Duluth orchestra and Iranian composer make music history

For perhaps the first time since the Iranian revolution in 1979, an Iranian composer living in Iran collaborated with an American orchestra. It was the world premiere of “Kalileh,” a classic Persian fable set to music by composer Hooshyar Khayam, performed on July by the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra (LSCO), in Duluth, Minnesota.

The story of how a small orchestra in Duluth commissioned an original piece from a young Iranian composer begins last year, when conductor and artistic director Warren Friesen needed six more minutes of music for a concert. “So I literally went into YouTube, and I put in ‘piano and strings’ and let’s see what comes up,” he recalled. Thousands of pieces did and Friesen listened to snippets of dozens of them.

“I came across a piece called ‘Stained Glass’ by a composer I’d never heard of, with this funny name of Hooshyar Khayam. […] At this point I didn’t even know that Hooshyar was living in Tehran. All I knew was that I liked his music.” The LSCO performed the piece last July in Duluth, and an unlikely friendship was born between the 62-year-old Friesen and 36-year-old Khayam.

“I was very much moved by the extreme power of the musicians in the American orchestra, who could in fact play the Persian rhythms with that accuracy and that perfection,” Khayam said. So after that performance, Khayam agreed to create an original piece for shadow puppets and chamber orchestra based on an ancient Indian/Persian fable of the composer’s choice to play this year. Ultimately, Khayam added a youth chorus into the mix.

The result is “Kalileh,” based on an ancient Persian fable of the same name, which tells the story of a jackal, a trickster character, who seeks to become more powerful by becoming more beautiful. “The opening chorus, which I love, says ‘Come, Come Wanderer, lover of leaving, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come, come.’ It’s such a beautiful invitation,” Friesen said. The lyrics, explained Friesen, are verses of poetry written by famous 13th-century Persian poets Saadi and Rumi.

Khayam said the work “for me was more than a professional commission. I personally believe that ‘Kalileh’ shows something deeper of this relation of me as an Iranian with this wonderful orchestra in America. […] I’m always searching for sort of a higher meaning than only notes to listen to. […] The most important ingredient of this collaboration is that fact that it’s happening between two countries who have had years of misunderstanding and years of conflict.”

Khayam has collaborated with Friesen and others through Skype over the past year and visited Duluth for the performances.

All USA-Iran related posts on this blog: The other Iran | USA

About Hooshyar Khayam
Hooshyar Khayam (b. 1978) is an Iranian musician. He is active as a composer, pianist, and conductor. His works are in contemporary classical, contemporary jazz, Persian/world music; and in music for film, animation, dance, and theater.

He is the finalist of the Queen Elisabeth International Composition Competition for his piano concerto Before the Dream is Over (2013), first prize award winner of Franz Schubert and Modern Music International Composition Competition for his trio I Waited for You in Rain (2011), finalist of the Mauricio Kagel International Composition Competition (2013); Winner of Culture and Music Critic’s Prize: Tehran’s best album of the year for Tatari (2007); and 4-star winner Top of the World Albums by Songlines (75th issue) for his album All of You (with Amir Eslami, 2011) as distinctive music of Middle East.

Khayam has BM in Persian Music, University of Art, Tehran; AD in Piano Performance, Trinity College, London; MM and DMA in Composition, College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati. He lives and works in Tehran as an independent artist.

About Warren Friesen
Warren Friesen on Facebook

Further read: Duluth News Tribune | Duluth’s Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra set to bridge cultures with new work

Sources: Minnesota Public Radio News, Hooshyar Khayam | Biography, Duluth Reader | A musical blowout at the end of July 2015

London Iranian Film Festival – Saturday August 1st, 2015 – 3 Movies 1 Ticket

London Iranian Film Festival is the only annual festival to present Iranian cinema in the UK.  The festival aims to introduce the international community to the best of Iranian cinema.

Screenings: 3 Movies, 1 Ticket (Melbourne, I’m Not Angry, 360 Degrees)
Date:
Saturday 1st August
Time: 14:00- 21:00
Venue: Greenwood Theatre, King’s Venues, London, 55 Weston Street, London

Tickets are £18 if purchased in advance or £25 on the door (for all three screenings) and can be purchased at: http://www.ukiff.org.uk/

More info about Iranian cinema and successful movies: The other Iran | Cinema

Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province: Beautiful nature of Arasbaran (Photos)

Arasbaran is a large mountainous area stretching from the Qusha Dagh massif, south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The region enjoys great history as well as magnificent nature and landscapes; peaks as high as 2,200 meters, alpine meadows, rangelands, forests, rivers and springs. Since 1976, UNESCO has registered 72,460 hectares of this region as biosphere reserve.

Related article with more information about Arasbaran:
The other Iran | Photo Series: Spring in Iran – Arasbaran, East Azerbaijan Province

Sources: Tasnim News Agency | Photos, Mehr News Agency (Photos)

Iran’s Tehran Province: Tangeh Savashi (Photos)

Tangeh Savashi (or Tangeh Vashi) is a gorge and narrow mountain pass in the Alborz range. Located 15 kilometers west of Firouzkouh, the narrow gorge was created by a perennial stream which comes down from a series of waterfalls upstream.

Slightly lower, in a hilly area, the stream provided a patch of lush grazing land within the mountains. Until the 20th century the area was a royal hunting reserve, populated by various wildlife. Fath Ali Shah (1772 – 1834), Qajar Shah of Persia, maintained a hunting lodge there and to commemorate his hunts he ordered the carving of a relief in the mid way point of the pass. There are ruins of a Qajar guard tower at the top of one of entrances to the gorge.

Today, the relief is a popular tourist attraction and the location is also highly popular among trekking and hiking fans.

Sources: Wikipedia | Tangeh Savashi, Wiki Commons | Tangeh Savashi, Mehr News | Photos

Iran’s Mazandaran Province: A glimpse at its beautiful and diverse nature (Photos)

Mazandaran Province is located in the north of Iran, on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, with Sari as its provincial capital.

The diverse nature of the province features plains, prairies, forests and rainforest stretching from the sandy beaches of the Caspian Sea to the rugged and snowcapped Alborz mountain range, including Mount Damavand, one of the highest peaks and volcanos in Asia. The Alborz Mountain Range surrounds the coastal strip and plains of the Caspian Sea like a huge barrier.

The province enjoys a moderate, subtropical climate with an average temperature of 25 °C in summer and about 8 °C in winter. Although snow may fall heavily in the mountains in winter, it rarely falls at sea level.

Mazandaran, Iran - MapThis region has a variety of climates, including the mild and humid climate of Caspian shoreline and the moderate and cold climate of mountainous regions. In the 1,500- to 3,000-meter altitudes, snow covers parts of the province even up to the middle of the warm season. In fact, snow can be observed in this region even in the warmest months of the year, which lends a touch of beauty to this region.

Human habitation in the area dates back at least 75,000 years. Recent excavations in Goher Tippe provide proof that the region has been urbanized for more than 5,000 years, and the area is considered one of the most important historical sites of Iran. Mazandaran was a part of the ancient Persian province of Hyrcania.

The population is overwhelmingly Mazandarani, with a minority of Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Armenians, Circassians, Turkmen and others. Mazandaran is a center for Iranian culture and has produced a number of famous poets. The people are largely secular, and consequently women have had greater social freedom and independence than their Persian cousins. The cuisine of the province is very rich in seafood due to its location by the Caspian Sea, and rice is present in virtually every meal. Indeed, the rest of Iran was introduced to rice through Gilan and Mazandaran.

Sources: Wikipedia | MazandaranMehr News | Photos 1Mehr | Photos 2, WikiCommons | Mazandaran, Fars News | Photos, Tasnim News | Photos, Iran Chamber Society | Mazandaran

Iran puts on remarkable show at RoboCup 2015 in China

The 19th RoboCup Tournament took place from July 19th to July 23rd, 2015 in Hefei City, East China with more than 2000 participants from 47 countries. The Iranian teams achieved three first places, three second places and two third places along with top spots at technical challenges and other awards.

Many Iranian High Schools participated at the event. At the 2D Simulation RoboCup Soccer Competition, Phonix from Atomic Energy High School was awarded Best New Team, finishing 10th. At the same competition HERMES from Allameh Helli Highschool was 5th and Genius2015 from Ghazal High School, Shiraz was 11th.

Detailed results for top Iranian teams

1) RoboCup Rescue Competition
Rescue Simulation: 1st S.O.S (Amirkabir University of Technology, Iran), 2nd MRL (Mechatronic Research Lab, Islamic Azad University of Qazvin, Iran), 3rd SEU_Jolly (China)

Rescue Robot: 1st MRL (Iran), 2nd iRAP_Junior (Thailand), 3rd YRA (Islamic Azad University of Yazd, Iran) // Innovative User Interface Award: Hector Darmstadt (Germany) and MRL (Iran).

2) RoboCup Soccer Competition
Humanoid League – Adult Size: 1st THORwIn (USA), 2nd Baset Adult-Size (Baset Pazhuh Tehran Cooperation, Iran), 3rd HuroEvolution AD (Taiwan) // Technical challenges: 1st Baset Adult-Size (Iran), 2nd HuroEvolution AD (Taiwan) and CIT Brains Adult (Japan), 3rd THORwIn (USA)

Humanoid League – Teen Size: 1st Team Parand (Parand Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran), 2nd HuroEvolution TN (Taiwan), 3rd AUT-UofM (Amirkabir University of Technology – University of Manitoba, Iran – Canada) // Technical challenges: 1st HuroEvolution TN (Taiwan), 2nd place shared between WF Wolves & Taura Bots Teen (Germany & Brazil) and AUT-UofM (Iran & Canada)

Small Size: 1st CMDragons, Carnegie Mellon University (USA), 2nd MRL, Qazvin Islamic Azad University (Iran), 3rd ZJUNlict, Zhejiang University (China) // Technical challenges: 1st ER-Force (Germany), 2nd ZJUNlict (China), 3rd MRL (Iran)

Middle Size: 1st Water (China), 2nd TechUnited Eindhoven (Netherlands), 3rd ARES (China) // Technical challenges: 1st MRL (Iran), 2nd NuBot (China), 3rd Tech United Eindhoven (Netherlands)

2D Simulation: 1st WrightEagle, University of Science and Technology of China (China), 2nd HELIOS2015, Fukuoka University, Osaka Prefecture University, (Japan), 3rd Gliders2015, University of Sydney and CSIRO (Australia) // Best New Team: Phonix (Atomic Energy High School, Iran).

About RoboCup
RoboCup is an annual international robotics competition aiming to promote robotics and artificial intelligence research, by offering a publicly appealing, but formidable challenge. The name RoboCup is a contraction of the competition’s full name, “Robot Soccer World Cup”, but there are many other stages of the competition such as “RoboCupRescue”, “RoboCup@Home” and “RoboCupJunior”. The official goal of the project is “By the middle of the 21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

Other related articles: The other Iran | RoboCup

Sources: RoboCup 2015 | Results, Mehr News Agency | News 1, Wikipedia | RoboCup, Mehr News Agency | Photos, RoboCup Humanoid League, Mehr News Agency | News 2

Plastic-Bag Free Day in Iran: Campaign promotes stopping use of plastic bags

On July 12, which is Plastic-Bag Free Day in Iran, several organizations once again geared up to raise public awareness about the environmental problems posed by plastic bags. For a week, Tehran and several other provinces implemented a program of using biodegradable bags in stores and markets bearing the logo “less plastic, cleaner earth, better health”.

Plastic-Bag Free Day was launched in Iran following a proposal by the Fruit and Vegetable Markets in 2012, which immediately found the support of Tehran City Development offices and the Department of the Environment. The markets have since completely stopped using plastic bags. All plastic bags have been replaced with paper and cloth bags in 15 fruit and vegetable markets across the capital, eliminating the use of 400 million plastic bags.

Plastic-Bag-Free-Day-in-Hamadan-Iran-1

Statistics indicate that 177,000 tons of plastic bags are produced each year in Iran. Across the world, 3.5 million tons of waste is produced each day, and Iran’s contribution to that is now pegged at 40,000 tons a day.

The international Plastic-Bag Free Day is observed on July 3.

Source: Payvand | News