This essay explores new forms of improvisational practice being developed by Iranian musicians in a tradition
where the canonic radif repertoire has been central to improvisational practice for more than a century. I focus on the work
of two musicians, Amir Eslami (nei) and Hooshyar Khayam (piano), and discuss pieces from their 2010 album All of
You (Hermes Records, Iran). This music takes inspiration from the radif but lies outside the radif tradition and differs in
important respects from “traditional” forms of improvisation, not least in the discussions that precede performance and in
the discursive foregrounding of compositional thinking by the musicians themselves. I ask what the work of these musicians
might tell us about the future direction of creative practice in Iranian classical music.
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