Welcome to Pish-Radif

This website is designed to provide a detailed analyses of the repertoire of classical Persian music, Radif and introduce the Pish-Radif lessons created by Hossein Omoumi, in order to introduce the complex system of this music to people with various cultural and musical backgrounds. In this path we will take you through the history of classical Persian music and its social functions, which helps us to understand how meaning is created and how experience is variously interpreted. Since we are talking about music, there are various listening examples available in this website to help you understand both theoretical and practical concepts.

Classical Persian Music

Like many genres of world music, in which lyrics play an important part, classical Persian music has also been formed in order to recite poetry. Of course, there are some forms of music, such as the European classical music, that have gradually branched off poetry and assumed independence. Through the history we can see how the advances in science and technology led to the development of various musical instruments, hence the formation of very large orchestras, especially in the Western culture. Furthermore, the advent of psychology as a science led to a change in the definition of music, transforming it into the art of producing abstract, and at the same time elegant and pleasant, sounds. This genre of music mainly inclined towards instrumental music. Nevertheless, in the past hundred years, different genres of sung music, including pop and jazz, have been created in the West, clearly illustrating the importance of words and lyrics in music. Classical Persian music, too, possesses the potential to separate from poetry. Virtuoso players of different Persian instruments have created several everlasting compositions. But it is important to remember that even the repertoire of this music has been formed around poetry. In fact, the influence of poetical rhythms on Radif and the use of Ghazal (a form of poem) as the skeleton of it indicates the importance of poetry.

The importance of poetry in classical Persian music is a cultural reflection which can be traced through the history. Compared to other countries, poetry has a significant place in Persian literature. Iranians have used poetry not only to express heartfelt emotions and feelings, but also, to express philosophical, Gnostic and historical ideas. In Iran, streets’ walls, the bodies of vehicles, the mass media, and in general the Iranian society, all bear signs that shows how poetry has a permanent presence in the everyday life of Iranians. One could say, and quite with certainty too, that nowhere else in the world has poetry formed such a deep bond with the lives of people.

A brief look at Iran’s history indicates that music and poetry walked hand in hand, both being of equal importance. For example, Zoroastrian Gathâs1 were sung, combining poetry and music, as early as the 7th century B.C. One could say that Pre-Islamic musicians (Khoniâgar) were poets, composers, singers and musicians all at the same time, singing their poems with melodic tunes.

Even in the in Persian language, the verb Khândan (خواندن) refers both to reading (of prose and poetry) and singing, which is a clear indication of the close connection between the two concepts. Therefore, familiarity with Persian poetry and its vocal music is considered a core requirement for learning Persian music.

  1. Gathas (GĀΘĀS), the core of the great Mazdayasnian liturgy, the Yasna [Yasnâ], consisting of five gāθās, or modes of song (gā) that comprise seventeen songs composed in Old Avestan language (OAv.), and arranged according to their five different syllabic meters. See: “Gathas”, Encyclopaedia Iranica: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gathas