L. Alexis Emelianoff
Océans de Feu: the Persian Piano
The piano, in all its gravity and fixity, is almost symbolic of Western standardization.
Seeking new divergences, I am adapting the Western piano to traditional Persian music: rooted in lyrical, metric poetry and improvisation, it has a particular flexibility. Its Dastgah (modes) are mostly compatible with Western tunings but include quarter tones (koron), which give asymmetry and slight dissonance.
The Persian setar is built with drone strings tuned in octaves, fourths or fifths, so the pianistic emulation was to make sub-harmonic strings sound with e-bow-like electronics instead of using percussive excitation. At the present moment, the piano uses a 'Rast Kuk' tuning for the mode of Shur A: E-flats and B-flats are tuned to E-koron and B-koron, and F-sharp is tuned to F-sori (three-quarters sharp).
Other challenges are found in adapting the monophonic Persian music to an instrument capable of polyphony. The radif, its musical canon, gives a basis for melodic and rhythmic material that can be ‘orchestrated’ to exploit the piano’s full range, yet musical systems using quarter tones do not work with harmony; different voices are then expressed as if each hand plays for one performer.
The goal is not only to develop an ‘authentic’ Persian piano, but to expand the lyrical and technically interesting potentials of the instrument as well.
The title of the project derives from a poem by the treasured poet Hafez, where the smallest element carries an unlimited potential:
‘Sur cette voie (de l’amour) chaque goutte de rosée, ce sont cent océans de feu.’
‘On this path, each drop of dew is like a hundred oceans of fire.’
-Hafez, ghazal 122
Instruction and support: Elham Manouchehri, Kiya Tabassian, Ziya Tabassian, Amir Amiri
Technicians: Bert Picknell (Banff), Spike Taylor (Montréal), Mr. Anderer (Karlsruhe)
2019: Residency at San Francisco State University and duo with Ramin Zoufonoun. Travel supported by Canada Council for the Arts.
2016: Solo concert at the MuSA symposium, Karlsruhe, Germany. Travel supported by the Conseil des Arts et Lettres de Québec (CALQ)
2015: Solo concert and ensemble pieces at the World Music Residency at the Banff Centre for Performing Arts, Canada.