Persian Electronic Music: Yesterday and Today 1966-2006

Ata Ebtekar / Alireza Mashayekhi

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Persian Electronic Music: Yesterday and Today 1966-2006 Review

by Thom Jurek

Sub Rosa has done it again. This handsomely designed, authoritative, and beautiful-sounding double-CD package focuses on the electronic music of composers Alireza Mashayekhi and Ata "Sote" Ebtekar. Both men have been working in the electronic and vanguard classical fields for years -- in the case of the former, born in 1940, it's been over 40, and the latter, born in 1972, since 1994. They both employ ancestral structures as a way of creating something radically new and different. In the case of Mashayekhi, his works have been performed extensively at home and abroad. The original folk and sacred music forms in his works (all of them appear on disc one) are immediately detectable. He uses these melodies; covers them over; stretches them; washes them in warm baths of sound, space, and texture; and allows them space to breathe through time. He actually stretches the notion of time; what the listener hears is instantly recognizable as something old, but presented in a wildly different context without sacrificing its character or even content. By contrast, Ebtekar, who has been schooled and raised in a world that initially embraced the West only to reject it, has been on both sides of the post-structuralist divide; his notion of deconstruction, which happened literally in Iran, is experientially cultural rather than theoretically academic. Therefore, his questions about sound and the ancestral music of his culture have to be looked at through that split prism. Being a recording engineer as well as a composer and sound artist, his source materials were the old Persian scales themselves. He actually goes to town altering their modal framework and time signatures, compressing and stretching them, and in some cases turning them inside out. What remains however, is the actual "Persian-ness" of it all. It is unmistakably Middle Eastern, no matter how much he shifts modalities or even alters melodic constructs between or through scales or manipulates sound and dynamic tensions. It sounds like history and feels like history, but is so unmistakably "new" that it makes history, and it is strange and beguiling enough to make you completely question what you are hearing.

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