Monday, 8 November 2010


It's always a pleasure to visit Cambridge, even on those occasions when, not expecting rain, I get soaked to the skin. I arrived in balmy temperatures and sat outside the rehearsal space with a cup of coffee. But when I left the Fitzwilliam just after lunch it was markedly cooler and the rain was just beginning. And by the time I got back to our rehearsal space I was wet through.

I was in the city to work on a performance project called 'Dreams of Kings and Heroes' that opens at the Fitzwilliam Museum at the end of the month. It is based on, and accompanies, the current Shahnameh exhibition. The Shahnameh tells the Persian story prior to the Arab invasion in the 7th Century AD. It's a heady, and often violent, blend of history, legend and myth is reminiscent of both the Old Testament and One Thousand and One Nights.

Friday was an opportunity to meet the rest of the team, see the exhibition for myself and play with some ideas. Now I'm immersing myself in Persian classical music, quarter tones and all, in the hope that some flavours will find their way into my own compositions. If experience is anything to go by, fifty minutes may not be long enough to accustom Western ears to quarter tones, even if there were to be music throughout the show. But I hope stop short of Disneyfication and strive to do justice to what looks like being a fabulous (literally, for once) son et lumière presentation.


  1. I know nothing about Persian music.. any tips as to what to listen to?

  2. Where to begin? Before the revolution in '79 the Shah's regime was promoting westernisation of all things and traditional music came close to dying out. Money and fame awaited pop stars. For ten years after the revolution no one dared play anything other than military and mourning music. Now, on YouTube there's plenty of pop - mostly pretty cheesy but seen as a statement of dissatisfaction with the repressive regime. I've been listening to some classical stuff that a friend lent me by a singer called Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. It has similarities to Indian classical music but the songs, to my cloth ears, are more like Urdu ghazals. At least in their shorter length. I hope that helps!