Historical information on music in Persia dates back to thousands of years ago and musical texts date back to the tenth century. The music itself has not yet been available, the earliest available pieces were recorded by the Gramophone Company in 1906. This volume presents the earliest transcriptions of Persian music which were published by European travelers, diplomats, and musicians. It includes Persian songs from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, pieces of Persian classical music published in 1900, and pieces from the repertory of the European-style military bands. Transcriptions of Persian songs and Persian classical music are arranged for the piano, hence, they have lost most of their Persian characteristics. Yet they remain the invaluable examples of music in Persia prior to the first recordings.
Mohsen Mohammadi specializes in the music of Iran and the Middle/Central/Near East and plays the setar. His publications are based on his first-hand experience as a musician, on fieldwork, and on a wide range of first-hand historical sources including manuscripts, diaries and memories, old newspapers, and early recordings. His research interests include musical cultures in Persian and Indo-Persian countries, the history of music in oral traditions, colonial and contemporary literature on Iranian music, classicization of music in non-Western cultures, and early recordings of non-Western music. He has a PhD in Musicology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, with an emphasis in Ethnomusicology hosted by UCLA; MA in History, University of Tehran, Iran; BA in Music, University of Tehran, Iran. He received the Certificate of Merit for his book, Modal Modernities (2017) in the 2018 ASRC Award for Excellence for Best Historical Research in Recorded Country. He also received the Certificate of Merit in the Biannual Award for Best Book in Research from the Musicians Guild of Iran in 2016 for his book Musical Souvenirs (2015).
At UCLA, Mohsen Mohammadi has initiated projects on Indo-Persian music, which connect musical cultures across a wide region from Southeast Asia to Central Asia, encompassing India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. As the Director of Indo-Persian Music, he curates academic and artistic programs on the Indo-Persian musical confluence, drawing participants from across the world. He is also working on a project translating Persian musical texts from India, funded by the Sambhi Foundation. At UCLA, he has taught a range of courses including an undergraduate course on the Music of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey, and a graduate seminar on the Sources and Methods of Historical Research on Music. He is currently teaching a graduate seminar on Indo-Persian music.
Mohsen Mohammadi has collaborated with several UCLA centers, such as the Iranian Studies Program, Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience, and the Center for Musical Humanities. In addition to his collaborations on campus, he has curated several performances in collaboration with cultural institutions, such the Skirball Cultural Center, and has worked on several multimedia productions.
2018: The Treatise on the Seven Dastgah of Iranian Music. Tehran: Miras Maktoob.
2017: Modal Modernities: Formations of Persian Classical Music and the Recording of a National Tradition (Ph.D. Dissertation)
Free pdf: http://ow.ly/hq3V30eDmSf
2015: Musical Souvenirs: European Transcriptions of Persian Music (1600–1910). Tehran: Mahoor. (In English and Persian; Certificate of Merit in the 2016 Musicians Guild of Iran Biannual Award for Best Book in Research) http://amzn.com/0802604803
2007: The Gramophone Company’s Persian Recordings, 1899 to 1934. Persian Edition in collaboration with Michael Kinnear. Tehran: Society for the Appreciation of Cultural Works and Dignitaries.
2022: “Marche Triomphale: A Forgotten Musical Tract in Qajar-European Encounters.” Iranian Studies 55 (3). Cambridge University Press: 765–76. https://bit.ly/3R98AdG
2021: “Naqqareh-khaneh: Sonic Time Signifier.” Guest blogpost for Sonic Tehran Project. Edited by Laudan Nooshin. https://www.sonictehran.com/post/naqqareh-khaneh-sonic-time-signifier
2020 “The Bird of Dawn: An Iranian Jewish Musician in L.A.” In 100 Years of Sephardic Los Angeles, edited by Sarah Abrevaya Stein and Caroline Luce. Los Angeles: UCLA Leve Center for Jewish Studies. http://www.sephardiclosangeles.org/portfolios/the-bird-of-dawn
2016: “Chef de Musique or Chef de Macaroni: The Twisted History of the European Military Music in Persia.” Rivista Italiana di Musicologia (Journal of the Italian Society of Musicology). V 51, 51-88.
2010: “Persian Records by the Lindström Company: Triangle of Political Relationships, Local Agents and Recording Company.” In The Lindström Project, Contributions to the history of the record industry, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Schallplattenindustrie. Eds. Pekka Gronow, Christiane Hofer. Wien: Gesellschaft für Historische Tonträger. pp 121-8.
2006: “Qand-i Pārsī: An Introduction to Twenty Persian Texts on Indo-Persian Music.” Journal of the Indian Musicological Society. V 36-37, 40-60.
2022: Avanegar: The History of Music Transcription in Iran. In collaboration with Behrouz Jamali. Washington D.C.: Dimension Media Production.
2014: Let No One Judge You: Early Recordings From Iran, 1906-1933. London: Honest Jon’s Records.
2013 Basteh-Negar: Early Recordings by Iranian Female Singers. A collaboration with Fateme Ahmadi. London: BBC (Persian Service). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzbmG59TbjI
Articles in Persian:
Mohsen Mohammadi's Research
Won an award in the 2018 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Excellence for Best Historical Research in Recorded Country, Folk, Roots, or World MusicThis dissertation studies the modal system of Persian music. While modern Iranian musicians explain their music as a of seven dastgah plus five sub-dastgah called avaz, the dominant interpretation in the ethnomusicology literature describes the Persian modal system as a set of twelve dastgah. Part I of this dissertation studies how the system of seven dastgah and five avaz was introduced to the ethnomusicology literature and how it was simplified as a set of twelve dastgah. Part I shows that the modal system of Persian music was introduced to the ethnomusicology literature by a generation of Persian musicians who were trained in European music and thus were a hybrid of insider and outsider. Part II studies the historical root of the concept of dastgah. Persian writings on modulation from one mode to another date back to the fourteenth century. This theme was developed into a few collections of modes which were meant to help musicians as modulation instruction. Those collections were developed further and found an order which advised musicians to perform modes in sequences. Modulation instructions were titled “shad” in the seventeenth century. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the shad was developed further and was renamed dastgah. Part III shows that, while dastgah was an important concept of multi-modal performance, avaz was the general term for Persian modes. Various sources form the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, including musical texts, diaries and travel accounts, old newspapers, early European publications on Persian music, early Persian books on music, and the first catalog of Persian records show that avaz was the general term to refer to Persian modes. Part IV studies the impact of early commercial records on the formation of the Persian modal system. During the first recording session, most labels featured an avaz or a tasnif (song), while seven sets of records were allocated to record the seven dastgah briefly. During the subsequent recording sessions, not only the number of recorded modes decreased, but also more tracks were allocated to the few popular modes. The top ten recorded modes included five avaz that were the central modes of five of the seven dastgah, and five other avaz that became popular through the process of recording. When the seven dastgah were retrieved as an icon of national identity, the five popular avaz retained their modal status but the rest of the avaz were downgraded as pieces of a dastgah only. During the interwar recording sessions, the pattern for coupling tracks on double-sided Persian records was coupling two rhythmic performances in the same mode or two non-rhythmic performances in related modes. Those related modes (avaz) were usually included in a certain dastgah or followed another avaz that was more popular. Each double-sided record became a mode unit, thus, the five popular dastgah were squeezed into one mode while the five popular avaz were extended into smaller dastgah.
In The Lindström Project, Contributions to the history of the record industry, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Schallplattenindustrie. Eds. Pekka Gronow, Christiane Hofer. Wien: Gesellschaft für Historische Tonträger. pp 121-8.
Journal of the Indian Musicological Society. V 36-37, 40-60.