Prison Sky (Disquiet Junto Project 0271)


The request this week is a piece to remember Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian Syrian open-source software developer who has been in captivity since 2012, and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

The piece was originally going to be a dance but as I started writing it turned itself into a fugue (I am breaking a number of rules here but that is the best description I can offer).

The piece is scored for Saxophone Quartet (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone) and Bass Clarinet, and the score is available at


The playlist is now up and running, 14 musicians so far:


I decided to do an oppressive sounding start and finish, but with a middle (seeing the sun) as a time to dream of freedom and the outside world.


vocals thru guitar fx. less fx as the track progresses

isolated - claustrophobic - hope/less


Hello all,

For this Junto, making the square was easy… making it blue not!
I painted the square by repeating the same sample 4 times, than put my colab with Kamikuma from last week over it and added a repeating piano sample(one note, that is).

I hope, Mr.Khartabil will be released soon, in good health! I can not even begin to imagine what a life he and his wife have for the last 5 years, such a shame. I wish both of them a lot of strength.



Pure Data patch.

Rhythm from 3 noise generators

Main metronome is split for the other element, a randomly changing oscillator with another LFO changing it via a VCF.

This didn’t turn out quite as hopeful as I’d like but I guess there’s a metaphor there for the freely distending long tones vs the rigid clips of noise.


“Wait, for now,” wrote the poet Galway Kinnell. “Distrust everything, if you have to. But trust the hours.”

When one is incarcerated, life is nothing but empty hours. It’s a peculiar sort of time that is both structured and unstructured, shaped by the constraints of geometry and dictated by astronomical cycles. If one is fortunate to have a window to the outdoors, the view of the sky is framed not only by the size of the opening but also the sun’s rotation on its axis. Six hours of sky, half a meter square.

The ordeal of Bassel Khartabil is a heartbreaking love story. Suss Müsik imagines Noura Ghazi staring out her window and wondering if her husband might be alive or dead. Perhaps there was a moment when they gazed upon the same patch of sky at the same time, their thoughts locked as one.

For this piece, a melodic phrase is twinned on piano and flute accompanied by organ. The mood shifts at the 2:30 mark and becomes increasingly more foreboding. A drum machine clicks off time as the atmosphere deadens, recalling the anxious footsteps of a loved one awaiting bad news that may never arrive.

The piece is named after the Arabic word for “heart.”


Wanted to do something steady but not static.
Drone references the infinite, in the sense that even a piece of sky is infinite, the color/mood is meant to be positive but not uplifting.
I think my preference would have been to do something more static here but my last 2 junto entries were both minimal and static, so felt it time for something a bit different.

I used a guitar synth + old Danelectro recorded on a Zoom H1 with some gain change in Audacity.


This piece is a condensed audio rendering of a day in Bassel Khartabil’s unjust imprisonment in the 2 x 1 meter cell. The middle section reveals the portion of the day where he is able to see the sky above. I can only hope that his story has an end that results in his freedom.



Hi, the project this time was really emotional for me and it really inspired me.

I’ve made this with my Buchla clone system, and it kinda shows my emotions, I think.


another track from echinacea


For this week’s Disquiet Junto I wanted to create an oasis of colour amongst a disjointed and troublesome landscape.

It’s inspired by the words of Bassel Khartabil in a letter he sent from his prison cell. “I can see the blue sky for six hours each day but I keep dreaming of the moment I can see sky with no walls or bars.”


A piece on the 5th year of Bassel Khartabil’s detention in Syria. I though of the letter and how to best attune how he described his cell. Perhaps using the six hour window of sky inside 24 hours, a ratio to generate an ambient part inside of a drone? But I couldn’t bring myself to appropriate his experience into a composition; here’s a man with his freedom snatched away and I felt I cannot use his experience as skeletons for a piece of art. I did not think I could do musical justice to to the experience of anyone denied justice, so the connection to the letter and my piece is fleeting. Some of my bars were 1x2 which represents in the title as the cell size, then x6 as the hours of sky, x365 as days in a year, and x5 as years. Which is still taking in the letter, I guess.

Hope all the best for Khartabil, as for all imprisoned for political reasons (are there any others?). Perhaps this will be a happier song he can listen to once that happens.

Here’s the New Inquiry article on Bassel and others.

  • These projects for Bassel are totally worthwhile, and at the same time it is a sad reminder of how long this has been going on.
  • I wanted to capture the monotony of being in a cell for years, along with the occasional slightly better - less shitty - moments during the 6 hours of blue sky.
  • Track 1: Kontakt (ZapZorn Solstice)- The bass notes - the monotony.
  • Tracks 2 & 3: Two Logic/Alchemy instruments - the prison background noise.
  • Track 4: Kontakt - The pad going back and forth between Cm6 and CM6.
  • Track 5: Kontakt - The Bandura - plucked strings. I know it is a Ukranian instrument and not Syrian, but it is meant to symbolize a slightly better moment - a happy thought - brought on by the blue sky. Cm6 for most and CM6 when the pads play the same.


Just reading the story of Bassel Khartabil felt like being kicked in the chest. I wanted to write something that expressed that feeling of being deprived wind, of life. So I wrote something I really liked - then deprived 3/4s of it - like surgical clockwork, without regard to the music itself. I find the result hard to listen to…


I love how your interpretation - both music and words - brought out a side of this story that I hadn’t gotten to, as I couldn’t get past the basic horror of the incarceration. Thank you!


Ah - you thought to use a background of noise as well!


what crude songs and mantras must get repeated by someone in prison? especially someone in solitary confinement.
how the details and meanings and thoughts and feelings must get blurred when the few hours of limited sunshine would be…worshiped? and then after a while (years!?) the few hours of sunshine per day must seem so rhythmic, and then become terrorizing? taunting? and also limitless and unreal.
s t r e t c h in g.
how longing to be free!

this is a crude (un)cover of a song
it’s aversion of “how long”, by diane cluck
(the simple repeating chorus of which often gets stuck in my head)
i have always heard the song as a sort of lament or mantra towards understanding or misunderstanding, the lyrics and tune encircle some kind of looped longing for clarity…

the vocals are a base. i thought i might just do vocals to really be limited but then some out of tune broken strings got in there. messed and repeated and layered things in audacity. recorded on handheld cassette. the hiss fits. hissy fits.


I took a somewhat simplistic approach to this, by placing my sound recorder inside my grandfather clock, slowly bringing it out and through an open window, and then back inside the clock. As chance would have it, a plane flew over as the recorder went out of the window, which has automatic associations with escape and freedom. I then imported into Acid Pro, and added some EQ to dull the initial clock sounds (making them feel more boring, like they have been going on forever and you are accustomed to them), to remove a little of the bass rumble as the recorder went out of the window, and to then heighten the irrritating sound of the clock ticks on their return ‘inside’. I still felt this needed a little more ‘weight’ at the end, like time becoming a heavy burden, so I duplicated the ticks slowed 2x and 4x, these being offset to the ticking by a little over a half beat.