Clarice Assad


(2019) Lemuria

For Cello Choir & Solo Percussion

Duration: c.a 20 minutes | Commissioned by the Left Coast Ensemble

A couple of years ago, after a difficult time, I started meditating.  As I breathed mantras and sutras day in and day out, one morning I awoke suddenly from a trance upon hearing the word “LEMURIA…” being whispered into my mind’s ears.  “Le-what???” I thought.  Had I read this word somewhere? Was it stuck in my subconscious mind, or was I having some kind of epiphany?

Though I will never know what truly happened, that Le-what word quickly made its way to my google search bar.  I was immediately intrigued by this hypothetical lost land in the Pacific Ocean called Lemuria (or MU); populated by beings who had super powers; psychically evolved and overzealous protectors of nature and their land — which sadly was engulfed by giant tsunami waves that came down sending their home into oblivion, sinking so low into the depths of the Pacific, there are no traces to be spoken of.  No ruins, nor substantial scientific argument means no proof that they ever walked the Earth. But, let’s assume they did, and presume that these otherworldly beings knew the end was coming (because smart, magical people know stuff).  I’m convinced they knew about the ocean rising situation way before it happened, they knew about the potential annihilation of their home and people, so they hurried up, packed up, and evacuated MU before the waters came crashing down, scattering themselves into other territories in the vicinity.

This is how my piece Lemuria, The Lost Continent, was born. A 20 minute work scored for two cellists, percussion and cello choir told in five movements, each painting a different scenario of to the Lemurian story, lifestyle and allegedly influence on the people and cultures they came into contact with.  Every connection presented here is the result of a sizable research I did, by examining works by British occult writer James Churchward; amateur archeologist Augustus Le Plongeon and the writings of psychic Edgar Cayce. Naturally, each of these men offer quite unique perspectives on the subject, and were unanimously ridiculed by the entire community of Academics and scientists of their time… But mockery aside, all three devoted their entire lives believing and working to prove that their theories about Lemuria were true, and that in itself is fascinating enough.

Pacific Motherland, the first movement, begins with sounds of crystals, gongs and string harmonics; a musical mention to the Indian Naacal tablets that depict a theocracy of sun-worshipping priest-kings with high levels of spirituality linked the the Lemurian civilization.  The second movement, Lemurian Traces, begins with a bird motif – symbolizing spirituality – which connects with a parallel drawn between a Pre-Spanish Aymara Indian dance from the High Andes of Peru bearing great similarity in gestures, movements and attire to a Chinese ceremonial dance dating to the Qin dynasty: all of which inspired me to write a chant-like melody in an invented language.  Movement III, Seafarers, journeys into their passion for adventure, advanced oceanic and weather technology found as hypothetical evidence in the mysterious ruins of Nan Madol and Easter Island, the latter which is home to the famous colossal stone statues. Movement IV Sacred MU, was inspired by my readings on Edgar Cayce, a 19th century Kentucky born psychic known as the “Sleeping Prophet” who cured his clients’ from psychosomatic conditions he believed were carried over millennia of re-incarnations of bad karma coming from the poor souls hailing from the power hungry, war ridden Atlantis. It makes sense, because according to everything I read, Lemurians were far too evolved to hang out in the Earth plane.


The last movement, Lemurians in America, is an homage to the Indigenous people of the Andean or the Pacific coast of South America, the Chumash Indians of Southern California; the Ute Indians from Utah who revered (MU)-sinia as their sacred white mountain; the Salinen Indians whose myth about a civilization that perished in a deadly flood resonates with the tales of Lemuria; the volcanic Mount Shasta, believed to be the only dry land to have survived a worldwide flood, and in sum, the development of Mesoamerican civilization until waves of immigration from the East. And speaking of flood, there is no deadly fire, thunderous ending, nor destruction by tsunamis.  Great flood tales exist in almost every culture,including Malaysia’s Great Flood story that pre-dates Genesis and Plato; which means, ending this piece in tragedy would have been quite badly obvious.

So… The piece ends on a positive note.  It celebrates the Lemurians, whoever they might be or have been, it honors their paradise, wealth and abundance, writing, sailing, astrology and medicine advancements, magical powers, music… Apparently, they were musicians too.


As a curious side note, I discovered there’s this amazing healing crystal, called Lemurian Quartz which is used for healing and meditation work…And guess what? They were originally found in Brazil. 🙂

Coverage of LEMURIA on the Rehearsal Studio Blog


2 Solo Cellists


Cello Choir



Pitched Musical Glasses, Large Gong (maybe bowed or struck) Vibraphone (+ motor ), Mixed bird whistles,* ocarina, Maracas, Frame drum, large ocean drum, medium or large thunder spring drum, Rain stick , natural wooden waterfall, 2 congas (or bongos), a cajón, (hand and brushes), handclap (or clave), thunder spring drum. (Extra suspended cymbals for effects, if available).

*(whistle suggestions: cuckoo whistle, wooden two-tone whistle, bird imitation whistle, little owl whistle, owl’s call whistle, twittering bamboo-single or double slitted, clay bird whistle)

waterfall: preferably warm, soft wooden tones that mimics sounds of rushing water.It is possible to substitute instruments.

Regardless of what one may think about what Lemuria might have been, there was a consistently engaging other-worldliness in Assad’s score. Born in Brazil, Assad’s instrumentation recalls an earlier Brazilian composer with a keen ear for cello ensembles, Heitor Villa-Lobos. However, her voice as a composer is very much her own; and the music itself is characterized by distinctively panoramic qualities. By constantly shifting the way in which she partitions her ensemble, the cello choir establishes an ongoing flow of changing sonorities, against which the solo parts, taken by Tanya Tomkins and Leighton Fong, alternate between blending and contrasting, supplemented by “punctuations” from percussionist Loren Mach commanding a widely diverse assortment of instruments.

– The Rehearsal Studio

Clarice Assad’s ‘Lemuria’ about hope in times of climate change

Clarice Assad composed  “Lemuria,” which features a cello choir and Brazilian bird whistles, for the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. The piece premieres Jan. 14 at the San Francisco Conservatory and will also be performed Jan. 19 at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall.Photo: Courtesy Clarice Assad, Clarice Assad

Commissioned by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble to compose a piece dealing with climate change and nature, Clarice Assad thought of Lemuria, the mythical Pacific Rim civilization said to have vanished when the continent was swallowed up by rising seas.

You don’t have to believe in the legend of Lemuria — the so-called “motherland of mankind” where nobody went hungry and people communicated telepathically — to take heed of its watery demise.

“It was because of climate change,” says Assad, the prolific Brazilian American composer whose music has been championed by the Bay Area’s New Century Chamber Orchestra and Cabrillo Music Festival and is widely performed.  “The difference now is that we’re aware of it, and we’re doing it to ourselves.”

She summons a world of tsunamis, birds and communicative, nature-conscious people in “Lemuria,” written for two cellos, percussion and a cello choir. Left Coast is set to premiere the piece on its “The Sound of Nature” program Jan. 14 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and plans to perform it again Jan. 19 at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall.

Commissioned by Left Coast cellist Tanya Tompkins, the piece “plays a lot with the sounds of nature,” Assad says. At times, “you feel seasick,” she adds with a laugh.

A native of Rio de Janeiro, Assad, who lives in Chicago near her father, famed classical guitarist Sérgio Assad, sent to Brazil for wooden bird whistles to flavor the sound. They’ll be played by percussionist Loren Mach, whose battery of instruments will include a rain stick, thunder drum and ocean drum.

“I’m trying to create a soundscape for each movement,” says the composer, a compelling pianist and singer who performed the 2012 premiere of her “Scattered: Concerto for Scat Singing, Piano & Orchestra” with San Francisco’s Symphony Parnassus.

“Lemuria,” which employs a choir of amateur cellists as well as professional players, features bits of chanting, wordless singing and what Assad calls “vocal percussion,” a wispy clickety-clack sung by the ensemble while the two cello soloists converse.

Playing congas, bongos and cajon, the percussionist gets into some grooves, she adds, but not familiar ones.

“You’re not going to find a samba in there,” notes the composer, who was at the Cabrillo Festival last year for the premiere of the piece she wrote for the celebrated deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, “Ad Infinitum.”

Assad characterizes “Lemuria” as a tonal piece “with a lot of song in it. I was trying to find a balance between the effects and music that’s pleasing to hear.”

It tells a story, she says, “but it’s not like, here’s the end of the piece and they die. There’s no allusion to the disaster. It’s more about hope.”

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