While Alireza Mashayekhi’s music has been performed for more than 50 years in his native Iran and abroad, the pioneering avant-garde composer remains under-recognized in the United States. Thursday, November 2nd, ISSUE presents a program introducing his unflinching experimentalism to New York audiences with a series of solo and duo compositions, including three world premieres, for piano, violin, and prepared tape performed by acclaimed violinist Cyrus Forough and the dynamic New York-based pianist Ramin Amir Arjomand.
Mashayekhi’s music spans a range of styles and genres, from classical compositions inspired by Persian rhythms and Iranian folk music that incorporate meditated repetition and polyphony, to atonal compositions, to works for tape and live electronics that combine traditional Iranian and Western instruments, to computer music written in the programming language XPL. Mashayekhi calls his hybrid compositional practice “Meta-X,” referring to the sonic multiplicities present in his work (tonal/atonal, improvised/pre-defined, Persian/non-Persian) that unify within a single musical piece.
Though Mashayekhi is reticent to cite direct influences on his work, his music recalls the electroacoustic compositions of John Cage and Edgard Varèse, the composite harmonies and tone clusters of Henry Cowell, and the large-scale electronic works of Karlheinz Stockhausen, among many other composers, merging sound and noise, drone and dissonance, with Persian flourishes. Alongside these composers who transformed the landscape of mid-century music in Europe and the U.S., Mashayekhi’s radical practice introduced modern classical music, as well as electronic music, to Iran in the mid-1960s, revolutionizing the possibilities for musical composition in that country.
This rare concert presentation of Mashayekhi’s music is presented in equal company with works by some of his contemporaries – John Cage, Henry Cowell, and others – finally placing Mashayekhi’s practice within the canon of avant-garde music since the mid-twentieth century.
The incomparable Margaret Leng Tan, who has been called “the Sorceress of the New Piano,” opens the program with several works by John Cage and Henry Cowell. Tan, a long-time John Cage collaborator and leading performer of his music, is known for using unconventional instruments, props, and elements of theater in her performances. Here, she takes on works for prepared, toy, closed, and string piano, exploring the manifold ways in which the instrument can be played, inside and out.
Dazzling soprano Daisy Press, a prominent interpreter of experimental classical music, closes the program with a series of solo works for voice and the debut of new collaborations with Margaret Leng Tan. The highlight of her set is John Cage’s otherworldly “Dream” (1948), a haunting work originally composed for piano that Press has adapted for live and pre-recorded voice.
Margaret Leng Tan
John Cage, Suite for Toy Piano (1948) (07:00)
John Cage, Bacchanale, for prepared piano (1940) (08:00)
Henry Cowell, The Tides of Manaunaun (1917) Aeolian Harp (1923) The Banshee (1925) Advertisement (1914/1959) (10:00)
Alireza Mashayekhi, Sonata Electronica, op. 44, no. 2, for violin and prepared tape *World premiere on violin (10:00)
Ramin Amir Arjomand
Alireza Mashayekhi, Kristal I & Kristall II, (11:00)
Alireza Mashayekhi, Tonalian, op. 173, for violin and prepared tape *World premiere on violin (08:00)
Cyrus Forough & Ramin Amir Arjomand
Alireza Mashayekhi, Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano, op. 266, *World premiere (17:00)
Daisy Press & Margaret Leng Tan
John Cage, A Flower (1950) (03:00)
John Cage, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (1942) (03:00)
John Cage, Nowth Upon Nacht, for voice and closed piano (1984) (01:00)
Hildegard of Bingen, Chant (06:00)
Bernhard Lang, Moving Architecture: My Fatherland Is Dead (03:19)
John Cage, Dream (11:00)
Curated by Lauren Rosati.
Alireza Mashayekhi (b. Tehran, Iran, 1940) is a pioneering avant-garde conductor and composer whose works have been performed in Iran and abroad for more than 50 years and have greatly influenced contemporary Iranian music. He studied traditional Persian music, composition, and piano in Iran, completed his studies at the Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, and pursued his study of electronic and computer music in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In 1993, with the pianist Farima Ghavam-Sadri, Mashayekhi founded the Tehran Contemporary Music Group. He also established the Iranian Orchestra for New Music in 1995. His music reached new audiences in 2007 with the release of a double-disc anthology titled Persian Electronic Music: Yesterday and Today 1966–2006 (Sub Rosa), which included classic compositions of Mashayekhi’s work along with electronic compositions by Ata Ebtekar. Mashaykehi has been teaching composition at the University of Tehran since 1970.
Noted for the “fiery intensity” of his playing, Cyrus Forough is a world-renowned violinist and Professor of Violin at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He is a laureate of the Tchaikovsky International Competition and a finalist in the Munich International Violin Competition. With his wife, Steinway artist Carolyn McCracken, he won the United States Artistic Ambassador Program’s Duo Competition, representing the U.S. in the Far East and South America. An active performer of contemporary music throughout his career, Forough recently recorded Alireza Mashayekhi’s fourth violin concerto in September 2016 with the Ukraine National Symphony, Vladimir Sirenko conducting. He holds a World Academy of Arts, Literature, and Media Award in recognition of his contributions to classical music and education. The three pieces he will perform at ISSUE Project Room are world premieres that have been dedicated to him by Mashayekhi.
A composer and pianist whose improvisations have been described as “tectonic," Ramin Amir Arjomand has performed widely as a soloist and in ensembles presenting his own works. His concert music has been commissioned and/or performed by Speculum Musicae, So Percussion Ensemble, the New York Virtuoso Singers, the Cassatt Quartet, TAK Ensemble, the Columbia Collegium Musicum, and numerous independent ensembles and soloists in venues throughout the U.S. Arjomand completed his doctoral work in Music Composition at Columbia University in 2006 and is currently on the faculty at Columbia University and the Steinhardt School at New York University.
Margaret Leng Tan is a visionary pianist who has established herself as a major force within the American avant-garde. The first woman to earn a doctorate from Juilliard she has since been called “the queen of the toy piano” (The New York Times), having transformed a humble toy into a real instrument in her groundbreaking 1997 recording, The Art of the Toy Piano (Point Music/Universal). Recent premieres include Curios, a solo music-theater piece for toy instruments by Phyllis Chen, and Metamorphoses, Book 1 for amplified piano by George Crumb, both written for Ms. Tan.
Vocalist Daisy Press is a prominent interpreter of American and European experimental classical music and the principal singer at Brooklyn's famed House of Yes, where she has developed and performed in many shows, frequently collaborating with acrobats, dancers, and circus artists. She regularly performs the music of Bernhard Lang, Hildegard von Bingen, and Morton Feldman, and her interpretation of Feldman's “Three Voices” has been hailed by the New York Times as “intrepid” and “passionate.” She collaborated with composer Nick Hallett and visual artist Shana Moulton on the video opera “Whispering Pines 10” and worked with So Percussion on George Crumb’s “Unto the Hills” as well as Steve Reich’s “Drumming” and “Music for 18 Musicians”. She holds academic degrees from Sarah Lawrence College, the Manhattan School of Music, and Oxford University. At House of Yes, Daisy is the High Priestess of the phenomenon known as Voice Cult.