Music of Persia
‘Daramad’ or opening is a crucial aspect of classical Persian music. As with the telling of a story, the opening of a piece of music is an integral building block when inviting the listener to open his ears and heart to your creation.
Persian classical music has a history that is layered, with myriad nuances that dovetail, as all emerged and intertwined within the mountainous borders of the Persian nation. Encompassing the heterogeneous peoples and cultures that grew in this fertile land, the Luri, the Kurds, the Armenians et al, all have gifted something to the Persian canon.
Impossible to truly trace its roots, long before the penning of The Shahnameh, to the time before the grand empire of Cyrus, of Darius, the time of Persian classical music’s infancy is lost in myth. What we do know is that the characteristics which are so integral have developed through extensive experimentation, they are characteristics which are intricately mathematical and unabashedly spiritual in nature. Developing in tandem through the classical, medieval and modern era, math and spirituality can be said to be the two foundation stones that make Persian classical music so unique.
Microtone and the Magic of Microtonal Scales
Where the illustrious marriage of mathematics and spiritual motivation are at their strongest is within the very Persian notion of microtonal scales, for they alone possess a history that is both intriguing and wondrous.
In his latest album, Microtone, the Persian-American musician Fared Shafinury has paid the greatest attention to this, developing a musical extravaganza that sources its inspiration from the fragile beauty of nature, poetry, the overwhelming power of the universe and the concept of time itself. Within Microtone Fared, like a musical magician, brings the divine a little closer to the physical world around us. The concepts are broad but his musical perspicacity brings these disparate concepts together, making them accessible to all, in a way that only a man with such passion for his craft can achieve.
In Microtone, the “daramad” is what Fared has accomplished in true Persian classical style. The microtonal scales are what have made the album so distinct. In his own words
“Persian microtonal scales can be felt deeply in the heart, evoking mystical intervals in time and space. These scales were historically reserved to be performed at certain times of the year, month, and day. They can be felt like the idea of purgatory or a limbo state as so to speak. They are neither light nor dark, round or straight. Sometimes an interval of music that contains a microtone can evoke feelings associated to the very few minutes before a sunrise or a sunset, when twilight both cloaks and illuminates the wolf›s hunt, or the very few moments post sunset, when fairies begin to dance the night away. With smaller and denser intervals in Persian music, a finer ear is trained, where every nuance is felt and transmitted between the musician and listener.”
Microtone stands as a testament to the history and conceptualisation of microtonal scales, which bring about something otherworldly, indeed it is a testament to the nature of this scale. A massively complex system that takes devotion as well as talent to convey, microtonal scales are what bring the magic and history of Persian classical music together.
Penned by Ben Mirza