Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pouran K. Akhlaghi (1944-1990)‎

The Night of the Ends…‎

She shone all her life,
Protecting me,
And she gave away
Her last glimmer,
Saving me…‎

She followed him,
On that night of the ends — ‎
The end of
‎            The flight of the dove,
The end of
‎            The song of the star…‎

Left behind
You could find
A mirage,
An echo,
And the mirage of an echo...

It's all for you...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Aziz Akhlaghi (1928-1990)‎

The End of the Dove…‎

He loved as he walked,‎
And he flew away,‎
When the roads
Closed on him –‎ ‎
Overnight. ‎

I close my eyes, and ‎
I hear his voice, ‎
I see his smile, ‎
I taste the smell of his wings, ‎
I sense his pride –‎
When I sang or played. ‎

All the time, it feels, ‎
He’s been around, ‎
He’s been alive.‎
‎ ‎
Yet, for nine years and ten, ‎
It seems, he's never aged.‎..‎

Photo: © Rob Palmer. Digital modification for P.R. by P.A.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sar Oumad Zemestoun (Winter Is Over)

The melody of Sar Oumad Zemestoun is of Armenian folk origin. In the 1970's, an unknown lyricist added the currently well-known Persian lyrics to the song. It has been revived in 2009 as the de facto anthem of the Green Movement in Iran.

The current transcription was based on two recent performances. Instrumental bridges have been excluded. Attempt was made to notate the melody as accurately as possible, and to have it fit on a single page, for ease of distribution. I dedicate the score to the democratic movement of Iran, and to the more than hundred of Armenians who were killed on July 14th, 2009, in a tragic plane crash near Tehran.

"نت موسیقی "سر اومد زمستون
The Score of Sar Oumad Zemestoun
[Also: Sar Oomad Zemestoon in PDF]

The PDF version of the score is available at Scribd or MediaFire, to download and print for free.

The Sibelius file of the score is available here for free. (Requires the free installation of Scorch.)

(You can also click the picture above to print a JPG version, ableit of a lesser quality.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Edward Downes, Conductor (1924-2009)

(Sir Edward Downes and Lady Downes; Photo, BBC News)

Sir Edward Downes (1924-2009) was a famed British conductor, who for years worked as the principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (1980-1991).

In early 1990's, by then in Los Angeles, I came to own an astonishing recording of Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2, in E minor, conducted by the maestro. The recording is sublime, engaging, unforgettable. Its fluidity of dynamics and its masterly balance of contrapuntal lines are hauntingly beautiful. You couldn't have wished for more. It remains one of my all time favorite recordings of any symphonic composition.

As I read in the news, on Friday, July 10th, 2009, after 54 years of marriage, he and his wife calmly left the world by their choice, assisted by the services of a dedicated Swiss clinic. The report struck me as a most honorable message of civility, and a most courageous affirmation of life, freedom and human dignity. This was an inspiring climax for a life spent in making sense of the world through arts, a life devoted to the love of a woman, and to the intimate art of music.

-- Payman Akhlaghi, Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
(Revised: February 18th, 2015)

Corrigendum: In my late teens, while still in Iran, I was introduced to a large array of the classical symphonic repertoire, by name and description, through a (partial) translation of an original book in English. It was a collection of essays and (radio?) commentaries, written by the American musicologist, Edward Downes (1911-2001), under the original title "Adventures in Symphonic Music" (1944). It would take me years before I could hear many of those pieces live or in recordings, but the impact of his vibrant, imaginative prose, and his love for the sheer beauty of this music would never leave me.

However, not until I had received his "Guide to Symphonic Music" (1976) on February 18th, 2015, would I realize that I had wrongly identified the author of that book as Sir Edward Downes (1924-2009), the famed British conductor, and the subject of this post. This gross misconception was boldly reflected in the original version of the post on July 15th, 2009.

As such, hereby, I wish to correct the error made in the original version of this short note. You may see for more biographical information on each respective figure. Thank you.

-- Payman Akhlaghi, February 18th, 2015, Los Angeles

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Aaron Copland: "A Lincoln Portrait"

A masterpiece of modern times, Lincoln Portrait was composed in 1942 by the American composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). It's well known for its genuine use of narrated text interacting with the orchestra, as well as its uplifting patriotic tone. The text was written by Copland himself, using quotations from Abraham Lincoln's writings and recorded speeches. Some eloquent voices have so far recited the work, including actors Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. The above clip, narrated by actress, Katharine Hepburn, begins a few minutes into the piece, after a most imaginative orchestral introduction.

The composition ends in a crescendo to Lincoln's timeless words, "...the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(*) Update! Since the publication of this note, the video featured in this post has been removed. Please don't be disappointed; find another link on YouTube, or even better, purchase a CD of the work. Just a few days ago, on July 2nd, 2010, I heard another wonderful version played on KUSC (91.5 FM), the classical music station of Los Angeles, also streaming on It was narrated by James Earl Jones, with Seatlte Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. In this particular case, the ethnic background of the narrator made the impact of the composition even more profound. (The veteran actor is of African American descent.)

Happy 4th of July 2010!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cold Veins of Pomegranates (Original Poem)

رگهای سرد انار
شعری از پیمان اخلاقی
برای قربانیان بی گناه خشونت های جاری در ایران

Cold Veins of Pomegranates
A Poem by Payman Akhlaghi
For the Innocent Lives,
Lost in the Ongoing Brutalities in Iran

رنگ انار
رنگ لباس عروسکها،
رنگ کفشهای دخترکان،
رنگ گونه های سرخ شدۀ زمستانی،
رنگ هلهلۀ عصرانۀ کودکانی بود
که برای هم گلولۀ برفی پرتاب می کردند،
و رنگ شبانۀ رؤیای خورشید بود،
آنگاه که خسته از بازی
همه آرام خفته بودند…‏

رنگ انار
رنگ سیرابیِ عطش،
رنگ زندگی، هوس،
رنگ آرزو،
رنگ غروب عشق بود…‏

رنگ انار
رنگ خشکیدۀ ترس در خیابانها است،
رنگ انتقام،
رنگ خشم،
رنگ کین توزی عفریت تعصب است.‏

رنگ انار
رنگ انتظار دخترکی است
که کنار جوی،
به نظارۀ آدمها ایستاده است،
و رنگ چشمان گرگی است
که از فراز پشت بام
نگاه حسرت
بر لبانش می دوزد
و گلوله
بر سینه اش.‏
رنگ انار
رنگ طغیان خون
از دهان دخترک،
و رنگ دَلمۀ مرگ
بر گونه های او است...‏

رنگ انار
رنگ نالۀ برّه هایی است
که به کشتارگاه گرد آمده اند
و فردا

پیمان اخلاقی
شنبه، بیستم ژوئن ٢٠٠٩‏
لس آنجلس
June 20th, 2009, Los Angeles
‎© Copyright: 2009, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.‎

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Introduction (6)

Part 6: Rimonim, Chests of Rubies

Ever since a child, I have been taken by the sheer beauty of ripe pomegranates (انار). That dark-red, translucent, juicy flesh, called the “aril”, which belies the hardness of the white seed inside, shines so brightly, like a polished piece of jewelry, and it fills me with joy and an ethereal pleasure. It’s a constant delight to graciously hold one in the light, marvel at its perfection of color and texture, enjoy its soft touch, feel a rich man for a brief moment — before passing it on from the eyes to the teeth. It could taste punishingly sour, deliciously sweet, or somewhere in between, and the white seed would invariably taste bitter. Yet, it’s the enduring memory of that fleeting beauty which makes the experience linger, long after the taste has faded away. Fortunately, there’s more left in the chest to behold…

Monday, April 13, 2009

Introduction (5)

Part 5: Pardess, a Global Nexus

In pardess, the past and the present, the East and the West, the Heavens and the Earth, ‎converge. Pardess reminds us constantly of the material origins of the idea of a Paradise; ‎of how the latter word and concept, in some ways common to virtually all cultures today, began life in the beautiful gardens of an ancient Persian Empire. In the process, by the mere use of this word, the Hebrew Bible has also made the memory of some rare good days in the Jewish Diaspora indelible from the pages of history.

Thus, for an Iranian-American-Jewish person, this single Hebrew word can find much significance not only as an imprint of many centuries of the Diaspora and the influence of other cultures, but also as an homage and gratitude toward man’s kindness, paid via beauty, elegance, grace and inspiration.

In one word, languages intersect, cultures overlap, memories unfold. In one word, we say to the world our history—our story.