Kayhan Kalhor

Scattering Stars Like Dust

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Scattering Stars Like Dust is a 47-minute suite for the upright fiddle of the Middle East called the kamancheh and the tombak drum. It is decidedly classical music and, like some of the more rarefied works of Western classical composers such as J.S. Bach, appreciating it requires a certain investment of focused attention. This investment is handsomely repaid by the beauty of Kalhor's playing and the grandeur of the piece itself. Like most Persian music, it is improvised, based on a large traditional collection of short, melodic motifs. It contains three sections: the first is for both the kamancheh and the tombak; it is very propulsive with its 7/4 rhythm. Kalhor contributes virtuoso playing, borrowing the technique of pizzicato (plucking instead of bowing) from Western violin playing. He makes an impressive use of harmonics (getting the strings to produce a second, higher tone in addition to the main note being played). The middle section is for kamancheh alone and requires more attention. It is like listening to an intellectual conversation with the different phrases commenting on one another. The tombak returns in the third section, which begins with ominous, repeated motifs but gradually turns into something more desperate and frenzied. Pejman Hadadi's drumming is most impressive in this section as he creates a low, thrumming beat and a high-knocking accent at the same time. The last few minutes of the section show marvelous and daring innovation on Kalhor's part.

World music fans may remember Kalhor from the Silk Road albums by Ghazal. The liner notes contain a lot of useful information about Persian classical music. Recommended for the Persian/Arabic classical music aficionado, but also for daring world and Western classical music listeners.

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