Champlain, Bach Virtuosi, and June in Buffalo festivals, often premiering new works by composers of our time. Emi was a featured performer alongside Yo-Yo Ma, Paul Simon, and James Taylor at the 10th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony of 9/11 at Ground Zero, where her performance of Amazing Grace was televised worldwide. Her performance that day is now part of the permanent collection at the 911 Museum. Emi has spoken and performed at several TEDx events and has been featured on media outlets including the Discovery Channel, Amazon Prime, WQXR, and Vox talking about how music relates to our world today. As a radio host and programmer, Emi first started working with New York’s WQXR as a member of their Artist Propulsion Lab where she developed the podcast series "This Composer Is Sick" with Max Fine, exploring the impact of Syphilis on composers Franz Schubert, Bedřich Smetana, and Scott Joplin. She has recently been named one of four new hosts for WQXR’s Young Artists Showcase and is also developing new programming for the youngest radio listeners, introducing them to music through exciting stories about composers, following on the success of her book Iconic Composers, co-written with Nicholas Csicsko alongside illustrations by David Lee Csicsko, introducing music lovers of all ages to 50 incredible Western Classical composers from the past 1000 years. Born in Japan and raised in London and Boston, she now resides in New York.


In June of 2021, I visited the Penn Museum’s collection of artifacts from the ancient city of Ur, Mesopotamia with my good friend, and ancient Mesopotamia scholar, Paul Delnero. Paul took me on an incredible tour of the collection, translating the cuneiform tablets as we went and showing me the incredible importance of music in the lives, rituals, and laments of the people of Ancient Mesopotamia. Stories and images of flutes and harps abounded, and in the Penn Museum’s collection was, remarkably, a harp, found as part of the 1929 excavation of Queen Puabi’s cemetery. Over 4,500 years old, I was moved to think that Ashley and I are part of such an incredible, long, and rich history of making music. These two instruments are among the earliest melodic instruments in human history and can be found in almost every culture around the world, and I’ve always felt that this meant that the sounds of the flute and the harp are embedded into our cultural DNA, no matter where we come. And here, in the Penn Museum’s collection, was an instrument that was proof of the importance, value, and power of these instruments to create transformative sounds. To add to the impact, Paul told me how most of the music makers from Ur were women, many of whom were buried with the Queen, forever playing her celestial music in the afterlife.

This stuck with me, and I was inspired to think about the flute and harp music from the city of Ur, and how these two instruments have woven their way through so many cultures and continue to speak to our hearts and minds today. This program takes us to many places, and I feel very fortunate to be able to share this beautiful music - much of which was written for flutes and harps from around the world, and others, that translate wonderfully onto these instruments.

seyfollah shokri

Instrument maker and musician Seyfollah Shokri, from Qazvin, Iran, began experimenting with creating modern reproductions of instruments like the one found in Queen Puabi’s tomb in Ur in the 1980’s. You’ll hear his Improvisation, originally for solo Sovoush (bamboo flute) on this program, as well as a piece written for one of his historically-based harps, In the Middle of the River, by composer and performer Rabe’eh Zand. Together, Rabe’eh and Seyfollah worked together to improve the construction of her primary instrument, the Iranian Qanun, inspiring a collaboration between these early music champions that would lead to Rabe’eh’s re-constructing, and composing, original compositions for Seyfollah’s harps, known as “Barbat”, in the style that she felt might have been performed on these instruments in ancient Mesopotamia.

laissez durer la nuit

Reconstruction is woven throughout tonight’s program - updating pieces people of the past might have known, as is transcription - taking works whose power and beauty translate beyond their original instrumentation. I fell in love with the 17th century song Laissez durer la nuit and made a soul inspired version of it on my 2017 album Amour Cruel, but also felt that the beautiful frame of melody and bass line that composer Sébastien Le Camus created, could also be transformed into a more gentle, French romantic inspired piece, first for flute and piano, and today, heard for the first time on flute and harp.

Laissez durer la nuit, impatiente Aurore.

Elle m'aide à cacher mes secrètes douleurs,

Et je n'ai pas encore assez versé de pleurs.

Pour ma douleur, hélas!
est-il des nuits trop sombres?

Depuis que mon berger quitta ce beau séjour,

Ah! Je ne puis souffrir le vif éclat du jour,

Laissez-moi donc pleurer
à la faveur des ombres

Autant que voudra son amour.

Let the night last, impatient dawn.

It helps me hide my secret sorrow,

And I have not yet shed enough tears.

For my sorrow, alas!
are there nights too dark?

Since my shepherd left this beautiful place,

Ah! I cannot endure the sharp glare of day,

Leave me then to weep
under the cover of shadows

As long as I desire his love.

ayub ogada

Kenyan musician and composer Ayub Ogada similarly took a folk-inspired song written by his bandmates in Black Savage, Koth biro (rain is coming), and reworked it into one of my favorite recordings of all time on his 1993 album En Mana Kuoyo, for voices, piano, and Ayub’s instrument, the 8-stringed harp of the Luo people, Nyatiti, which translates to “daughter of the extended family” and traces it’s roots back to Ancient Egypt. Koth biro is based on a traditional Luo song and sung in the Dholuo language about returning home with ones most valued things.

Listening to Ogada’s early recording of Koth biro with Black Savage, and then his later solo recording gives us a wonderful look into how an artist can evolve a composition of theirs, allowing it to live on in many different guises.

Auma be uwinja

Koth biro
Keluru dhok e dala

Yaye nyithindogi

un koro un utimoru nade?

Koth biro

Keluru dhok e dala

Auma do you hear me?

The rain is coming

Return the cattle home

Yaye, the children
What is it that you think you do?

The rain is coming
Return the cattle home

erik satie / toru takemitsu

Though radical French composer, Erik Satie’s music for the mystery play, Le fils des étoiles was intended for flutes and harps, what remains is a piano reduction with no indication of how he intended the music to be orchestrated. He ended up publishing a version for solo piano in 1896 of only three preludes from the 75 minute long score, and it is the first of these preludes that Japanese composer (and like Satie, sound evolutionist) Tōru Takemitsu arranged for flute and harp in 1975, imagining what the music could have sounded like in its original scoring.

ravi shankar

Just a year later in 1976, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar published his work L’aube enchantée, one of his forays into writing western classical music. This fifteen minute work is based on the Indian “Todi” raga which Shankar described as “sad and devotional”, a mourning melody. Ravi Shankar is one of the world’s best known North

Indian Classical musicians and had a profound impact on musicians of many styles, from Philip Glass, to the Beatles, Yehudi Menuhin, to of course, his daughter Anoushka Shankar who learned the sitar from her father and who is a featured guest on Arooj Aftab’s Udhero Na.

arooj aftab

Though written in 2005 and performed live in many iterations since then, it wasn't until 2022 that Pakastani-American artist Arooj Aftab recorded Udhero Na as part of the deluxe release of her album Vulture Prince. Featuring Anoushka Shankar on sitar and Maeve Gilchrist on harp, I remember being instantly struck by the yearning of this song. She describes the piece as when the “thought of someone from a very old and ‘passed’ relationship just pops into your head as you go about your present day to day.

danielle eva schwob

Almost all of tonight’s program features music that was not originally written for the flute and the harp. Danielle Eva Schwob’s Traveling North was originally scored for flute and marimba as an imaginary score for dreamscapes of a dewy morning forest, but Danielle re-arranged the piece for flute and harp to showcase Ashley’s playing. Ashley is featured in the 2021 recording of the piece on Danielle’s album Out of the Tunnel (Unabridged).

jocelyn morlock

I was so excited to be introduced to both this piece, and Jocelyn Morlock’s Vespertine by Ashley last year. The first movement of Vespertine, Twilight is the only piece written originally for modern/western flute and harp on the program and is a musical exploration of night-blossoming plants and nocturnally active creatures as they await the morning light.


The Enchanted Dawn

4500 years of music for flute + harp

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