Native Informant begins with a tense, mournful clarinet, sobbing quietly in bent phrases. The soprano Melissa Hughes joins in, her voice blending eerily with the clarinet. The piece is “Tahwidah,” by the composer Mohammed Fairouz, and it blends harmonic languages and geography in a way that will remind modern classical listeners of the famous Osvaldo Golijov, before the composer got lost in his own hype. The piece is meant as a lullaby, but it carries a deep sadness that could curdle milk.
Native Informant is an arresting showcase for Fairouz’s voice, which is plangent, melodic, folkloric and unpredictable: His lines spool out in ways that don’t follow your ear’s predetermined path for them. He wrote eloquently of soaking in Armenian and Lebanese art and poetry for the Huffington Post, and Fairouz’s music is that of a thoughtful traveler: Native Informant traverses boundaries without ever losing its gentle footing.