From the Last Instrumentalist to the First Composer (I)

Translated by Mahboube Khalvati

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.

Rouhollah Khaleghi was not merely a student of Vaziri, he was rather his loyal friend and companion to Vaziri’s goals and managed to follow the forerunner’s objectives to the best of his abilities that was remarkable per se. Khaleghi finally established the character of a composer in Iran.

With composition of beautiful pieces in Rast Panjgah, Mahour and Dashti, Rouhollah Khaleghi presented, for the first time, instrumental music, to the audience of Iranian national music.

Khaleghi was a dexterous artist. He once mentioned that in a summer night while he was walking in an old, dark alley in Bukhara he heard a dervish singing what he later developed into the famous theme of “Bouye Jouye Moulian,” interestingly enough the dervish has been also singing Roudaki’s poem . The poem was read to the Sultan by the poet himself in such a musical attractive way that made Sultan Mahmoud Ghazni (971 – 1030) leave Samarghand, where he was happily residing with no willingness to return to Bukhara, to jump on the horse and gallop towards Bukhara without his turban and shoes on.

It is not simple to dig out such a perfect work of art from the heart of Iran’s culture and dramatize it like an experienced composer. Khaleghi was the master of finding such melodies. Another example is when he recorded a short piece being played by Reza Mahjoubi in a dilapidated coffee house and then arranged and harmonized it to compose a beautiful piece in Dashti which was first broadcasted in “Golhay-e Rangarang” (Colorful Flowers) programme on radio.

In another opportunity and in a visit to Dezfoul in Khouzstan Province, Khaleghi listened to an unknown Dezfouli Tar player playing the beautiful melody of “Dast be Dastmalom Nazan” and saved one of the special Iranian national melodies from negligence through time. It was again Rouhollah Khaleghi who re-composed unison tasnifs by Ali Akbar Sheyda (1843-1906) and Aref Ghazvini (1882-1934) for orchestra and turned them to the jewel of the national Iranian music.

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About Davoud Pirnia, the founder of “Golha” radio program

Davoud Pirnia, writer and musicologist was the founder of “Golha” (Flowers of Persian Song and Music) programs on Tehran Radio (1956-1966). He received his early education from his father, Hassan Pirnia (Moshir al-Douleh), and several tutors of the time (Taraghi, interview, July 1989) and continued his studies at Saint Louis School in Tehran and then in Switzerland and graduated in law. While studying law, Pirnia got acquainted with European classical music. Upon returning to Iran, he was employed by the Ministry of Justice and founded the Lawyers’ Guild. Then he was transferred to the Ministry of Finance and established the Department of Statistics in this ministry. Later, he became the head of the state inspection office at the Prime Ministry; he was, then, promoted to the position of the Deputy Prime Minister (Navab Safa, interview, August 1999)

Rouhollah Khaleghi Artistic Center established in Washington DC

Golnoush Khaleghi (1941-2021), a Washington-based Persian musician and the daughter of the contemporary Persian (Iranian) composer and theoretician Rouhollah Khaleghi (1906-1965) founded a musical center called RKAC to keep the name and the work of her father alive.

From Past Days…

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Polyphony in Iranian Music (VI)

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ehrouz Mohammadi, “Daf and its feasts in Ghaderieh’s Tekyeh” mentions that the outer thickness of arch where studs are located, [is] between one to one and a half centimeters (Mohammadi, 2001: 12). The thickness of arch should be gradually reduced from the installation place of rings to skin (Avazeh of Daf) to create a high volume, clear sound from Daf; also, the connection of arch to skin should not be less than one millimeter, because in this case the skin will be torn due to the sharpness of the wood (Mogharab Samadi, 2009: 79-78). The thickness of wood on the skin side is about two to three millimeters (Tohidi, 2002: 79).

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