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Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation

Dan Bilawsky By

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Is music truly a universal language? That's a question that's a bit complicated to answer. While music has the potential to be a universal language, and it remains a common platform of communication for so many, it hasn't really fulfilled that potential thus far. Regional accents and dialects still abound, isolating and separating listeners and performers into different cliques and communities. Every fully functioning human ear can certainly take everything in, regardless of what tunings, scales, and rhythmic structures are in play, but that doesn't mean every ear can extract information and meaning from music that registers as foreign. In order for that to happen, and for the idea of foreign musical sounds to be wiped away, there must be greater education and exposure to music across cultures along with a true and complete merging and synthesis of the many and varied musical forms spread out across the globe. Sadly, it's doubtful that that will ever happen, but artist-thinkers like Hafez Modirzadeh are getting us a lot closer to that outcome.

Modirzadeh, a multi-reedist/composer/educator with a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University, is erasing cultural borders with his concept of chromodality, a mix-and-marry approach to music creation that allows for the simultaneous existence and merging of various musical temperaments from across the planet. He's erasing dividing lines and building bridges, and this album is the proof. Classical string ideals, Iraqi maqam, Iberian and Persian scales, and more collide, coexist, and combine in various ways during the aptly titled In Convergence Liberation.

Modirzadeh, covering everything from saxophones and flutes to a version of a Persian karna, delivers a compelling collection of chamber works that move in mysterious ways. Bent tones, cries, and sighs exist as one ("La Angustia De Los Amantes"); instruments dance and bound along ("Tetraspheres"); motifs from the "Adagio" section of Beethoven's "Piano Sonata no. 26" are completely turned on their head and freed from their shackles ("That Number Moves"); hints of Ornette Coleman briefly sneak into the picture ("Libertades"); and an eerie form of elegance holds sway ("Las Orillas Del Mar").

Reading Modirzadeh's explanations about each piece can make the head spin, with mentions of music in 17/4 and the idea of melody turning a Perso-Iberian scale-cycle tetramodal, but the high-level theory at work here doesn't detract from the experience of hearing the music. Amir ElSaffar's trumpet speaks of passion and promise in any language ("Yearnings"), Mili Bermejo's vocals draw focus and hold attention ("Sin Razon"), Faraz Minooei's contributions on the dulcimer-like santur are spellbinding ("Resistencia"), and Amir Abbas Etemadzadeh's percussion work adds volumes to the music. Those musicians, along with the string quartet known as ETHEL and Modirzadeh himself, make for quite a combination. Those looking to understand the very nature of confluence need look no further than In Convergence Liberation.

Track Listing: La Angustia de los Amantes; Tetraspheres; Karna Passages; Las Orillas del Mar; Number That Moves; Suite Compost; Sor Juana.

Personnel: Hafez Modirzadeh: multiple reed instruments; Amir ElSaffar: trumpet, voice; Mili Bermejo: voice; Faraz Minooei: santur; Amir Abbas Etemadzadeh: percussion; ETHEL String Quartet: Mary Rowell: violin; Cornelius Dufallo: violin; Ralph Farris: viola; Dorothy Lawson: cello.

Title: In Convergence Liberation | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

About Hafez Modirzadeh
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