Thursday, June 16, 2011

Introduction to the Second Set of Snippets: Persian Music, Markets and Caravanserai

When someone asks me what I’ve been up to and I reply “A three-week trip to Iran,” I most often hear in response “Really? Why?” There are lots of reasons, needless to say, all of which I’ll talk about in due time. But let’s start at the very beginning: When did Persia first come into my consciousness?

I realize, to my surprise, that it was my mother playing In a Persian Market from sheet music on our family’s piano. I must have been about eight or nine. The sheet music’s cover, at least to my memory, was a market with tents of some sort and a camel and was printed on dusty orange paper.

I searched the internet several nights ago and found a copy of the sheet music and listened to a fellow playing it. My memory of it was pretty accurate. I learned that the piece was written by Albert W. Kelèbey, a Brit, in 1920 who, as far as I can tell, never visited Persia. The minor key makes it sound vaguely exotic, but it bears little relation to the Persian music I heard in Iran. He tells the musical story of a camel caravan coming into a market, a beggar calling out for money, a princess being carried dreamily through the market and being entertained by jugglers and a snake-charmer, a Caliph interrupting the fun, and then all the sounds slowly disappearing as night falls.

If you want to listen to it, here is the link to youtube.

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