City’s Dr Laudan Nooshin presents ‘Beyond the Radif: new forms of improvisational practice in Iranian Music’
Date: Monday 12 March 2012
Time: 17:00 - 18.30
Place: Chancellor's Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1
Presenter: Laudan Nooshin (City University London)
Chair: John Rink (Cambridge)
AbstractFor the past 100 years and more, the performance of Iranian classical music has been based on a repertoire known as radif, a collection of pieces organised according to mode and memorised by pupils for later use as the basis for creative performance. In the course of the 20th century, with the gradual institutionalisation of music education and the introduction of notation and sound recording, the radif became increasingly iconic of the tradition itself, and by the 1960s was closely linked with newly emerging discourses of 'authenticity' and 'purity'.
Today, the radif remains firmly at the heart of the Iranian classical tradition; to work outside the framework of the radif is to work outside the tradition. However, in recent years a number of musicians have started to challenge the authority of the radif, taking their cue in part from changes which took place from the mid-1970s, particularly during the 'return to roots' resurgence of national identity which followed the 1979 revolution, when musicians started to introduce new ideas - new sounds, new instruments, new rhythmic structures, setting new kinds of poetry, and so on. This trend has continued, culminating in the recent 'new wave' of musicians who are breaking out from what they view as the constraints of the radif. Two such musicians are Amir Eslami (nei) and Hooshyar Khayam (piano), whose work I will discuss in this seminar.
Amir and Hooshyar belong to a new generation of composer-performers who are well-educated, cosmopolitan in outlook and highly articulate about their music. Their 2010 album All of You (Hermes Records, Iran) presents a new approach to improvisation which, whilst taking inspiration from the radif, lies outside the radif tradition and differs in important respects from 'traditional' forms of improvisation in Iranian music, not least in the discussions which precede performance and in the discursive foregrounding of compositional thinking by the musicians themselves. In this seminar, I discuss the work of Amir and Hooshyar, presenting examples from their recent album, and ask what their music tells us about the possible future direction of creative practice in Iranian classical music.