Azerbaijani Composer: “Music in the country doesn’t evolve because there is no quality criticism”

Meydan TV spoke with famous Azerbaijani composer, publicist and laureate of the international composers’ competition in Switzerland, Pre-Art, Firudin Allahverdi.

Firudin Allahverdi
Firudin Allahverdi

Meydan TV spoke with famous Azerbaijani composer, publicist and laureate of the international composers’ competition in Switzerland, Pre-Art, Firudin Allahverdi.

He was born in 1980 in Baku, graduated from the Baku Music Academy in 2004. He is the author of numerous symphonic, vocal, chamber and stage works, and has performed across the globe.

Our first question, of course, is how did you find the desire to study music, how did it all start out?

At first I wanted to be a technician – trains were not far from our house, and I remember my childhood dream was to drive them. But my attention was also grabbed by the tar, the stringed instrument my uncle used to play. He also went to music school as a child and despite the fact he never followed up with it, he would often get the tar out of its case and play for us.

Once I decided to investigate this ‘wonderful toy’ for myself and I accidentally broke the strings. But my uncle, Hussein, didn’t get angry, and instead he decided to buy a new tar and he gifted it to me. He started teaching me when I was about 5-6 years old.

Once I remember really liking a character from a historical film – he was a composer by profession. There was a scene where he asked for a glass of strong tea and assured everyone in the scene that he would solve all the problems with a score that was about to be played in just a few hours.

And I realized then that I wanted to become a composer, not a technician. There was a boy who lived in the neighborhood, older than me by five years or so, who already studied at music school. He taught me musical notation – so I started writing down my first ‘pieces’. Soon I was also enrolled in the music school and was taking lessons on the tar.

Before that, I had almost never heard Western music. I still remember my first impressions when I heard it for the first time, how it influenced me. It was a waltz by Franz Schubert. It is still very difficult for me to describe those feelings. I was totally ecstatic! I admit that until now Schubert continues to fascinate me no less, and even more that very small C-minor waltz …

Then my teacher Azada Mehtiyeva introduced me to the Azerbaijani composer Javanshir Guliev, with whom I met from time to time and he gave me valuable advice. And then there was the Baku Music Academy, where I studied the basics of choral conducting, and then I studied in the composer’s department there.

Tell us about your latest premiere, ‘Siralama’ (Ed. Azerbaijani, alignment, placement) which is a composition for the tar with a chamber ensemble. What is the main concept of this work?

– Lately I’m interested in different viewpoints, the approach and attitude to music of different cultures. Sometimes it seems to me that different cultures not only have different approaches to musical composition, but different answers to questions such as “what is music?” and “what is music for?”

In the music of our geography, from the South Caucasus and Iran, and further, covering a large region of the Middle East and Central Asia, the main concert form is the Dastgah. In Iran, it is called Radif (Ed. Farsi, row, series), where the musicians play selected classic melodies in one particular mode, and the drama is built on the line of a solo instrument or vocalist. Hence the actual name of my work, Siralama.

The dastgah almost always begins with a short entry in the high register of the instrument, then there is a quick descent down and a gradual climb upwards begins after. In terms of oral transmission, many of these melodies have changed over these years as they have been passed down from generation to generation.

Postmodernists says that all music in the world has already been composed and it can only be cited – our teacher Faraj Karaev often says this. Do you agree with this thesis?

– With all my respect to Faraj Karaev, I will try to find the strength to disagree with this apocalyptic thesis. Well, how can it “all be written” already? And moreover, when we live in an exceptionally interesting time! Even the sixties of the last century in comparison with the present look very “gray” – this is my opinion.

I recently watched a documentary about the Beatles. In the film it was suggested that the success of this group was due to its geographical location in the city of Liverpool.

The fact is that ships sailing from the New World to the Old, first moored in this city, and new records were brought by sailors to music lovers. Imagine, even in the second half of the 20th century, ship logistics was necessary to transfer information, and subsequently created the Beatles!

In other words, in this case, the Beatles are in the same era with the sea traveler Sinbad, with Columbus, and with his fellow countryman Shakespeare, etc. And we are now in the era of YouTube, and people just get to know of each other’s civilizations more easily.

I will return to our theme about the exhaustion of music: in my opinion, even the major triad does not completely exhaust itself. Someone might say that using a major triad is already a quote, but if we arrange the voices of a triad between an electric guitar, a Chinese schenk and a natural sound of an insect with a certain height from a tape recorder? Can it be also considered as a quotation…?

Can you make a living as a contemporary music academician in our country?

Of course not. How would that be possible? Instead I do all sorts of musical and semi-musical works; I write for plays, for the cinema, arrangements, sometimes I write articles.

How would you rate the level of the musical life in our country?

Personally I am dissatisfied with the current level of sophistication of music in our country. But I try to be understanding, because there are multiple reasons for this. There is a lack of professional criticism in all areas of our music. Not only in classical, but in pop music as well. I mean evaluation. Even when foreigners perform here, it’s hard to find someone that is willing to write to voice their opinion on the quality of the music presented.

Moreover, the level of musical education leaves much to be desired. The last time the educational programs were updated was in the sixties.

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