Professor Modirzadeh Pushes Jazz Beyond Limits of Chromatic Tones

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE -- Now 59 and a Music professor at San Francisco State University, he spoke with San Francisco Classical Voice from his home in Santa Clara County.

“It’s more of a human idea, where we’re trying to understand how we can coexist while keeping the integrity of who we are. It’s important to understand that [my new album] ‘Facets’ is a ‘disintegration’ of Arabic maqam and Persian dastgāh, and that what I’ve abstracted from them are the tones,” Modirzadeh said. “These tones breathe new life into Western intonation, so we write new music with it, inflected with Persian or Arabic ornamentation and phrasing. But as I progress, you also hear what I’ve gleaned from listening to Southeast Asian music, especially gamelan and a particular instrument, the suling [bamboo flute]. When I studied with Danny Kalanduyan, the great Filipino kulintang musician, I could still find some of those same tones that were not part of Western intonation.

“But people do not connect this with me, because they look at my name or what I look like and they say, ‘Oh no, he’s from Iran.’ You’ve got partials of your ancestors resonating in you. But they skip right over the influence I had since I was 18 years old, playing in Lou Harrison’s gamelan at San Jose State University.”