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Unmuting the ‘other’: constructions and constrictions within an Iranian Dastgāh and Western Art Music discourse

Book chapter, forthcoming in 2024

In 2020 I began to consciously navigate my personal and musical self through two music systems, Western Art music and Iranian Dastgāh; both within which I somehow associated as well as equally disassociated with. As such, the other I aim to unmute is not typically the Iranian aspect of this conversation. This would be too easy to argue. As originally accredited to Hegel (1807), understanding of the self cannot be done without addressing the other. Thus, this chapter will consider different perspectives and narratives of Iranian music and Western Art music approaches to education and improvisation through the lens of Hegel’s philosophy of self and other (Hegel 1807). I will explore the other which lies within each music system as well the constructions and constrictions stemming from colonialism. To begin, I will discuss the West’s othering of improvisation, and subsequently, Iran’s self-othering of their music culture perpetuated by Orientalist thought and colonialist actions (Said 1978). Against this backdrop, a discussion surrounding my own practice emerges, striving to interrogate and unmute my musical and personal selves and others whilst considering Ladson-Billings’ theory of culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings 1995). This chapter will flow through different forms of otherness and moments in time to find conclusions, where culturally relevant approaches can act as the potential for active exchange and development of musical and cultural understanding.

Improvising Belonging: An embodiedied teaching initiative to improve student belonging 

Co-research at Trinity Laban, Conservatorie of Music and Dance, 2021-present

Improvising Belonging is an ongoing co-researcher project between Roxanna Albayati (TL graduate researcher) and Daniel Hartley (TL post-doctoral researcher) which aims to understand and address variations in outcome between different student groups. A key focus is understanding the nature of student belonging for participants and the institutional conditions which hinder or support belonging. Through conducting mixed focus groups and in-depth interviews with students from different backgrounds at the conservatoire, the research findings have highlighted student sense of belonging, and experiences of restriction of opportunities for creative involvement in learning in the arts for participants from marginalised ethnic groups.

The result of these findings has been the development of ‘Improvisation and Dialogue’ sessions, driven by student desires, feedback and lived experiences. These sessions aim to provide an outlet for students to experience a non-judgmental space, where lack of hierarchy and encouragement of exploration of differences allows a free-flow of thoughts and music, cultivating a new sense of community and ability to express one’s voice.

Improvisation, Iranian Classical Music and Music Pedagogy: A Cross-Cultural Exploration

This cross-cultural study investigates how an experience of learning the techniques and processes of Iranian classical music has shaped the author's understanding of pedagogical and personal practice and identity. The study took form in an a/r/tography style of research-an arts-based research methodology which brings together the role of an a(rtist), r(esearcher) and t(eacher), placing the author at the centre of inquiry. The comparisons drawn upon were between Iranian classical music learning experiences, cello teaching practice and how improvisation plays a part in both of these areas. The topics of improvisation, ear-playing and learnacy are discussed and analysed, directing the study's conclusions towards questioning the interrelationships between teachers and students, and performers and composers.

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