THE MUSIC OF IRAN
The traditional music of Persia and now modern Iran has always been a kind of message, from the musician to their audience. It comes from deep within and often relays tales of the past and epic deeds that have been done. The music is also deeply intertwined in the culture and history of the land and its people. The music expresses joys, sorrows, loves, struggles, victories and defeats. It is a testament to the people that they have manage to retain their musical heritage despite the amount of turmoil this region has had to suffer. Obviously, the influence of Islam had defined and inspired much of the music in the past few hundred years, but there was music before that.
It was the Achaemenids that ruled before Islam was adopted in this part of the Middle East. And the music was used as entertainment as well as in religious worship. Old paintings and sketches depict musicians playing harps and singers accompanying them. There were also basic flute-like instruments and large tambourines. The first piece of documented Persian music dates back to 226CE from the Sassanid Period.
The Arrival of Islam
Islam arrived in the region around the 7th Century AD. And as the civilization evolved the music changed. The Eastern Islamic Empire was dominated by the music of Persia, with Baghdad being the center of all things cultural including music. The early musicians that dominated in this period of history were, Zalzal, Farabi, Ibn Sina, Razi, and Ormavi.
The 13th Century played a big part in the development of the music of Persia. Mostly the music was governed by the court of Baghdad and the Iraq School of Music was formed. The man behind this transformation was Safi Din Ormavi who developed different scales and time intervals. It was he that divided the octave into seventeen notes. And even today most of Iraq’s modern music is based on this theory.
The Mongol Influence
When the Mongols invaded Persia in the early 1200s both society and culture was altered. This included music, and the theology of Shiitewas born. This philosophy penetrated deeply into literature, music, and poetry. And it was the Mongols that changed the musical style that incorporated a language called Ghazal, which really is a type of poetry.
The Western Influence
Iran became open to more Western musical influences during the 19th Century, and it was King Nasser who became a great patron of the arts. For virtually the first time Persian musicians were sponsored to study abroad and they brought home new ideas. Polkas, waltzes, overtures, and marches were commonly played at court and at formal occasions. And Alfred Lemair, a notable French musician, was commissioned to form the first symphony orchestra. Since those times radio and television have opened the ears of the Iraqi people to all forms of music that include, jazz, rock, pop, and Latin American. And because of this Persian music has once again been influenced by external sources. Suffice to say the music of Iraq is very hard to categorize, it has changed as different cultures and influences have touched it.