Mohamed Abdelwahab Abdelfattah

(b. 1960s, Giza).

Egyptian composer of interdisciplinary works that have been performed in Europe, the Middle East and North America; he is also active as a researcher.

Prof. Abdelwahab Abdelfattah first studied photography at Helwan University in Helwan, where he earned his BA in 1983. He studied composition with Gamal Abdel-Rahim, counterpoint with Leila El-Sayyad and counterpoint and harmony with Awatif Abdel-Karim at the Conservatory of the Academy of Arts in Cairo and there earned two BAs in 1986, one with high honours, and his MA in 1990. He then studied composition with Markus Pressl at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz from 1990–93, on a scholarship, and composition and electroacoustic music with Dieter Kaufmann at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna from 1993–96, where he graduated with the Magister Artium, which was transferred to Egypt as a DA in 1998.

His music has been performed in Austria, Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, and the USA.

As a researcher, he has written numerous essays on topics such as applied composition, music for deaf listeners and music therapy, most often for Afaq, the magazine of the Ministry of Culture in Cairo. He invented visual solfège, a notation and a system of music education for the deaf, from 2005–08. He has written the book Orchestration (2001, Rohel Yousef) and the pamphlet Seeing the Sound (2005, 2 volumes, Conservatory of the Academy of Arts in Cairo).

He is also active in other positions. He worked as a programme coordinator for exchanges between Egypt and foreign organisations for contemporary music in Cairo from 1997–2005. He served as a member of the music committee of the Egyptian Supreme Cultural Council from 1998–2002, as composer-in-residence at the Cairo Opera House from 1999–2005 and as director of the International Festival for Experimental Theatre in Cairo in 2004. He has collaborated with the Goethe-Institut, Nippon Foundation and the organisation Pro Helvetia to coordinate concerts of cultural exchange.

He has taught analysis, composition, counterpoint, dodecaphonic techniques, electroacoustic music, harmony, instrumentation, keyboard, music theory, orchestration, rababa (2-string bowed instrument from the Middle East), and solfège at the Conservatory of the Academy of Arts in Cairo since 1987, where he was a lecturer from 1987–90, senior lecturer from 1990–98 and assistant professor from 1998–2003 and where he has been associate professor since 2003. He also taught as a guest professor at various universities in Egypt from 1998–2003, gave lectures in Austria and Switzerland in 2001 and lectured on Egyptian music, his own music, maqamat, music for deaf audiences, and other subjects as a visting scholar at Boston University from 2007–09.

In addition to the works listed below, he has written much music for films.


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COMPLETE LIST OF WORKS (note that the composer divides his output not according to categories, but rather according to locations and years)

CAIRO, 1983–88:

Egyptian Song, flute, piano, 1983

Childhood Memories (suite), piano, 1983

Mawwal Bashandi (inspired by mawwal [vocal improvisations] from the Siwa Oasis), viola, piano, 1984

Dance from the Valley, clarinet, piano, 1984

Polka Schehata, small orchestra (c. 30 players), 1984

Image from the Countryside, flute, vibraphone, riq (tambourine from the Middle East), 1985 (also versions for flute, oboe, riq, 1985; 2 flutes, riq, 1985)

The Three Geese (ballet song for theatre production by Saad Ardash, text by Ahmed Shawqi), 4 children's voices, 1985

Anshedi Ya Seba (new treatment of folksong from Egypt MowashshahLeader), c. 30 strings, 1985

Fantasy, percussion, orchestra (c. 50 players), 1986

Dodecaphonies (suite), piano, 1986–88

Wadi El-Molouk (symphonic poem about the Valley of the Kings, Luxor), orchestra (c. 50 players), 1988

GRAZ, 1990–93:

Dialogue, 2 flutes, 1990

Vocalises, soprano, oboe, 1991

Ali El-Awa (text from a folksong for children from Egypt), children's chorus, piano, 2 percussion, 1992

Hena Maqas (text from a folksong for children from Egypt), children's chorus, piano, 2 percussion, 1992

Ghazal, flute, 1992

Two Street Vendors (canon), 2 B-flat trumpets, 1992

Takharif – Musical Superstitions, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, B-flat trumpet, trombone, 2 violas, piano, fixed media, 1992

El-Zar (ostinato on a rhythm from Egypt), bassoon, French horn, 2 B-flat trumpets, trombone, bass trombone, accordion, drum kit, 1993

Articulations (suite), clarinet, bassoon, French horn, B-flat trumpet, viola, double bass, riq, 1993

Chernobyl, fixed media, 1993 (also version with slide projections [by the composer], 2000)

As Short as Possible (String Quartet No. 1), string quartet, fixed media, 1993

VIENNA, 1994–95:

Agwaa I (atmospheric suite), violin (2 players with 2 bows), 1994

El-Kholkhal (ballet in 1 act on a folk theme from Egypt, scenario by the composer), 5 dancers, small orchestra (2 flutes, bass clarinet, bassoon, French horn, B-flat trumpet, guitar, 2 percussion, 13 strings), 1994

Déjà vu (Six Variations on a Czerny Piano Étude), 4 saxophones, 1994

Die Wunderzahl (collage, text by the composer), male speaker, fixed media, 1994–95 (also version as Message from the Afterworld El-Akhra [text by the composer], male speaker, large orchestra, fixed media, 1994–96)

Zekra – Souvenir (vocalise), mixed chorus, large orchestra, 1995

CAIRO, 1998–2005:

Barsoum Looking for a Job (score for silent film by Mohamed Bayoumi), violin, 1998

Mo'atherat – Effects (improvisation), violin, 1999

Monamnamat – Miniatures (String Quartet No. 2) (suite), string quartet, 1999

Welad-el-balad (ostinato on a folk rhythm), symphonic band, 2000

Ghazl El-Banat (after fanfares of a wandering candy-seller), B-flat trumpet, small orchestra (oboe, French horn, B-flat trumpet, trombone, vibraphone, drum kit, darabukka [goblet drum from the Middle East] [+ riq], 14 violins, 4 cellos, 2 double basses), 2000

Melaya Laf (dance piece), clarinet, riq, animation (by the composer), 2000

Qasr Elshoq (score for film by Hassan El-Imam), guitar, small orchestra (piccolo, flute, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, B-flat trumpet, vibraphone, riq, 14 violins, 4 cellos, 2 double basses), 2000

Agwaa II (atmospheric variations on the fanfare of a street vendor), amplified oboe, live electronics, 2000

Ya Lil (text by Khalil Gibran; violinist must be female and on left of stage), male voice (moving), violin, fixed media, 2000

The Hot Letter (10 satirical sketches, text by the composer), 4 mixed voices, 2001

Ranineiyat – Rings (theatre piece/experimental suite), 2 percussion, 2001

Soul in Straw (audiovisual variations on the film Doa'a El-Karawan, vocalise), 4 mixed voices, MIDI-keyboard, 2001

Ranin from Space, fixed media, slide projections (by the composer, Tamdor Nagib), 2001

Violin and Machine (experimental music for theatre/duet; one player must be female, one player must be male), violin 4 hands (with 2 bows, sewing machine), 2001

Consequence-Sketch (player responds to live painting by any artist), double bass, 2001

Air Wings (improvisations), large orchestra (moving), fixed media, film (by the composer), 2002

Message from under water (theatre piece, after song sung by Abdel-Halim Hafiz), small orchestra, fixed media, film (by the composer, Abdel Halim), 2002

Lahib El-Thalg (visual piece), film (by the composer), 2002

On Coulisses, fixed media, film (by the composer), 2002

Khashkhashet – Paper (audiovisual fantasy), fixed media, film (by the composer), 2002

Azraq Profile (music for an exhibition of blue paintings by Shadya El-Qoshery; harpist must be female), harp, sound installation (by the composer), film installation (by Adel El-Qoshery), 2002

Tashshet Sot (improvisational melodies; all four soloists also speak text by the composer), ney (flute from the Middle East), oud (lute from the Middle East), riq, darabukka, small orchestra (c. 30 players), 2004

Qahqaha – Loud and Sustained Laughter (psychotherapeutic music), fixed media, films (El-Mellionaire Al-Faqeer – The Poor Millionaire by Halmy Rafla [excerpts], Meraty Magnuna Magnuna – My Wife Is Crazy Crazy by Halmy Halim [excerpts]), 2004

Five Fingers (collage of documentary footage), fixed media, film (by Tamdor Nagib), 2004

Cinematic Snapshots (suite), flute, riq, darabukka, 49 strings, 2004

Air Bubbles (experimental music-theatre work), any number of female actors, any number of male actors, dance troupe, mixed orchestra of instruments from the Middle East and from the West, lights, 2004

Shakhbata – Doodles (psychospontaneous polyimprovisations), any number of players, 2001–05

Sound Watching (audiovisual sound-scenography), fixed media, lights, 2005

Audible Flashes (rhythmic suite for deaf performers), kitchen utensils (18 players), 2005


Series of Arabic Songs (text compiled by the composer), 4 mixed voices, 2007–08

Dances (suite), orchestra (c. 50 players), 2007–


Die Wunderzahl. Mohamed Abdelwahab Abdelfattah, speaker (EX: 256-2, 1995)

As Short as Possible (String Quartet No. 1). Alea Quartett (Graz: Alea-01-97, 1997)