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The Persian Set : Classical Music of Iran

by Various

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A stunning collection of Persian classical music with 2 recordings by American composer Henry Cowell - The Persian Set & Homage to Iran - written after visiting Iran in the 1950's and using traditional Persian instruments - combined with a collection of Dastgah Systems, featuring Persian musicians such as Ahmad Ebadi, Mohamad Heydari,Ashgar Bahari, Khatereh Parvaneh, Houshang Zarif,Hassan Kassayi, Hossein Tehrani

Persian Set...
This is a simple record of musical contagion, written at the end of a three-months’ stay in Iran, during which Henry Cowell listened for several hours nearly every day to the traditional classic music and the folk music of the country — at concerts, at private parties, at the National Conservatory for Traditional Iranian Music (where the instructors gave wonderful demonstrations of virtuosity for his benefit), and at Radio Tehran. Tape recordings at the Department of Fine Arts were especially helpful in displaying the rich variety of music in regions too difficult to visit in mid- winter...

“Of course I made no attempt to shed my years of Western symphonic experience; nor have I used actual Iranian melodies or rhythms, nor have I imitated them exactly. Instead I have tried to develop some of the kinds of musical behavior that the two cultures have in common...' Henry Cowell

Homage to Iran...
reflects Henry Cowell’s deep involvement with the country in the years after the US-backed coup of 1953. Somewhat improbably, the anarchist-raised inventor of tone clusters and string piano (and former San Quentin inmate) was taken under the wing of the US Department of State in the mid-1950s. The reason was twofold: first, his unparalleled knowledge of world music made him an ideal cultural fact-finder, and second, his radical musical experimentation made him an unmistakable posterchild for American freedom.
And so between 1956 and 1957, he embarked on a world tour sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the State Department, and the United States Information Service. His itinerary in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt was curtailed by the Suez Crisis, so he diverted to American-allied Tehran. There he became a consultant to the radio station, which was seen as a potential unifying influence for the country. Part of Cowell’s project was to mix Iranian music and Western instruments into suitable radio programming, hopefully drawing listeners away from the Soviet station out of Baku.
Evidently, Cowell’s Iranian experience had a lasting influence and he maintained connections with the country through the early 1960s. At the conclusion of his tour, he imagined Homage to Iran for violin, piano, and a Persian drum. He removed the drum at the request of his publisher in order to increase its commercial prospects (on some recordings, it is restored). In 1959, the piece was performed in Iran by the violinist Leopold Avakian for the Shah himself.
The four-movement work uses no Iranian tunes, but it does draw from Iranian modes and rhythms. The pianist mutes the strings with one hand to simulate a drum, and for this performance, a Persian tombak joins the violin for improvisations.

The Dastgah Systems
The repertoire of melody patterns in traditional Persian art music is organized into systems or modes. The seven main systems are called dastagh, and the five secondary systems are avaz....The Dastgah Systems presents examples of both. The music usually consists of a solo instrument or instrument plus voice, often singing verses from mystic Persian poets. Musicians improvise off a traditional melody and use a number of instruments, such as the tar (6-string lute), santour (hammered dulcimer), and kamancheh (stringed instrument similar to violin).


released March 20, 2023

Henry Cowell,
Ahmad Ebadi,
Mohamad Heydari,
Ashgar Bahari,
Khatereh Parvaneh,
Houshang Zarif,
Hassan Kassayi,
Hossein Tehrani

cover Image Iman Kakai Lazell age 10


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