Waves and Lines is a 50-minute multimedia song cycle for soprano, electronics and chamber ensemble, adapted from Eliza  Griswold's book, I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from contemporary Afghanistan

Waves and Lines is available now on New Amsterdam via Bandcamp and as a CD.

It was most recently performed at the Kennedy Center on September 11, 2019.

The Story


Waves and Lines is based on a collection of Afghan women’s folk poems called landays. These poems are passed down secretly as a sung oral tradition and were collected and translated by Eliza Griswold in the book I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from contemporary Afghanistan.


Landays comprise a single rhyming couplet on subjects like love, grief, home, and war. They relay both a collective and a very individual experience so vivid and relatable that it is hard not to be captivated by the passion, desperation, and humour of the authors.


The ultraconservative regime of the Taliban has meant that the lives of Afghan women are largely invisible to the outside world. Landays offer a surprising and vivid glimpse into this secret world.


Exploring the distance, anonymity and strange intimacy of phone calls, text messages, and radio broadcasts in which the poems are shared, the song cycle features the use of fixed electronics and projections.

Performance History

Waves and Lines was most recently performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC on September 11, 2019, by Molly Netter, Borah Han, Tristan Kasten-Krause, and Adam Holmes.

The album was launched with a performance on International Women's Day (March 8, 2019) at National Sawdust by Eliza Bagg, Borah Han, Pat Swoboda, and Adam Holmes.

Waves and Lines was given its Australian premiere by award-winning Australian ensemble Rubiks Collective with singer Georgie Darvidis at the Melbourne Recital Centre in April 2018 as part of the Metropolis Festival.

The work was premiered by Eliza Bagg, Borah Han, Shawn Lovato, and Adam Homes at Brooklyn’s Roulette Intermedium in June 2017 with the support of Roulette and the Jerome L Green Commissioning Fund.


About the Book

I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan


by Eliza Griswold (Translation), Seamus Murphy (Photographs)

Because my love's American,

blisters blossom on my heart.

Landays are an ancient form of oral folk poetry created by and for mostly illiterate women. From Facebook to drone strikes, to the songs of the ancient caravans that first brought these poems to Afghanistan thousands of years ago, landays reflect contemporary Afghan life and the impact of three decades of war. These poems are passed secretly between women and were compiled by Eliza Griswold in the book I Am the Beggar of the World.


After learning the story of a teenage girl who was forbidden to write poems and set herself on fire in protest, the poet Eliza Griswold and the photographer Seamus Murphy journeyed through Afghanistan to meet Afghan women and to collect their landays.

Download: Album Launch Press Release (PDF)

Gemma Peacocke Waves and Lines Album Cover

Photos of album launch at National Sawdust by Whitney George

Gemma Peacocke, Brooklyn, New York


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