Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Iranian Classical Music

The Discourses and Practice of Creativity, 1st Edition

By Laudan Nooshin


256 pages

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Questions of creativity, and particularly the processes which underlie creative performance or ’improvisation’, form some of the central areas of interest in current musicology. Yet the predominant discourses on which musicological thought in this area are based have rarely been challenged. In this book Laudan Nooshin interrogates musicological discourses of creativity from the perspective of critical theory and postcolonial studies, examining their ideological underpinnings, the relationships of alterity which they sustain, and the profound implications for our understanding of creative processes in music. The repertoire which forms the book’s main focus is Iranian classical music, a tradition in which the performer plays a central creative role. Addressing a number of issues regarding the nature of musical creativity, the author explores both the discourses through which ideas about creativity are constructed, exchanged and negotiated within this tradition, and the practice by which new music comes into being. For the latter she compares a number of performances by musicians playing a range of instruments and spanning a period of more than 30 years, focusing on one particular section of repertoire, dastgāh Segāh, and providing transcriptions of the performances as the basis for analytical exploration of the music’s underlying compositional principles. This book is about understanding musical creativity as a meaningful social practice. It is the first to examine the ways in which ideas about tradition, authenticity, innovation and modernity in Iranian classical music form part of a wider social discourse on creativity, and in particular how they inform debates regarding national and cultural identity.


Winner of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) Book Prize, 2016.

'Iranian Classical Music is an important addition to the recent studies of music-making in related traditions. As a commendable example of scientific analysis that is theoretically grounded, the book will also appeal to a wider audience that is interested in the innate creativity of the human condition.'

-- John Morgan O'Connell, Cardiff University, Oxford Journal

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Part I Musicological Narratives of Creativity: Approaching the study of musical creativity: musicologies, discourses and others. Part II Creativity in the Iranian Context: Discourses and Structures: Discourses of creativity in Iranian classical music; Disciplining creativity: the radif of Iranian classical music. Part III Beyond Discourse: The Practice of Creativity: Creative performance in Iranian classical music; Postlude: ’Roots in the past and a view towards the future’: contemporary developments in Iranian classical music performance. Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Laudan Nooshin is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at City University London. She has research interests in contemporary developments in Iranian traditional and popular music, music and gender, globalization, music and cultural identity, and music in Iranian cinema. Her publications include Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ed. Ashgate, 2009) and The Ethnomusicology of Western Art Music (ed. Routledge, 2012). Between 2007 and 2011, Laudan was co-editor of Ethnomusicology Forum (Routledge).

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology