Translated by Mahboube Khalvati
The article you are about to read was written by Rouhollah Khaleqi (1906-1965), composer, and conductor of Golha Orchestra (established in 1956). Khaleqi was one of the most prominent promoters of polyphony for the Iranian music and is one of the best representatives of the school of Ali Naghi Vaziri. In this article, he reviews the history of polyphony in the Iranian music and offers his points of view:
A survey of the history of the Iranian music proves that the Iranian music has always been unison. Although in some of old Iranian books on music, the pleasant and unpleasant characteristics of intervals are discussed, it is not imaginable that “harmony” has been part of the Iranian music. However, in the Western world harmony has been experimentally applied since the tenth century B.C. and was first used in church performances and the harmonic human voice. Harmony was introduced to form orchestras and the issue of orchestral harmony emerged.
As far as I remember, the first step in harmonizing the Iranian music was taken when the French Alfred Jean-Baptiste Lemaire (1842-1907), a military musician and composer, visited Iran [in 1868]. Lemaire arranged some of the Iranian songs for the piano, which were played with the right hand and the left hand accompanied by playing some “chords”. They were very simple and basic, and were then arranged by the so-called military music “technicians” for a military orchestra. I remember that when I was a child, some of these melodies and Tasnifs were performed by musicians. Some of these songs were published by Mozaffar ad-Din Shah (the fifth Qajar king of Iran, reigning from 1896 until his death in 1907) in France, a copy of which is available at the Library of the National Conservatory of Music.
Monsieur Lemaire used to teach music theory to students at Dar ul-Funun where the first book on the theory of music in Iran was compiled by the French musician’s Persian language interpreter and was published by Dar ul-Funun publishing house in 1882.
In the next years, Gholam Reza Khan Minbashian, a.k.a Salar-Mo’azez, a student of Dar ul-Funun, who later graduated from military music from the Conservatory of Petrograd, was appointed as the head of the music school and followed Monsieur Lemaire’s works.
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Gholam Reza Khan Minbashian, a.k.a Salar-Mo’azez, was a pioneer in several domains in the history of the Iranian music. He is recognized as the first Iranian musician who was educated in classical music. He is also the first Iranian the score of whose works were published in Europe. He is the first Iranian to have launched courses on Western classical music and was also the first Iranian teacher of classical music. Moreover, he is the first founder of a string orchestra in Iran, the first author of the Iranian Radif which was available in oral form. Minbashian is also the first Iranian who studied music in Europe.
When the author was working on the piece “Playing Love” by Ennio Morricone (from the legend of 1900), he realized a failure of the Lip Technique. Needing to play a chord in the 14th position of the guitar and in order to complete the harmony, it is necessary to play a harmonic note on the 7th or 5th position; it was not possible to touch the string to play this harmonic note, because the Lip Technique is used for getting the notes and not to touch the string and producing harmonic notes. Naturally, the only possible way to touch the string was to use the nose at the required position and playing the note with the right hand, and this was the best option the author found to how to play such harmonic notes, and where the Nose Technique was generated.
The author of the “Illusion or Ingenuity” article, who is apprehensive of the future of the Music in Iran, enumerates some symptoms of the music weakening in the country for example decreasing in the quality of the music as well as lack of the innovation in creating them, a gradual decline in the music public taste and the drop in the application of layered sound and polyphony in music. He explains that one reason for this gradual weakening might be our unawareness of the fact that we are not so intelligent nation. He believes that we, Iranians, have a comprehensive “Illusion of the high national intelligence “that make us ignorant of the unfavorable realities of our music and consequently no searching for the remedy is taking place. His point of view brings to the mind a patient who thinks he is healthy, therefore delays the treatment and finally is killed by the disease. The author also refers to the national difficulties which gradually will lower the national intelligence score such as the increased rate of the immigration and brain drain, low quality of the nutrition, incompetence of the education system and etc and predicts that the condition of the music of Iran might deteriorate in the future because of the mentioned illusion of its great status.
With regard to each polyphonic form, only one specific and distinguished example is analyzed. These polyphonic forms are as follows:
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UnTwelve Non-profit Organization announced the results of its 2014/2015 composition competition on January 28, 2015. Shaahin Mohajeri, an Iranian Tonbak player, microtonalist, acoustician and composer, was awarded the second prize for his piece “Castle of Babak.”
One of his works was the translation of Harmony, which was carried out with the help of Mozayyan al-Dowleh, and included a pamphlet based on which he used to teach the subject to the students of the school of music; the pamphlet was never published. It was, in fact, a kind of simple harmony for the piano with no quadriads, it rather featured the engagement of both the right hand and the left hand which was being taught at the music school for the first time. Salar-Mo’azez also composed military marches and hymns for schools, which he harmonized to be performed and piano. Likewise, he used to compose for military orchestras.
Finding a way to harmonize the Iranian music has been the subject of controversy among Iranian musicians for a long time. Some believe in the creation of harmonies for Iranian music based on a method which is similar to the tierce harmony; while others have either selected or invented some other methods. There are also some musicians who do not basically agree with the harmonization of the Iranian music.