Mirages is a tone poem for Concert Band based on the novel The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Rather than being based on at the plot of the novel, it is centered around a few specific scenes from the novel involving the Jinni. It opens with a scene that takes place near the end of the novel, as the Jinni floats up over the desert and the reader experiences the desert as one of the djinn: beautiful, an explosion of earthy color, red rock, blue sky, and bright oases reflecting the burning sunlight.
The Jinni descends to the ground and a dance unfolds as a group of djinn celebrates one of their secret holidays. In the novel, the Jinni mentions these festivals in passing but always talks about the dancing that marks the events. The dance begins with a few djinn and slowly builds upon itself as more and more join in. The constantly alternating meter brings an element of imbalance to it: djinn aren’t fettered by gravity (or heartbeats, some say) so their rhythm isn’t as rigid as a human’s.
The sun sets on the festival, and some of the djinn hide in the foliage surrounding an oasis. Wecker remarks often on the Jinni’s fascination with water: a deep-seated fear of one the few things in the world that can kill the djinn, but captivated by its beauty and the tricky ways it bends the light. Imagine a deep, placid pool with the djinn watching as a few tiny bugs flit across the surface of the water, sending out small ripples. They stay back and watch a group of Bedouin camped on the fringes. The night passes peacefully and the sun peaks out over the horizon, bursting across the oasis in a wash of golden light.
With the morning comes a shadow on the horizon. A huge, undulating sandstorm rages across the desert. Within, the djinn march to war with their strange, off-beat movements and awkward drum beats. The denizens of the desert flee and hide as best they can, eventually swallowed up by the undulating, windy terror.