A short note to break the ice!
When we started discussing the publication of an issue of Glissando magazine devoted to the music and art of Iran at the end of 2018, none of us could have imagined that this task would take so many years. Since then, we have all had to overcome many obstacles. The ongoing global pandemic of the coronavirus in 2019 (COVID-19), the tragedy of Flight No. 752, which was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the morning of 8 January 2020, plunging Iranians into an extreme nationwide depression, the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 and, finally, the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022, which led to the current revolution in Iran, are just several of quite a few traumatic events that have occurred over the past five years.
At the beginning of this project, a gentle breeze of relative freedom was blowing in Iran. After years of suppression and silence, private international events in Iran (with constant surveillance, restrictions, and censorship by the regime) and the efforts of Iranian artists to promote Iranian music and musicians outside Iran got many international circles talking about Iran and its music. These include my lectures together with my partner in crime Martyna Kosecka on contemporary Iranian music at the International Music Institute Darmstadt (2018), MUSICACOUSTICA-BEIJING (2018), Royal University of Music in Stockholm (2018), Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden (2018), IMPULS Music Academy/Festival (2019), or our activities supporting the Iranian electroacoustic scene as part of the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music (CIME) since 2016, when the Spectro Centre for New Music (founded by Martyna and me in 2013) became an international member of the said confederation.
One of our main goals when we started our activities as “Spectro Centre for New Music” was to promote new Iranian music worldwide and to become a platform for contemporary music for Iranians in Iran. We wanted to invite the world to see our country and its people through a different lens than the one that has been imposed on us by the news or international media over the past decades, and to show that we have so many great musicians in Iran and that they should be known internationally too. But unfortunately, for various reasons, almost all of these activities in Iran have come to a halt since 2019.
However, with the recent revolution in Iran and the constant detailed coverage of the socio-political events in Iran over the past decades, the world now looks at us differently. Today, five months and two weeks after the start of the feminist revolution in Iran with the extremely progressive slogan “Woman.Life.Freedom”, the world knows us better than yesterday, and I hope this will continue in the future.
The identity of Persian music hovers between Orient and Occident, filled with Western pop culture and at the same time evoking the intimacy of the musical tradition and folklore of multi-ethnic Iranian society. It is therefore a constantly shimmering kaleidoscope of poetry, philosophy, and the intoxicating, untamed sounds of Persia.
So what is Iranian music? In what directions is it moving? How has it evolved over the past decades, considering the complicated and ever-changing political, economic, and social situation in the country and the Middle East region?
With this brief introduction, I would like to warmly invite you on a journey through the art, music and culture of Iran in this hybrid online edition of Glissando magazine. It provides you with an anthology of mixed media materials about the past, the present and some possible visions for the future development of Iranian music. Some accounts introduce you to the history of music education, others outline the development of electroacoustic music or try to explain how music, politics, and religion coexist in the country, even in the face of the current revolution. Discover what bandari music is, listen to the music and life of the “godfather of Iranian psychedelic rock,” Kourosh Yaghmaei, or take a look at the Iranian pop scene in Tehrangeles! Other materials trace the development of new media in Iran, introduce you to the musical practice of composer Arash Yazdani and his world of psychoacoustics, and give you a taste of what Iranian symphonic music is all about. All this is accompanied by numerous playlists, references, and video materials, which we present to you online in three blocks in spring 2023.
Idin Samimi Mofakham
The Icebreaker Project
As part of our introduction to the world of Glissando: Iran and the continuation of Idin’s welcoming words, I would like to greet you with the music of Iranian composers as part of “The Icebreaker Project.” I came up with the idea to invite Iranian composers from around the world to create an experimental audiovisual composition from their contributions. I received ten different materials in the form of short audio fragments, video fragments, and images, which served as the only material for creating this work. I transformed, mixed, and assembled them into the project you can see below. For me, “The Icebreaker Project” is a metaphorical journey through the sounds of nostalgia, sadness and yearning for a better future. It is the voice of the Iranian artistic community united under the emblem of sounds that give them strength and passion to create. Finally, it is the oniristic vision of Persian elements – from patterns, mosaics, tiles, calligraphy to extreme and contradictory emotions, mystical chants and eternal permanence. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the composers who contributed to this project.
Audio contributions: Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Roya Safaei, Farzia Fallah, Arshia Samsaminia, Idin Samimi Mofakham, Alireza Ostovar, Mirsaeed Hosseyni Panah
Visual contributions: Farnaz Modarresifar
Audio-visual contributions: Nina Barzegar, Negin Zomoradi
Video, Audio Mixing, and Mastering: Martyna Kosecka