PTAHMOSE AND THE MAGIC SPELL - THE OSIRIS RITUAL Every spring the River Nile recreates itself. Osiris dies. Geb the earth, becomes hard and dry. The softness of the earth is gone. Apep, the God of clouds, prevails. Osiris, the first king of Egypt and the God of resurrection, had been killed by his brother Set, the God of destruction. Set had tricked Osiris into lying in a coffin, which Osiris thought he would win as a prize if it fit properly. Set and his forty-two accomplices nailed Osiris in the coffin and cast him into the sea. Isis, the Mother Goddess and the wife of Osiris lamented and searched. The Nile was dry. Tehut-Thoth, who is the utterence of thought and who created the world by naming it, moves to activate life by making harsh sounds with his tongue. Isis finds Osiris. A tree had grown around his coffin enclosing him in it's trunk. Isis brought her dead husband home and hid him so that Set wouldn't find him. But Set does find him and dismembers his body, scattering the pieces across the land. Egypt is without a King. Horus, the son of Osiris, sets out to avenge the death of his father. Set as the brother of Osiris, claims the throne. Horus also claims the throne as the son of Osiris. They and their followers pull the balance of Egypt back and forth. Upper and Lower Egypt are pulling against each other. But Horus is victorious. Horus is King of Egypt and Osiris'death is avenged. Balance is restored. The river rises. Osiris has risen, having returned from Ament, the West, where Ra, too, struggles each night to head Eastward and recreate himself in the dawn. The Nile softens the hard earth and the river becomes red with it's essence. Geb is in the Nile. The hardness of Apep has given way to softness. Creation has begun again and will continue each year. The Role of Maat The Egyptians lived in a many-sided world. Modern man searches to reduce this manifold to One. The only singleness to the Egyptian was the balance generated by the Many. Maat is this balance. She is the only Egyptian deity whose name is used as an abstract noun. Maat is Truth. Maat is Justice. Maat is inherent in the Many. The uniqueness of the particular is what makes the balance. To concentrate on similarity would have removed the vibrance of the tensions that generate this balance. Halim speaks: I love to work with high school kids. Our interaction through the operas I compose for them generates a feeling of life and exuberance. I do not choose between the 'talented' and the 'untalented', nor do I choose between the trained and the untrained. I use all voices. My appetite is for the whole range of sounds that a human being can make. Since my traditions are rooted in Egypt, my language of sound tends to bring into being the sounds of Africa. In Africa singing is a function of life. One sings as an activity, not in order to be good. To be a good musician in Africa is to make total use of the instrument, not to select only certain capabilities of the instrument and make these capabilities the law of the instrument. Young people of high school age have not yet been completely conditioned by what I consider to be artificial standards of musicality. Every human being makes sounds. I am interested in the uniqueness of each person's sounds. Any standard defining the good voice eliminates the availability of a wide range of vocal characteristics. A composition grows beyond the composer's pen during the process of production. Having a group of young people who have not been selected on any notion of talent or musicality provides a wider range of realization for the composition. I, therefore, get more satisfaction from the realization of my works. Ptahmose is my third work with The Hawthorne School of Washington, D.C. This opera was part of an academic course in which the students studied the art, architecture, mathematics, literature and religion of Ancient Egypt while they learned the music of this opera and learned to play Egyptian drums (derabuccas). Anyone who chose to take this course automatically became a singer and a drummer in the cast. The final exam in the course was the production itself. By that time the students were so involved with the content of the opera that there was simply no need to worry about 'acting'. Their bodies and faces literally spoke the meaning of their words as they sang. There was an immediacy of communication. In this opera I have presented Ancient Egypt as I see her while making extensive use of the scholarship of Egyptologists. The words of the libretto that are not in English are either transliterations from Egyptian hieroglyphs or made-up words where I was more concerned with sound meaning than with verbal meaning. Halim El-Dabh Kent, Ohio 1972.