The Persian composer Mehdi Hosseini often uses the word “Monodies” not only as the title of this album, but also as a musical term/system; by which he means the characteristics of single voice structures, adapting themselves to any musical texture. The album “Monodies” was released in Tehran in 2011. For this album Hosseini has selected the compositions he has written based on the folk music of Persia (Iran). The pieces were recorded in Russia by soloists, ensembles, the Saint Petersburg State Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Academic Orchestra. All of the compositions were written between 2003 and 2009.

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  1. Concerto for String Quartet and Chamber Orchestra Mehdi Hosseini 16:34
  2. Peshtpa Mehdi Hosseini 6:18
  3. Taleshi Hava Mehdi Hosseini 2:32
  4. Baluch I. Liku Dalgani Mehdi Hosseini 2:55
  5. Baluch II. Kalampour Mehdi Hosseini 1:46
  6. Baluch III. Zoljalal Guati Mehdi Hosseini 3:43
  7. Symphony of Monody Mehdi Hosseini 18:13
© by Sami Hyrskylahti.  Mehdi Hosseini observes a St. Petersburg State Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsal.

Glancing through Mehdi Hosseini’s works at the advent of his course as a composer (Symphony of Monody and String Quartet No. 1), we encounter a sort of confusion and inability to separate from conservative doctrines. This can be seen with all composers without exception. The influence of master composers upon new composers is inevitable and undeniable. This is true in the case of Hosseini’s initial works. He has been under the influence of Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Amirov’s heavy shadow and other Russian composers. This is a privilege for him because it signifies his mastery over the heavy expression of Russian composing. This achievement can only be accomplished by extensive studies and spending much time on analyzing works with the final result being the complete mastery of these masters’ works. Speaking the language of others is a very complicated and difficult task, especially if it is done so well that the speaker is difficult to recognize.

This problem has been resolved by the passing of time; and with a look at his new works we see a fresh independence and a very personal new language.

It goes without saying that the use of Persian folk themes has assisted him in finding this expressive independence as quickly as possible. Hosseini’s approach towards his native materials music takes a different path from what has been done in the field before. The 20th-century Persian composers, in general, have approached the folk music in a limited way, transcribing the melodies for western instruments, ensembles and orchestras. The following composers tried to change this atmosphere: Samin Baghcheban “Boumivar” [In a Traditional Way] and “Sholey” [The Sun], Loris Tjeknavorian “Armenian Bagatelles“, Mohammad-Taghi Massoudieh “Two Movements for String Orchestra”, Iradj Sahbai “Three Folk Inventions”, and Reza Vali “Deylámân“. All these composers have found a kind of harmony and counterpoint based upon melodic structures embedded in the heart of this ethnic music and have founded their composing principles based solely on this music. Of course most of them have been loyal to the formal structure of the music and restricted themselves from violating these structures. By following these guidelines, they show respect for the music and its originality.

Mehdi Hosseini has arrived at these same conclusions as well. The difference being that he has treated harmony and counterpoint in the simplest way and has stayed loyal to the basic structure (monadic in his words) of ethnic music. On one hand, he has been loyal to this tradition in pieces such as Talesh Weather and on the other hand he has used the developmental tradition of western conservative music in such pieces as “The Concerto for String Quartet” and second movement Kalampoor of Baluch. Although this kind of development runs parallel with western academic traditions, it is in fact completely different and more in line with the methods of such modernists and post-modernists as Messiaen, Stockhausen and Forer and perhaps it is a method of development, which can be said to be completely his own. Development in Hosseini’s works is formed according to basic qualities and structures, which are similar to the narrations of local musicians. In actuality, each work is comprised of a set of common aesthetics and musical characteristics, which act as the building blocks of Hosseini’s works and at the same time enjoy their own independent musical lives.

Another important point that should be considered, when looking at Hosseini’s works, is his education in ethnomusicology. It is a major asset, which has been assisting him in the composition and formation of the independent identity of his works. The most important way in which this science has been helping him is in the recognition of the different aspects of ethnic music. He has separated them according to their rhythmic, melodic, homophonic and polyphonic elements. These elements now reappear within the context of Hosseini’s personal language

In fact, to describe Hosseini’s method of composing in the simplest way, we can say that his work follows the following pattern:
– Transcription of the original and initial version performed by local musicians;
– Separation of the different rhythmic and melodic elements;
– Designation of the structure and outline of the work;
– Placement and layering of the different elements in the designated structure;
– Rearrangement of familiar patterns by the use of frequent repetitions and transformations of the rhythmic, melodic elements.

In all of his works, the main thematic materials of the piece are presented at the beginning of the work so that the listener has an opportunity to become familiar with the elements, which will later be transformed and developed. (An excellent example of how Hosseini transforms rhythmic, melodic patterns can be seen in the piece “The Back of the Feet”). All of these elements are repeated so much that the changes that Hosseini makes become particles, which atomically transform the homophonic and polyphonic textures of the work. This forward moving process, which is not entirely disclosed, eventually changes the whole essence of the piece. Of course, the concept of change here is quite different from the changes in other composers’ works; that is to say, the listener is exposed to an extraordinary change; a kind of transformation or abstraction of a recognizable object. Something that is being transformed is still recognizable. In some works, like in the second part of Baluch: Kalampoor, Hosseini uses material, intended originally to accompany the main melody in the original piece, in the form of a bizarre collage. He does this at various times, finding an independence from and at the same time a dependence on the original material, in order to use the rhythmic, melodic patterns in a way that does not follow the expectations of the listener.

The featured piece in this collection is the Concerto for String Quartet and Chamber Orchestra. This work, which represents the peak of Hosseini’s expertise, implies many cultural and linguistic issues and structures. The points seen as chords in the piece do not refer to pointillism, but they are pauses, which are to be regarded as the expression of successive new statements.

The dialogue among the four solo string instruments attempting to be heard through the tumult of orchestral sounds is a musical metaphor for the cultural status of the tribes of Iran. In this piece, Husseini reproduces the absurdity and multi-cultural aspect of societal and popular culture and conversations with the use of the orchestra. He represents the tumult of a society in which ethnic cultural elements are evident but cannot be easily heard. This society speaks in a language that is beyond understanding, even for itself, but the cultural identity of this disrupted society can still be found. Return to the origin is the theme that runs through Hosseini’s works. He eventually returns to the main elements of the music at the end of each work; and by re-expressing it after various diversions and transformations, he reaches out to grasp a commemoration of the albeit transformed past.

For Hosseini, the final goal is not dependent on past but at the same time progression cannot be achieved without an understanding of what has already been. He considers that the past and the future are interrelated in a complementary way.

– Mohsen Saghafi

The Bakhtiari are one of Iran’s native peoples. The nation comprises the Khaftlang and Chaharlang tribes, which live in the provinces of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Isfahan and Loresân. Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province is located in southwest Iran. The Bakhtiari dialect belongs to the group of Western Iranian languages, and its speakers have a rich and flourishing traditional folk culture.

Music is one of the most important elements of traditional folk culture, as it displays the intellectual values and character of the people.  Bakhtari music is among the richest and most extensive varieties of Persian maqam music.

The traditions and customs of the Bakhtiari are reflected in the names of their magham. In the musical terminology of the Bakhtiari people, ‘magham’ usually means ‘tune’ (not a specific tonality or ‘mode’ as it is typically interpreted, but an entire system of pitches and pitch relationships), since for them the word magham implies an established musical text, which might vary in character, form, and even genre.

The magham are formed on the basis of traditional Persian system-scales (Dastgah). The most predominant among these are Shur, Avaz-e Dashti, Avaz-e Shushtari, Dastgah-e Chahār’gāh, and Se’gāh.

Although Bakhtiari music has much in common with the musical culture of other regions of Iran, much distinguishes it, as well, including dialect, instrumentation, and the method of transition from one maqam into another.

The instruments most frequently used in Bakhtiari music are the sornā; korna; ney; dayereh; dohol; and kamancheh. The kamancheh, apparently was first used at a later period than the others. In the past decade, many toushmali, i.e. Bakhtiari musicians, have played the tār and tombak in addition to the instruments listed above.

Like the music of other regions of Persia, that of the Bakhtiari can be classified in various ways and according to a number of parameters. There is distinct music for festive occasions, such as weddings or funerals; there is music to accompany recitation of epic poetry; and there are songs to accompany work, among other genres.

The string quartet №.2 makes use of popular Bakhtiari folk tunes, each of which belongs to a certain magham.

The first movement is based on a fragment of the melody “Tipumey” in the Magham of Gahgeriyu or Gugeriyu, which is a song of mourning, the name of which is translated as ‘a time for weeping.’ Another name for this maqam, Gugeriyu or Gahgiri, likewise means ‘time to mourn.’ At present, the genre of music for mourning continues to exist in Bakhtiari funeral music; and, although the genre no longer serves as a strictly observed ritual in the traditional sense, the general funereal character of the music is evident. It is specifically the maqam Gahgeriyu that places the tune within the genre of mournful music.

For a better understanding of the title ‘Gahgeriyu,’ we look to the figure of Alidad Noudalkosh. Alidad is a courageous and bold hero of the Bakhtiari people, murdered by his brother in a fit of envy. Alidad could defeat nine Griffon vultures with the shot of a single arrow. Musicians and mourners composed more than a few laments for Alidad and perform them in the maqam Gahgeriyu. The singers improvise their musical-poetic compositions, which praise the moral and physical strength of the hero in the maqam Tipumey. Others gather and join in, and the emotional impact of sorrowful sounds can rarely be surpassed.

– Mehdi Hosseini

 

Symphony of Monody is based on regional music material of Lorestan – specifically the Khosro-Shirin (Sangin Samâ). The Symphony is in one movement, with what can be called a sonata-cycle form while, at the same time, adhering to the multi movement structure of a more traditional symphony through its embedded internal structure, including an expanded development and intensive variation.

The Symphony begins and ends on a single axis – with a solo voice in the clarinet – carrying with it a strong philosophic significance for eastern mentality.

The theme is taken from Khosrow and Shirin and was transcribed by Hosseini from a recording by the folklorist Mirza Moradi. At the beginning it is presented as solo voice, but then rapidly develops with different variations and mixing polymagam sound structures, heterophony and vakhan – a unique musical configuration found in the Persian instrumental tradition – bringing to a conclusion the Symphony’s exposition.
On the whole, the composer has endeavored to reveal the importance of multi sound forms used in eastern music as well as the rich heritage of regional music – all within a mono-thematic symphonic design – as a testimony to the Persian musical character and spirit.

This collection is the result of, and inspired by, research into the astonishing variety of regional folk music to be found across Persia (Iran), and particularly into the structure of magham music.

Throughout Persia the culture of regional folk music, from the point of view of composition, owes much of its specific character and purity to the relationship between notation, improvisation and the very specific usage of melody and rhythm. Without a doubt, this also directly affects the internal structure of this type of music.

The most common belief surrounding Persian music is that it is based on the modal system. However, some problems with this opinion present themselves on closer examination of the functional organisation and sound material of the music itself. At the heart of the matter in the music on this recording is the question of how Persian regional music relates to a monodic structure that can be perceived as both functional within itself, and simultaneously connecting to modal and macro/micro tonal systems. But ultimately, these works can be generally understood as experimental compositions proposing a new view towards the regional music Persia.

− Timothy Dunne