On Monday October 26th and Monday November 2nd 2015, we participated in a workshop as part of the Music Traditions of the Middle East module. The workshop was led by Professor Rachel Beckles Willson from Royal Holloway College and introduced us to the modal structures of Middle Eastern art music, focusing on Arabic maqam and Turkish makam. Rachel played the ‘ud lute and students brought their own instruments including lute, violins and guitar.
We found the workshop very enjoyable; it was a fun, new experience! It was good to be able to take part in the music rather than just read about it. Rachel was very patient and she played very nicely. It was useful to hear the quartertones first-hand on an authentic instrument, as we have no experience of this in our Western training. She taught us how to improvise around different maqams and their relative structures. It was fun to engage with the rest of the class with call and response exercises and melodic development activities. We enjoyed improvising away from sheet music, which was a more authentic experience than reading from the music as we are used to. Also, it was interesting to explore our own instruments in a different way, especially if these are stringed and non-fretted. The practice of singing before playing also deepened our understanding of the melodic and rhythmic modes. Overall, we think this has given us a good understanding of the musical culture and enriched our listening ability when researching this topic further.
The following week (November 9th), the focus moved to Iranian classical music and we were fortunate to be able to experience live music again, this time from santur (hammered dulcimer) player Saeid Kord Mafi who has recently moved to the UK from Iran to study for a PhD. He played examples from the classical repertoire and answered questions about life as a musician in Iran.
Charlotte Algar, Sarah Hashim and Marisa Oikawa
Rachel Beckles WIllson playing the ‘ud
Saeid Kord Mafi Playing the Santur
On Thursday November 12th, Laudan Nooshin visited Bath Spa University to present a research seminar on the music of Iranian pop diva Googoosh (b.1950). The seminar explored Googoosh’s immense popularity, despite not being able to perform between 1979 (after the Iranian Revolution) and 2000 when she left Iran after 21 years of silence, and following which she toured North America, Europe and elsewhere to ecstatic audiences. The seminar sought to understand the power of Googoosh’s music to evoke a level of emotional engagement in her audience quite unlike any other Iranian musician. A recording of the seminar can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/145631933 (password: mparf123)
This seminar followed a series of conference presentations since the summer, some on joint panels with City Music PhD students. In late June, Laudan presented a paper at the London School of Economics at the Annual Conference of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES), together with City PhD students Steve Wilford and Sam MacKay. The conference theme was ‘Liberation?’ and the panel was entitled: ‘Perspectives on Music and Liberation in the Middle East and North Africa’. Steve and Sam both talked about aspects of their current PhD research and their papers were entitled ‘Libération? Music, Independence and Postcolonialism in Algeria’ and ‘Freedom and Exile: North African Musical Migration in Marseille’ respectively. The panel also included a paper by Cristina Moreno Almeida (SOAS PhD student) – ‘Echoing the Moroccan ‘(R)Evolution’: Rap and the 2011 MENA Popular Uprisings’. The panel generated a great deal of interesting discussion.
Laudan also presented papers at the Joint Conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology/Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie in Paris in July 2015 and at the Royal Musical Association Annual Conference at the University of Birmingham in September 2015.
Laudan speaking at Bath Spa University, November 2015
Sam MacKay speaking at BRISMES, June 2015
Steve Wilford speaking at BRISMES, June 2015