Alireza Mashayekhi was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He is one of the first Iranian composers who has pioneered modern music in Iran. Mashayekhi's works have been performed in Iran and abroad for more than 35 years. His first teachers in Iran were the deceased Dr. Lotfollah Mofakham Payan (Iranian music), the late Hossein Nasehi (Composition) and Ophelia Kombajian (Piano). Hanns Jelinek and Karl Schiske were his composition teachers in Vienna. His acquaintance with Hanns Jelinek encouraged him to explore a wide spectrum of 20th century music. This and his fondness of Iranian culture were the cornerstones of his artistic development. After completing his studies at the Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, he went to Utrecht, the Netherlands, to pursue his study of electronic and computer music, which included attending lectures by Gottfried Michael König.
Mashayekhi believes that composers of our times should create music in a wide range of styles. His own compositions have tended towards two major directions: pieces that are directly inspired by Iranian music (e.g. Symphony No. 5, Persian Suite, and Shahrzad) and those compositions that are not directly related to Iranian music (e.g. Symphony No. 6, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Sonata for Piano).
Alireza Mashayekhi, who has his own philosophical thesis on music, believes that we can discover truth only through multilogical structures of artistic thought, this being the only way we can encompass the contradictions that “truth” carries in itself. He argues that by abandoning sequential problem-solving that has indisputably dominated “logic,” especially since Newton, we are able to pursue simultaneously a number of X's. He therefore calls his own way of structuring music the “quest for meta-X.” He introduces this kind of search in the following pieces:
Symposium, String Quartet ІІІ, Symphony No. 8 and Celebration for Piano and Percussion.
Influences of Persian Music on the Stylistics of Alireza Mashayekhi
A Musical Journey towards the Meta-X
University of Tehran
Alireza Mashayekhi is regarded as a pioneer Iranian avant-garde composer whose ideas and works, which have been performed in Iran and abroad for more than 35 years, have greatly influenced the contemporary music in Iran. He was born in 1940 in Tehran and began learning Persian music under Lotfollah Mofakham-Payan, studied composition with Hossein Nasehi and the piano under Ophelia Kombajian. He continued his studies in composition in Vienna under Hanns Jelinek and Karl Schiske. His acquaintance with Hanns Jelinek encouraged him to explore a wide spectrum of 20th century music. Such explorations accompanied by his deep interest in Iranian culture were the cornerstones of his artistic and stylistic development. Having completed his studies at the Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, he went to Utrecht, the Netherlands, to pursue his further study in electronic and computer music, which also included attending lectures by Gottfried Michael König. He has been teaching composition at the Music Department of the University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts, since 1970.
Alireza Mashayekhi, one of the most prominent Iranian composers, has experienced a variety of musical styles. He believes that contemporary composers should experience composing music in a variety of styles. Consequently, his own compositions have tended towards two major directions with a considerable variety of styles. In general, his compositions can be classified in terms of two broad categories, which are in turn subdivided into further subcategories.
1. Works that are not directly influenced by Persian music
This title embodies a generalization that should be treated carefully. Works in this category can be generally classified as composed in the so-called internationally widespread Western art music. Certain pieces in this category are in cases even deeply Iranian at the same time. In this category there are those of his compositions in which the melodic ideas are not influenced by Persian music. Pieces in this category, which are in cases indirectly related to or inspired by Persian music, can be divided into two types.
1.1. Pieces that are essentially not related to Persian music or Persian modes of thought, such as Development pieces, Symphony No. 1, computer pieces like Serial No. 1 and 2, and Symphony No. 6 for the Oboe, percussions and string orchestra.
[Example 1: Symphony No. 6]
1.2. Pieces that are influenced by Persian modes of thought, without having Persian melodic associations, such as Nous ne verrons jamais les jardins de Nishapour, and Beyond the Atmosphere.
2. Works that are influenced by Persian music
A considerable number of Mashayekhi's compositions are directly influenced by Iranian folk and classical music. The direct influences of Persian music on his works can be studied in two main aspects. On the one hand, he has been influenced by the philosophy and aesthetic qualities of Persian music in a number of his works, and on the other hand by the musical system of Persian classical music. Hereafter these two aspects will be studied in more detail accompanied by music examples drawn from his compositions.
2.1. Philosophical and aesthetic influences
One of the main features of Persian music, or rather Persian and Islamic art, is unity in multiplicity or coherent collection of seemingly contradictory items. This sacred art contains the means to enable man to see the forms of nature and multiplicity as so many reflections of the Unity which is both the origin and end of the order of multiplicity. It is the bridge from the periphery to the Center, from the relative to the Absolute, from the finite to the Infinite and from multiplicity to Unity. This doctrine of unity is central to the traditional and sacred art, which is also observed in the tradition of Persian music. In Mashayekhi's compositions such a doctrine may be traced in such pieces as East-West and Celebration, a piece in which many dichotomies are set into a unity. In this piece, which is regarded as multicultural or rather in a postmodern style that Mashayekhi calls the Meta-X, such musical multiplicities or dichotomies as tonal/atonal, thematic/athematic, improvised/pre-defined and Persian/non-Persian get together under an umbrella of Unity.
[Example 2: Celebration]
One of the other aesthetic features of Persian music, and traditional and sacred art in general, is meditated repetition resembling the zekr or repetitive concentrated prayers. This feature is also evident in some of Mashayekhi's compositions. It should not be mistaken with the Western idea of minimalism. Mashayekhi incorporates this feature in a number of his compositions such as Mitra, which is among his electronic pieces inspired by Persian music.
[Example 3: Mitra]
2.2. Influences of Persian musical system
Musical system comprises tonal-spatial and rhythmic-temporal components as well as such issues as form. Mashayekhi in a considerable number of his works experiences composing music after various elements of Persian music. He incorporates microtonal intervals in some of his works including electronic pieces, such as Shur, East-West, Mitra and Chahargah No. 1 & 2 among others. [Example 4: East-West]
Another element of Persian music that Mashayekhi incorporates into his works concerns the Persian musical modes and melodic types. He approaches this issue in two main ways. One is making use of Persian modes retaining their original tuning and microtonal intervals in pieces like Chahargah No. 2.
[Example 5: Chahargah No. 2]
In some other pieces he incorporates Persian musical modes in terms of the tempered tuning. For example in À la recherche du temps perdu for the piano and orchestra, he creates an atmosphere inspired by Dashti, one of the modes of Persian classical music, without retaining its original microtonal intervals but within the intervallic structures of the tempered scale.
[Example 6: À la recherche du temps perdu]
In some pieces Mashayekhi makes use of Iranian melodic themes such as Chahargah No. 2, after Persian classical music, and Short Stories, after Iranian folk music.
[Example 7: Short Stories]
In some other works, like Garden of the Lord, he applies Persian tone colors without incorporating Persian melodies or themes.
[Example 8: Garden of the Lord]
Another noteworthy issue in the works of Alireza Mashayekhi is his approach to polyphony. He makes use of a polyphonic style, which he calls "polyphony inspired by the main part," that takes shape within the tempered tuning but is not based on Western harmonic and contrapuntal practices. In this style the main melodic line is supported by chords that are a fifth higher and lower than the main part. For instance if there is "A" in the main part, the upper and lower tones of the chord in its root position are respectively "E" and "D". Here intervals of the 2nd are part of the chord. Mashayekhi has explained this system in every detail in his book on Musical Composition. [Example 9: Kristall II] Avaz No. 1 is another example of Mashayekhi's style of polyphony in Persian music in which he incorporates an orchestra of Iranian musical instruments. [Example 10: Avaz No. 1]
Concerning the rhythmic-temporal component, he has written pieces incorporating Iranian percussion instruments based on Persian rhythms, in pieces such as the Celebration and This Loneliness. [Example 11: This Loneliness]
Mashayekhi has made use of musical forms inspired by Persian music in a number of his works. It is quite noteworthy that he has dealt with the issue of form to manifest aspects of Persian music in his compositions. Among the musical forms that he has made use of, one may refer to his special style of "development" in which a short musical idea is constantly developed in the whole piece, such as Development V: "Nima". [Example 12: Development V: Nima]
His other approaches to the issue of form as inspired by Persian music lie in what he calls "improvisation" and "open-form." In such works, one or more themes or musical ideas are constantly developed in an improvisatory manner and in a rather free way that is not comparable to sonata, rondo or even theme and variation forms in the Western art music. Such forms are actually inspired by improvisation in Persian music, which is the core of this musical tradition. [Example 13: Variant]
Now, having got an idea of influences of Persian musical system in the works of Alireza Mashayekhi, we may categorize his stylistic approach in his compositions that are directly influenced by Persian music. His stylistic encounters with Persian music can be studied in terms of ten major categories: (1) works in electronic music, inspired by Persian music, without applying computer techniques; (2) works in electronic music applying Iranian musical instruments retaining their original tuning; (3) works in computer music inspired by Persian music; (4) works inspired by Persian music for Western and Iranian musical instruments without retaining their original tuning; (5) Persian works applying computer techniques as well as acoustic musical instruments; (6) Persian works for Iranian orchestra and solo Western instruments; (7) Persian works for Iranian orchestra with improvisations on Iranian instruments; (8) Persian music for the piano; (9) Persian music for the strings or symphonic orchestra; (10) Persian works in the so-called Meta-X style.
Alireza Mashayekhi, who has his own philosophical theses in music, believes that we can discover truth only through multi-logical structures of artistic thought, this is a way we can encompass the contradictions that "truth" carries in itself. He argues that by abandoning sequential problem-solving that has indisputably dominated "logic," we are able to pursue simultaneously a number of X's. He therefore calls his own way of structuring music the "quest for Meta-X." He has introduced this kind of search in many of his compositions as early as 30 years ago, however he coins this term and takes it into his philosophical system rather recently. Meta-X is an umbrella term that shows Mashayekhi's path in his musical journey through his compositional styles over all these years.
2003 Notation Methods of Alireza Mashayekhi in the Context of Changes in Contemporary Music. Unpublished MA Thesis. Tehran: Department of Art Studies, Faculty of Art and Architecture, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch.
1999 A Study on Alireza Mashayeki's Notation Style and Persian Roots in Some of His Compositions. Unpublished BA Thesis. Tehran: Faculty of Music, Art University.
2003 Towards the Orient: Works, Stylistics and Ideas of Alireza Mashayekhi. Tehran: Talkhon.
ND Musical Composition. Unpublished Book: Forthcoming.
ND Unpublished Recordings. Composer's Private Archive.
1999 Symphonische Musik persischer Komponisten. Austria: Aryens EMS, Nr. 1003.
2002a Music for Piano. 2nd Edition. Tehran: Tehran University Press.
2002b Iranian Orchestra for New Music. HER-009. Tehran: Hermes Records.
2003a Tehran Symphony. M.CD-145. Tehran: Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art.
2003b Personal Conversations.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein
1995 "Foreword" to Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach by Keith Critchlow. London: Thames and Hudson.