Behzad Abdi’s opera Rumi was physically released by Naxos, “the world’s leading classical label,” on 8/10/2018.
The composer’s note on the piece reads:
Composing a traditional Iranian opera using the Iranian modal system, dastgāh, has always been my dream. I first approached this by composing an opera called Ashura followed by the operas Rumi (Molawi) and Hafez. I believe that in order to attract an international audience for Iranian opera, it is essential to fuse dastgāh with Western classical forms.
Rumi, which can be considered as the first national opera of Iran, is based on the life of the Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi, and the circumstances of his time, from when the Mongols invaded Persia, killing the Iranian poet Sheikh Attar, to his time in Konya and his life-changing meeting with Shams. However, the librettist and director, Behrouz Gharibpour, chose not to reflect the events directly, instead creating a symbolic libretto based on Rumi’s thoughts and words.
This redefinition and distancing from the historical narrative is considered to be the most significant point of the text in this opera, and was in fact the only way to grasp the latent meanings of Rumi’s words. The unifying message of the work—the promise of the ‘immortality of truth’—is repeated throughout the narrative. The audience is also exposed to various other stories along the way.
Those familiar with 13th-century Iranian literary texts know that due to the successive attacks of the Mongols and the reports of massacres, the Iranian people had turned to Sufism and nihilism. This is why there are sometimes contradictions in the realm of ideas from that era, which complicates understanding, for our generation, of the secrets that lie within the literature of that time.
The key to understanding Rumi’s poetry is its far-reaching look at human aspirations; the power that we call love and the temptations that take us away from false mundane charms and attractions (which Iranian mystics in many poems refer to as wisdom or common sense).
Rumi is based on Iranian dastgāh and is the first opera to use this traditional form. The work fuses Persian and Western classical music, which creates a unique timbre and harmonic colour. Iranian music may form the base of this work, but I was not unaware of modern Western music techniques, and unlike most Iranian symphonic music, it is not based on any specific ‘ism’ or school of thought, and in all parts of the opera, Western composition techniques are employed.
In Rumi, the use of the polytonal technique is not limited to the classical elements, and it is often heard in various dastgāh simultaneously—a technique that helps to reflect the unique concepts of the poetry, and one that was also used in the opera Ashura.
The text of this opera, which is set in 15 acts, is mainly based on Rumi’s writings with several parts taken from other poets. Rumi’s poetry is not distorted and the poems are read in their original form.
For the listener, especially those familiar with Rumi’s writing, what Gharibpour has done is astonishing and admirable. Due to his long-time involvement with these concepts and careful selection of Rumi’s texts, he has created one of the best and most important libretti among Iranian operas. Gharibpour not only considered Rumi’s literary and conceptual techniques but created an artistic mix of drama, history and literature. He was able to look at Rumi’s life and his eternal teachings from several aspects.
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From Past Days…
One of the most popular terms used by Iranian instrumentalists is the existence or a lack of musical “sense”. Both musicians and fans of music consider having “sense” while playing music as an important principle to the extent that they use it vis-a-vis having technique.
With Dehlavi it is not all about fame but recognition. Hossein Dehlavi is not a popular musician (like pop singers) whom everybody might know when he is walking on streets of Tehran; however, he is recognized by both amateur and distinguished musicians of the country.
Tehran Flute Choir was established in 1394 (late 2015) by Firouzeh Navai. Tehran Flute Choir, Iran’s first largest flute choir, recruited its members mostly from young talented flutists of Iranian Flute Association. Featuring piccolo, flute, alto flute and bass flute, Tehran Flute Choir, directed by Firouzeh Navai, premiered under the batons of Saeed Taghadosi on January 7-8, 2016 at Roudaki Hall in Tehran.
Developments in Composing
Along with developments in the Iranian instruments, composition of the Iranian pieces developed as well. As a matter of fact, the developments of the two, mutually affected each other. In other words, instrumental developments led to developments in composition and vice versa.
One of the most important criteria for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music is number of times the piece has been performance by different ensembles and orchestras in different eras. This belief has become so pervasive in some societies, such as Iranian society, that it is considered the only criterion for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music.
Gholamreza Khan Minbashian taught courses such as organology, orchestration of military music and harmony based on the books which were translated from French into Persian with the help of Aliakbar Mozayyan-o-Dolleh (1846-1932).
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.
On June 19, 2021 , young Iranian composer and pianist, Farhad Poupel’s piece, Road to Bach, was performed at the prestigious Suntory Hall by the great Japanese pianist, Kotaro Fukuma. The piece was commissioned by Kotaro Fukuma to have its world premiere in Suntory Hall during a concert by the same name.
With this description, we have automatically included a criterion called “History”, Until we know the time of the creation of a work of art, we cannot judge whether it has been easy to create or not. Suppose that, in a historical study, we find a musical work that is similar in compositional techniques (including form, melody, context, and orchestration) to a minor work of the nineteenth century; however, our research proves that, this work dates back to 200 years prior to that date. Can we still consider this work insignificant? Definitely not! So this is where the first use of history-based judgment comes into play.
Shaahin Mohajeri, the award-winning Iranian microtonal compose, has contributed to The Art of Silence is an international project which features unpublished pieces by microtonal composers from Iran, Japan, the United States, and other countries.