A year without Mohsen Ghanebasiri

Translated by Mahboube Khalvati
The year 1396 (21 March 2017-20 March 2018) was the most sorrowful year for HarmonyTalk journal. One month after holding HarmonyTalk’s 13th establishment anniversary in Mohsen Ghanebasiri’s house in Tehran in April 2017, he passed away at the age of 68. Mohsen Ghanebasiri was the prominent HarmonyTalk author.
To pay tribute to Mohsen Ghanebasiri and his unique contribution to the literature and theory on the Iranian classical music, I decided to review concisely some of his most important theories.
I invited Mohsen Ghanebasiri to contribute to HarmonyTalk journal in 2006; a collaboration which lasted until 2016. During this decade, 16 of his articles were either published or re-published in the journal.
Apart from his full-time engagements as the editor-in-chief of “the Management” and “the Thunderbolt” magazines, and the authorship of five books including “Marx and Technology”, “A Question from Heidegger”, “Westernalization, Nostalgic Packing of History”, “Displays and Aspects of Democracy” and the unpublished “Power”, he wrote articles on arts which he never found the opportunity to fully develop into theories. They, therefore, serve as an introduction to his unwritten-but-much-spoke-about theories.
Ghanebasiri and Mohammad Saeed Sharifian, a contemporary Iranian composer, had started a collaboration to compose an opera. Ghanebasiri was writing the libretto which was again left unfinished. In collaboration with Behzad Abdi (Iranian composer) and Arian Karami, he was also recording two audio poem collections.
In order to introduce him as an arts critic and theorist, I have concisely reviewed some of the most important articles by Mohsen Ghanebasiri:
– Identifying teleological purposes of the classical arts
In his article entitled “On the Definition of the Classical Music”, Ghanebasiri evaluates the purposes of the classical arts. The article offers items which suggest an approach for value judgment of the works of classical music.
– Mediating devices theory
Mediating devices theory was developed based on a multi-dimensional and inter-disciplinary study to change the musical development ranging from improvisation to composing.
Mediating devices theory not only provides an opportunity to study the historical status of music in different periods and a geographically diverse classification of different civilizations, but also serves as an effective tool for criticizing arts and separating scientific and artistic fields in the world of arts.
– Definition of arts
The issue of defining arts was constantly discussed in the meetings that we had with Mohsen Ghanebasiri. I had considered two characteristics for identifying a work of arts: firstly, a work whose creation is far-fetched for the majority of the people. Secondly, a work which unties the existing knots. When I presented this definition to Mohsen Ghanebasiri, he brought to my attention a neglected aspect: the engagement of the active imagination faculty.
The added part plays a key role in completing this definition, because it allows the critic to distinguish between works that have no effect on the long term. This third component which was added by Mohsen Ghanebasiri completes the definition because the critic becomes capable of distinguishing the works of arts which are capable of becoming universally influential in extended period.
Finally, words do not suffice in explaining his depth of knowledge and level of modesty.

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Celebrating 20 Years of Harmony Talk’s Journey: Resilience, Evolution, Honoring the Legacy and Navigating Future Growth

In a momentous celebration of two decades, the “Arasbaran Cultural Center” was the stage for the 20th anniversary of “Harmony Talk”, an online journal that has become a cornerstone in the music community. Sadjad Pourghanad, the editor-in-chief, delivered a speech that resonated with gratitude and vision.

HarmonyTalk Journal’s Twentieth Anniversary Celebration

On the 10th of Khordad, 1403 (equivalent to May 30, 2024), the twentieth anniversary celebration of the online journal “HarmonyTalk” took place at the Ersbārān Cultural Center. The event garnered such interest from enthusiasts that the venue was completely filled.

From Past Days…

Interview with the Makers of the New Qeychak (II)

Regarding the classification of a new instrument in an instrument family, one can point to a number of fundamental issues, one of the most obvious of which is the instrument’s visual features. If we look at how the new instrument has changed compared to its historical versions, the set of visual elements that link the instrument to the Qeychak family becomes apparent. But other characteristics such as the geometric dimensions of the instrument, characteristics of the instrument’s various parts and how they relate to each other, its systematic performance, its sound range (compared to modern versions), the material and color of the sound, the way it is played and the like, can be considered in order to classify the instrument in the Qeychak family.

The 4th Iranian Festival of Music Websites and Weblogs

The 4th Iranian Festival of Music Websites and Weblogs was held in Niavaran Cultural Center, in Tehran, Iran on Feb. 28th, 2015. The initiator of the festival was Sajjad Pourghanad, Iranian music writer, researcher, founder of the festival and Persian setar and tar player.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (VI)

Torqeh or jal is the same bird (Bimaculated lark) and is the name of a muqam which is well-known in Torbate Jam and those areas. Jal muqam is called Torqeh in Esfarayen and Bojnourd. This muqam which was used to be played by Bakhshis/Bagşies (dutar-players) in the past is seldom performed today.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (V)

In addition to the above-mentioned, polyphony can be also formed when a melody is performed by several singers in different ambiances or different sound registers according to their physiologic abilities. An example of this has been performed in rituals of Khanqah of Ghaderi darawish of Mahabad[i].

Music education in third-world countries

Music education in third-world countries is facing many problems that limit access to it and it’s full of challenges. These rising and falling obstacles are made of the socioeconomic, cultural educational systems, etc.

Motherland Orchestra Broke the Spell of the Covid-19 Restrictions

The Motherland Orchestra staged the first concert since the outbreak of the pandemic under the baton of Nezhat Amiri. The orchestra went on stage on December 23-24, 2021 in memory of Rouhollah Khaleghi and Golnoush Khaleghi at Vahdat Hall, Tehran, Iran. Since the pandemic outbreak, concerts were held online and restrictions were imposed on in-person concerts.

Mohammad Esmaili passes away

Master Mohammad Ismaili, a prominent musician and renowned tombak player, passed away on August 13, 2023, after battling an illness in the ICU of Rasoul Akram Hospital. His funeral will take place on Thursday, August 17, at 10 am in front of Vahdat Hall, and he will be laid to rest in the Artists’ Section of Behesht Zahra Cemetery.

Is the Iranian National Anthem a Copy? (I)

The alleged similarity between the Iranian and South Korean National Anthems has been a matter of discussion among musicians in Iran for several years. Earlier in 2021, the issue was taken to the media again with not only claims that the anthem is very similar to another song but also the suggestion that its musical content should draw more on the Iranian national music. Some even went to the extent to suggest replacing it with the song “O, Iran” composed by the late Rouhollah Khaleghi. Before delving more into the main issue, it would not go amiss to consider some technical characteristics of the song “O, Iran” composed in 1944.

Qanun, a feminized instrument?

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.

Last Year under the Light of Music

Almost three months into the new Iranian year (starting March 21), it is still not too late to have a look at the last year and the challenges that the musicians faced. The following article was published on the first day of the New Year in the Persian edition of the HarmonyTalk journal.