Translated by Mahboube Khalvati
In the world music culture, there are instruments which were traditionally associated with a certain gender. It remains disputable to what extent these gender-based perceptions have been logical and scientific. For example, as playing wind instruments need more breath strength and the public opinion believe that men have stronger breath compared to women, these instruments are predominantly a male domain. Harp is also considered a female instrument as the public opinion believe that women have finer fingers and can therefore better perform nuances and delicate techniques on the instrument.
It is also true about Qanun. Interestingly enough, a review of the history of the Iranian music proves that more men are more among the virtuous players of Qanun than women.
Six decades ago, Rahim Qanuni who had learnt Qanun from Arabs started teaching Qanun to Iranians. After him, Jalal Qanun plays the instrument in an Arabic style. However, Mehdi Fattah (1909 – 1996) started to officially and academically re-introduce the instrument.
Mehdi Meftah was a renowned violinist who had also started Qanun lessons under an Arab instrumentalist. He, therefore, considered a serious revival of this instrument in Iran as he believed that Qanun was an Iranian instrument which was hijacked by Arabs (it is worth mentioning that some researchers believe that the Iranian scholar Abu Nasr al-Farabi (14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951) had invented the instrument).
Mehdi Meftah went to Iraq in 1957 in order to take lessons on different methods of playing Qanun under Arab maestros; after returning to Iran Meftah started teaching the instrument in music conservatory (as the students’ second instrument).
So far, all great players of Qanun were men. So, when does women’s predominance over the instrument begin?
Meftah’s method of teaching the instrument was an Arabic method. Being talented, Simin Aqa Razi and Maliheh Saeedi were Meftah’s students who excelled at performance compared to the maestro.
After the emergence of TV in the society and broadcasting music programmes which attracted the attention of many arts lovers, solo Qanun performance or Qanun performance in accompaniment of the Iranian orchestra were aired frequently which majorly included performances by Aqa Razi and Saeedi.
Frequent reruns of Simin Aqa Razi’s solo performances (who was exactly ten years older than Saeedi), made the sound of this instrument even more popular and; therefore, the image of a woman Qanun player was imprinted on the minds of the public (like the ancient image of the women harpists).
The beauty and the gracefulness of Qanun in the hands of a woman soloist was a great motivation for young women to choose this instrument as their main one and this is the reason that even until today the most prominent players of Qanun are women.
- Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (III)
- Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (II)
- Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (I)
- Harmony in the Iranian Music (II)
- Harmony in the Iranian Music (I)
- A year without Mohsen Ghanebasiri
- Principles of Violin Playing (X)
- Musical Sense or Technique?
- “The Art of Silence” Project Will be Released
- Qanun, a feminized instrument?
- Quality Decline in Regional Music Festivals
- Iranian Contradictions: Iranian Chords
From Past Days…
Music as an art has its own special history; emergence of a singer, of an instrumentalist and then the emergence of the strong character of a composer covers three significant phases of the art of music. With the emergence of composer which was simultaneous with the emergence of the language of music, this art managed to offer a domain for criticism for its composer; a procedure which led to a magnificent variety and evolution in musical production. Even though the conflicts between singers and instrumentalists have not met their end in the Iranian society and while singers can achieve high, instrumentalists have yet to play behind curtains . In a special era, with the efforts of musicians such as Ali Naghi Vaziri (1887-1979) and Rouhollah Khaleghi (1906-1965), glimmers of a composing era started to glow bearing fruit in Khaleghi’s achievement as Iran’s first professional composer. Khaleghi made his reputation as a composer while Vaziri deserved to pioneer this path. By then Vaziri was well-known as a Tar player.
Regional music festivals are organized to, firstly, introduce the music of different regions and, secondly, to support its performers. Regional music festivals are held in large cities for various reasons, including the availability of financial and executive facilities and the presence of an audience. However, the organization of these festivals has always been one of the challenging issues of ethnomusicology. The reason is that the presence of regional music performers in large cities places them in a context other than the context they would normally perform in their homes; consequently this change in situation leads to changes in the quality of their performance.
The present series of training articles, “Principles of Violin Playing”, seek to help students, to appropriately understand this field, by gradually introducing, categorizing, and teaching the myriad relevant points. One of the principles of playing violin, which must be always kept in mind, is that the selection of the most natural position for the body parts while playing is the best and most appropriate solution. As a matter of fact, any unnatural body part position which requires lots of energy or unusual stretching to maintain, is wrong.
Creating sound continuity between two notes in the source and destination positions when left hand position changes and “two different finger numbers” are involved is called portamento. Portamento can be performed on single string or two neighboring strings and with hand moving on fingerboard either upward or downward.
3/1/2/5: When the first finger lands next to the nut, continuation of first phalange of this finger, on back of the hand, should be in line with continuation of the back of the wrist and the left hand; moreover, it should not pass them and bend at knuckles. Otherwise, an uncommon stretch is created in first finger’s knuckle also reducing the freedom of other fingers (especially the fourth finger) in finger placement.
Violin players should always pay attention to the proper position of the left thumb and other points related to it and to its joining point to the palm.
Persian Set: Four Movements for chamber orchestra: Moderato; Allegretto; Lento; Rondo
Henry Cowell, one of the most innovative American composers of the 20th century, was born in 1897. Cowell and his wife visited Iran in 1956 and stayed there the whole winter, upon the invitation by the Iranian Royal Family, when he composed his album “Persian Set” in four movements for chamber orchestra. His composition is expressive of the characteristic quality of the Persian or the Iranian music.
Gholam Hossein Banan was born in 1911 in Tehran. He was born in an affluent art-loving family who were Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896)’s relative. The Qajar King was his mother’s uncle on her father’s side. He learnt his first lessons in music while his father sang Iranian avaz (improvised rhythmic-free singing), he then attended classes by the renowned Iranian composer, Morteza Neydavoud (1900-1990) along with his sisters; the composer is, therefore, considered as his first teacher. He then learnt Iranian avaz under the supervision of Mirza Taher Zia Resaee (Zia-o Zakerin) and Naser Seif in an oral manner.
Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 18 December 1737) was an Italian luthier and is considered the most significant and greatest artisan in this field.
It is more than a century now that the sociologists consider the presence of women in different social domains as a benchmark for a society’s progress. They analyze the presence of women in society by the means of available statistics. Unfortunately, as with regard to the Iranian society, statistics related to women’s engagement, has not been available to the researchers, if they existed at all.