On Sorrow and Repression in Iranian Music, by Saeed Sabzian

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This article by Tavaana faculty member Saeed Sabzian features analysis of contemporary Iranian vocal music, which expresses themes of loneliness, romantic longing, and complaints of mutual inattentiveness between lovers. In the narratives of such music, lovers possess an ardent desire to return to or connect with persons who have been cruel to them. This aesthetic way of life is contested with reference to instrumentation and lyrical content alongside analytical concepts drawn from psychology and sociology, emphasizing the active role of movement towards the future. In this piece, Sabzian establishes a method for understanding and analyzing music in light of social and political concepts. Besides accounting for the beauty and allure of music, he reasons that music can, apart from its allure, shape our conceptual apparatus and ways of thinking, furthering our passivity, grief, and sense of victimhood and impelling us to constitute community among mourners. He argues moreover that contemporary Iranian music is a reflection of people’s understanding of their own being, and furthermore a mirror of a political order in which people feel themselves to be trapped. Among the issues taken up here is the fact that people express their grievances through producing and listening to music, just as they use styles of lamentation and airing grievances for expression in the political sphere. Among other concepts, learned helplessness is thematized alongside violence, surrender, and yearning. In these songs’ narratives, lovers express their wishes and yearnings to their beloved. They demonstrate that they do not want to alter or traverse their painful situation, instead finding pleasure in passively being harmed. Referencing a debate arising from the lyrics of Yousef Abazari, Sabzian sets forth concepts which both confirm Abazari’s criticisms of lack of agency and recognize the inadequate reasoning of his speech. He also argues that this issue of passivity bears, for the student of culture, an actively defiant meaning in and of itself. The article establishes a useful method of criticism for persons interested in critical thought in the areas of culture and music, for the purposes of innovation in musical criticism.

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AUTHOR: 
Saeed Sabzian
Publication Year: 
2015

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