“I go through the Middle East as if I were proceeding along a rug in my own living room,” said Fleisher, regarding her personal commitment to the cultures of the area. Many of her works use Arabic literary texts, are based on Arab scales integrated with modulations and transformations in a Western contemporary musical style, and use instruments and voices inspired by the tones of the Arabic language, to the point that “an Arab spirit enters the work,” in the words of one of her critics.
One of many such examples is the symphonic poem
A Girl Called Limonad
, (1977), based on a poem by Lebanese poet Shawki Abi-Shakra; the song cycle
(1977) by contemporary poets from Lebanon and Syria in double-instrument rendition – Western and Eastern, and with many versions in different languages; “Ballad of an Expected Death in Cairo,” (1987) set to the words of Egyptian poet Sallah Abdel Sabour;
The Gown of Night
(1988) set to the poem of Arab-Israeli poet Mohammed Ghana'im with a collage of the voices of Bedouin children from Rahat and
Like Two Branches
(1989)to a text by Al-Khansa, a Bedouin poetess from the 6th century, a work that Fleischer considers her most important and which, according to conductor Tamir Hasson, “redefines the medium of vocal music as a whole and of Israeli music in particular” and according to musicologist Natan Mishori, is “a stellar example of the ways of integrating Eastern and Western foundations, ancient and new, of organizing main parameters of pitch, texture, meter, dynamics, tone and the tonal-musical basis faithful to ancient Arabic.”
“The extreme extent to which I gave legitimacy to the inspiration of the East to percolate deeply into Classical music turned me into a composer who represents the region and not just Israel,” wrote Fleischer, in one of her articles. Indeed, her openness and attentiveness to local cultural pluralism granted her the description as “one of the most active contributors to the ideology of composition in Israel, who through synthesis bridges and connects East and West, also revealing her deep pacifist beliefs.” A work that well expresses this ideology is Fleischer’s anti-war composition,
War (1988), for wind and percussion. In 1995, Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister, gave her the title “Peace Composer.”
"Even though we were born . . . into a period when the Darmstadt conferences [for avant-garde music] on the one hand, and the flute of Emmanual Zamir [for Hebrew folksongs] on the other, were history,” wrote Fleischer, “and we recognize the synthesis of Mordecai Seter as representative, I believe that the struggle of each of us as an artist over his identity between East and West, continues into the present. Since – we live here and even our forefathers are from here, but our history has brought us into the encounter with (and still does to this day) knowledge and absorption of Western culture.
Moreover: we were dispersed in Diasporas in both the East and West . . . the struggle is not relegated merely to the realm of the individual and his fellow, but also exists deep inside each one of us. Sometimes, joining (East and West) together in a definition of the location is easy and happens unprompted, and sometimes, you flee from it because you are torn between extremes (East and West)” (from
Concerning our Identity between East and West (June 1982).
Invitation to a Musical Encounter with Tsippi Fleischer, Haifa, 1984
The “East” in Tsippi Fleischer’s works expands even beyond the contemporary Near East, arriving at the Ancient Semitic Orient, from which she borrows archaic languages and ancient epics. “Images and sounds of the Semitic languages from this area –the Semitic space – as a clear cradle of culture, have stimulated me in my compositional habits since I was a student,” Fleischer related. Indeed, in the multimedia composition
The Goddess Anath
(1993) for dancer and voice, violin, piano and percussion, Fleischer employs the myth of the goddess Anat in the Ugaritic language; in
Appeal to the Stars
(1993-1994), her work for six vocalists who play recorders, zorna, iron sticks and palm branches, the text is in the ancient Babylonian language and based on a Babylonian prayer to the gods of night; the grand opera Adapa in Acadian. Biblical texts also become an unavoidable cultural option in her works:
The Judgment of Solomon
(1995), an operatic scene sung in biblical Hebrew;
Daniel in the Den of Lions
(1995), video art according to the Coptic version of the biblical story; the chamber opera
Cain and Abel
(2001-2002), and the Oratory
(2012), about the birth of the three monotheistic religions.
“Authenticity does not contraindicate the use of contemporary universal techniques,” Tsippi Fleischer expressed herself in the context of 20th-century music. “The spirit of folklore inspires, but it does not itself constitute the significance of the [new] original work. The significance of a work is constructed from the never-ending yearning for content and values. The original work, with its strong significance and bold character is an outgrowth of the composer’s intention.” And indeed, as a contemporary composer, Fleischer uses, in addition to classical Western compositional methods, avant-garde 20th-century composing techniques: 12-tone techniques, sound masses, euphonic speech, vocalized playing, language (content, meter and sound) as part of the musical fabric, and magnetic tapes. An example of the integration of old and new appears in her work for solo guitar, the suite,
To the Fruits of My Land
, in which Fleischer integrates Baroque textures of J.S. Bach into contemporary music. Fleischer, who was always drawn to original ethnic materials, integrates these as well into innovative musical textures in many of her works consisting of magnetic tapes. For example, her work consisting of magnetic tapes
(1988-1998), is based on recordings of ethnic materials performed by Georgian, Croatian, Eskimo and Tunisian musicians, materials that she elaborated. It has been said that “the cosmopolitan nature of Tsippi Fleischer’s works also leaves room for the particular, in which each voice stands on its own.” Her works are widely performed around the world, from Europe to the USA, and from Tokyo to Alaska. Her works have been recorded by international recording companies and are broadcast regularly on radio stations in Israel and worldwide.