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NEFERTARI - score illustration

NEFERTARI is a musical transmutation of Queen Nefertari’s tomb, a space designed as a liminal zone between worlds, a bridge between the physical and the spiritual. The three-movement, sixty-two-minute work for soprano, prepared piano, and sistrum is sung in ancient Egyptian - translated, transliterated, and vocalized for this project in a monumental effort in collaboration with Egyptologists Gonzalo Sánchez and Edmund Meltzer - from the hieroglyphs covering the walls of Nefertari’s tomb.


Read Graham Lynch's Foreword to NEFERTARI here. Read Paul Sánchez' "Reflections on NEFERTARI," from his Preface and Introduction to the Score, here.

haʔi ɛm muti nut, pɛsɛʃ tɛn χɛri 

diɛt ui ɛm jiχɛmu sɛk jimjuɛt

nɛn mɛti


Descend, mother Nut [goddess of the sky], spread yourself over me, 

so that you can place me among the eternal stars which are in you, 

and that I will not die…


With these words, carved on the top of Nefertari’s sarcophagus and sung in the ancient Egyptian, our voyage begins. The hieroglyphs covering every surface of Nefertari’s tomb, or House of Eternity, as the ancient Egyptians conceived of it, are the text of the entire work; the musical work itself is generated by the structure of the tomb, its artwork, and its symbolism. 


The stars painted on the ceiling of every room of her House of Eternity serve as a window to the true scale of the space: the tomb is cosmic in magnitude, encompassing all of existence and non-existence; NEFERTARI is a musical manifestation of that space, tracing Nefertari’s journey through the underworld and her transcendent transfiguration culminating in her voyage through the stars on the celestial barque and becoming an Osiris, herself. 


At the heart of the work is a complex network of symbolically laden leitmotifs representing Nefertari, Osiris, Ra, the many deities Nefertari encounters, and the ancient Egyptian concepts of dT(“Eternity” in a linear sense) and nHH (“Infinity” in a cyclical sense).


Nefertari’s transfiguration is traced through her motive, and her ability to sing it, herself. At the beginning of her journey, she can only speak her own name; along the way, as she overcomes the trials of the depths of the underworld only by her own strength, courage, and understanding, the gods and goddesses she encounters will sing her name to her, and as she gains knowledge and power, she is able to sing more and more of her own leitmotif. When she truly comes to know herself, she has power through the logos, fully singing her name for the first time: 


wi jaikui ʔaχɛk bʔakui

sɛχɛmɛk ʁʊpɛrɛkui 

natiru mɛk wi janɛk sɛp sɛʃ


Behold, I have come so that I am transfigured, so that I am potently manifest,

so that I am powerful…

O gods, behold, I am, I am the scribe!


Near the end of the work, Nefertari is guided through the stars by the sacred oars, and layer upon layer of the star music from the beginning of the first movement floods the musical universe as we tumble through galaxies witnessing Nefertari soaring in the celestial barque with Osiris and Ra.





After the climax, all becomes quiet, and we are left only with the stillness of the stars as they first appeared to us when Nefertari prayed to Nut, so long ago. Her prayer—“place me among the eternal stars which are in you, and that I will not die…” is fulfilled.


Soprano doubling on sistrum, prepared piano



62 minutes







Dedicated to Gonzalo M. Sánchez, MD

NEFERTARI - score illustration
NEFERTARI - score illustration
NEFERTARI - score illustration
NEFERTARI - score excerpt
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