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13 June 2019

Harmony - a collaboration for piano and tar

David Hush and Hamed Sadeghi Image: David Hush and Hamed Sadeghi  

David Hush introduces his new release, a digital album Harmony, a result of collaboration with the Iranian-born Australian tar and oud player Hamed Sadeghi. You can listen to samples and purchase the album on Bandcamp.

In 2018, I recorded a new album for piano and tar (Persian lute) featuring myself on piano with Hamed Sadeghi on tar - a six-stringed instrument played with a plectrum. The kernel of the album, called Harmony, is a set of five duets. In addition there are five short pieces for piano solo.

The duets introduce a new and for the most part unexplored idea: the piano starts by playing a piece containing written-out notes along with improvisation. After the piano piece is finished, the tar player follows with an improvised response to what he has heard.

With this new idea, each player is given much more freedom than what would usually be the case, precisely because each solo is completely independent of the other: there is no overlap between them.

The tradition of call and response has a precedent in the Western musical tradition. From the electrifying interplay of choruses in the first number of Bach's St Matthew Passion, to the riveting antiphony between winds and strings in the first movement of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony, to the canny dialogue between groups of strings in the second movement of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, it is a process familiar to anyone conversant with Western music.

The difference is that, in the examples cited above, a specific idea ('call') preceding an answer ('response') will last no more than a few seconds, while in the duets on the new album a piano solo may last as long as five minutes before the tar's solo begins.

The title track, Harmony, refers to a symbolic handshake between the Western tradition, based on equal temperament, and the Persian tradition, based on a different system of tuning.

Unlike similar Western instruments, the frets of the tar can be adjusted to create a new system of tuning. Accordingly, Hamed ensured that, for the rehearsals leading up to the recording, not to mention the recording itself, the tuning of his instrument conformed to that of the piano.

Hamed Sadeghi was born in Tehran in 1984. He studied Persian classical music in Tehran followed by a Master's degree in sound engineering in Malaysia. Since moving to Australia he has collaborated with key figures in contemporary classical music and jazz. He currently leads the Eishan Ensemble which has been featured in local and international music festivals.

After hearing a duet I had written, played by mutual colleagues in 2017, Hamed sent me an email to ask if I were available to give him lessons in composition. While the lessons went well, after a few weeks we had to stop owing to Hamed's commitments as a touring musician.

The following summer I wrote the five duets for piano and tar that we recorded later in the year.

After our first trial recording, I sent Hamed an email, expressing my unqualified admiration for the standard of his playing and his creativity.

Hamed replied:

'Your compositions gave me inspiration that I rarely experienced before. The beautiful mix of complexity and simplicity in your pieces made a very deep impression on me. I was feeling very special when we finished recording.'

The title Harmony thus takes on an additional reference: namely, to the artistic and spiritual rapport between two musicians from different musical cultures.

AMC resources

David Hush - AMC profile

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