How to understand a Maqam

Emil Nørgaard Munk / & / 2023

A Danish filmmaker goes to Egypt to make a film about a group of Egyptian composers, but discovers that he is on a cultural outsider in the advanced Arab music theory.

How do you make a film about something you have no idea what is? That question is the setting for ‘How To Understand A Maqam’. A Danish director travels to Egypt to document a workshop for young composers to develop new compositions inspired by the sandy surroundings. But when he gets there, he finds out that he knows nothing about Arabic tonality and advanced music theory and therefore understands nothing at all about what the workshop is about. Instead, he goes hunting himself in the Egyptian desert and the hot, mythical landscapes where past and present have collapsed, to find answers to what his film should really focus on and how he should try to capture the complexity of music.