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Mar 6 2024

Reza Vali on Iranian Polyphony

Henry Mancini Studio

Join the Iranian Music Program for a discussion led by Reza Vali. The infusion of vertical polyphony from 18th and 19th century Europe into Iran during the early 20th century was instigated by European and Euro-centric musicians. This form of polyphony stands in stark contrast to the traditional Iranian music system known as the dastgâh-maqâm system. The disparity between these two musical systems has engendered considerable perplexity in contemporary Iranian music, a perplexity that regrettably persists to the present day. Certain Iranian Euro-centric musicians have posited a theoretical framework suggesting that Iranian music, perceived as monophonic, has not undergone sufficient "development." Their prescription for this perceived deficiency is the introduction of "polyphony," with the term specifically denoting the vertical polyphony characteristic of 18th and 19th century Europe. Contrary to such assertions, this lecture contends that all sounds of the nature are “polyphones”. The spectrum of polyphony extends across the vast expanse of human nature, encompassing a diversity commensurate with the Earth's diameter. Iranian polyphony, therefore, occupies a unique position within this expansive global spectrum of polyphony. Furthermore, it is emphasized in this discourse that music does not undergo a linear process of "development" but rather undergoes unpredictable transformations. The lecture aims to elucidate various facets of Iranian polyphony, presenting and discussing its distinct characteristics.