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In Iranian composer Alirehza Mashayekhi’s music, “Variant” is actually an original form, inspired by Persian traditional music and reminiscent of both variation and rondo forms. Accordingly, his variants exhibit what Iranian musicologist Hooman Asadi has described as a technique of “constant development,” derived in part from the Persian tradition of improvisation. Variant I, for solo cello, illustrates this technique on both large and small scales. As a whole, the piece resembles a chaconne with periodic “reminiscences” the principal material. This principal material, however, is itself a series of six elaborated descents from D to A. The increasingly complex arabesques Mashayehki weaves around the same essential material creates an atmosphere of profound contemplation and resembles the similarly intricate patterning found in Islamic art and architecture.
The comparison with Islamic art is apt; in his article about Mashayekhi, Asadi also discusses the Islamic tradition of representing “unity in multiplicity.” Through the juxtaposition of diverse and sometimes discordant elements, Asadi asserts, the observer is invited to ponder the grandeur of the creation that contains and is reflected in them all. In Variant I, elegant lyricism is contrasted with angular passagework, strict rhythm with flexible melismas, regular meter with syncopation and asymmetric groupings, slow declamations with rapid flourishes, yet every gesture has secure roots in the same underlying idea. In fact, the embracement of multiplicity is fundamental tenet of Mashayekhi’s philosophy, reflected also in the “quest for meta-X” he discusses in his writing, and in his “complementary theory,” which allows him to create modal, tonal, and atonal music from the same underlying pitch “constellations.”
Variant, Opus 139 is a noble work, richly textured and powerfully moving. Mashayekhi’s clearly vocally-inspired figuration is particularly effective for the cello, and the contemplative character of the work neatly encapsulates the original inspiration for the “Meditations” series. — program notes by John (JW) Turner
JOHN (JW) TURNER is an Assistant Professor of Music at High Point University in North Carolina, where he teaches Musicianship, Advanced Music Theory, Japanese Music, Music and Identity, and Human Dimensions of Music. His articles have been published in the Indiana Theory Review, Music Theory Online, Virginia Review of Asian Studies, and Education About Asia. Prof. Turner’s current research concerns traditional and popular music of Japan, with a focus on the shamisen. From 2014-2017, he served as the President of the College Music Society Mid-Atlantic Chapter. In addition to his Academic research and teaching, Turner performs regularly as a cellist, most recently in collaboration with pianist Mayumi Osada.