April 13, 2009
Iran is the first of several upcoming countries and regions that are new to Excavated Shellac, and today’s post, for those who might be unfamiliar, is a fine example of Persian Musiqi-e assil, or Persian classical music. I realize it might come as a shock to some regular followers of this site to actually hear the refined sounds of a modern piano, but the musical and vocal traditions in Persian classical music are positively ancient. Not only that, but the hammered strings of a piano seem an almost logical progression from the traditional hammered dulcimer of Persia, the santur. This recording was made in June of 1933 by engineer Horace Frank Chown, and released in Iran on a 12″ disc – it was the last time a gramophone company would record in Tehran until after World War II.
I can claim no expertise in Persian classical music, but I’ll attempt a humble and basic rundown, particularly as it pertains to today’s track. The body of traditional melodies in Persian music is known as the radīf. The radīf, which some say was developed between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE, is organized into a musical framework called the dastgāh – in fact, quite literally, as dastgāh itself means ‘system’ or ‘framework’ in English. Radīf is memorized entirely by ear, with a student learning the repetoire of his teacher, the ostād. The twelve dastgāh structure organizes the radīf into groups of individual pieces, and those pieces are known as gūshe. The gūshe are modal progressions by which the singer can build his improvisation around, in a similar fashion to the maqam in Arabic music, or the raga in India. The rhythms are often based on poetry – the rhythm of the human voice. And the human voice, in Persian music, is most often metaphorically linked to the nightingale. This piece is performed in the Chāhār Gāh dastgāh, and as the title implies, it features two gūshe, Hesar and Mokhalef.
Rezagholi Mirza Zelli was born in 1906 and was considered a masterful singer during his career, which ended with his early death in 1945. His teacher was the famous singer and poet Abolqassem Aref Ghazvini (1882-1934). Moshir Homayoon, the pianist, accompanies him.
Issue Number: G.P.X. 5
Matrix Number: WOX-26-2
Thank you to Martik Martirossian for help with translation and to Amir Mansour for information.