Iranian Music

Written by Serena Berger
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Iranian music is very different from Western music, at least the traditional and classical forms of Iranian music. The instruments are very different, as well as the structure and limits placed upon what is considered genuine classical music there. All classical music is based on the Radif, which is a collection of melodies known to all classical musicians, and incorporated into all major works.

The Radif: the Core of Iranian Music

The Radif has been around for generations. It is modified slightly when a Master's interpretation achieves wide enough acclaim that fragments of his interpretation or improvisation are canonized as additions to the Radif. Mastery is difficult to achieve, however, as you must memorize the Radif so thoroughly as to be able to play and improvise upon any single fragment of it at any time. Even this does not guarantee that any of your work will become a part of the Radif. That is for time to tell.

It would be impossible to explain here the aspects of the Radif from the perspective of music theory, for even the use of rhythm differs from what we know in Western music. "Free form" rhythm is common, and is heavily influenced by the rhythm and meter of Persian poetry, like that of Rumi, the most well-known of all Persian poets. There are also vast differences between the instrumental and vocal Radif in terms of rhythm, though the melodies remain the same.

Percussion, stringed instruments, and wind instruments are the most commonly found in Iranian music. The lute-like tar, the mystical setar, the santur (a three-octave dulcimer), and the daf (an ancient and powerful drum) are among the characteristic instruments. If you are interested in hearing Iranian music, you can look online for distributors who will sell and deliver overseas.

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