As the semester comes to a close, so does internationally-renown Iranian musician Hooshyar Khayam's tenure as the Carleton Music Artist-in-Residence for 2022-2023.
Artist residencies provide guest artists with a period of reflection, research, collaboration, presentation and/or production at a host institution.
A celebrated composer, pianist, conductor and producer, Khayam is not new to our university, having been appointed a Visiting Scholar to the Music program in 2021.
He is a multitalented musician who works in contemporary classical, jazz, fusion and world music styles and genres. He also composes scores for film, animation and theater.
After earning a Master of Arts and Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition at the University of Cincinnati, Khayam embarked on a series of tours studying the music and culture of his native Iran and its neighboring countries.
He's since returned to North America to pursue a second doctoral degree, this time focusing on orchestral conducting, at the Université de Montréal.
"Hooshyar is a musician of incredible breadth and depth. Carleton's Music program is proudly one of the most diverse and inclusive in the country and Dr. Khayam's musical practice — itself informed by diverse elements — perfectly maps onto our student's interests and creative practices, and this is evident in his teaching and his Intercultural Ensemble course."Instructor John Higney, Supervisor of Performance Studies, Ensembles and Masterclasses in the School for Studies in Art and Culture
"Hooshyar is a musician of incredible breadth and depth. Carleton's Music program is proudly one of the most diverse and inclusive in the country and Dr. Khayam's musical practice — itself informed by diverse elements — perfectly maps onto our student's interests and creative practices, and this is evident in his teaching and his Intercultural Ensemble course."
We spoke to Khayam about his ongoing studies in music, experiences teaching at Carleton and exciting upcoming performances at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre (CDCC).
What drew you to Montreal, or Canada more broadly, for your second doctorate?
That is a very good question! It is a question that many interdisciplinary musicians — those who are, like me, working in-between the worlds of the East and the West, as well as between the various musical disciplines of composition, performance and improvisation — often deal with!
Music is, first and foremost, a social interaction, a form of communication and a language to transcend 'meaning' in its most abstract sense. I strongly believe that music is an all-in-one concept; that even though it might look different, there is no actual separation between its various forms and shapes. Performance, interpretation, composition or direction — they are all a part of same thing we call 'music'.
When I finished my first doctorate back in 2005, I was still very young and as green as any twenty-odd-year-old can be! Studying in Cincinnati had been a once-in-a-lifetime amazing opportunity to fully immerse myself in the world of Western art music. However, once I was done, I felt the need to go back to my Eastern roots.
So, I started a 15-year period of traveling where I studied, performed and made music with local musicians in faraway places. I studied the music of Georgia, Armenia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and many folk regions of Iran including Baluchistan and those of the Turkmens and Kurds. I traveled to the border of the ocean on the Persian Gulf, where I discovered the amazing musical ceremonies and healing traditions of the Afro-Iranians. My journey even took me from the musical traditions of Eastern Europe — including Yiddish songs, Romani music and Bulgarian vocal arts — all the way to the contemporary music and performing arts of Japan.
After a decade and a half of this, I once again felt the need for change — but this time to revisit Western forms of art and music, and to re-examine them through the new lens of understanding I'd gained from my travels. For that, I could not think of anything that would suit me better than an in-depth study of the symphonic literature of Western music — hence, my decision to pursue orchestral conducting!
As Carleton Music's Artist-in-Residence, you've been teaching a course called "MUSI 4200: Intercultural Ensemble Theory and Practice". What has your experience been working with students?
It's been a fascinating experience! Above all places, Carleton Music is unique in bringing many different facets of our diverse musical world into one lively place, and the effect of this approach is apparent in any program (or musical ensemble, in our case) relating to intercultural studies.
We have a group of young talented performing musicians and artists who are trained not only in Western classical music, but also in other musical languages, from modal jazz to African rhythms. In this ensemble, we have everything from new renditions on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to vocal arrangements of a Somalian tune or belwa, with the compositions and improvisations generated from the students' work in group settings ranging from simple duets to the entire ensemble performing together.
In January, you gave a Masterclass Series talk at the Kailash Mital Theatre on "Orient and Occident: A Discussion on Music in Our Time and its Colliding Forces." What other projects or initiatives were you involved in as the Artist-in-Residence for this academic year?
As a part of the residency, I have engaged myself in various performances, including an upcoming solo piano recital on March 27 at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre where I will perform a selection of Preludes and Fugues by J. S. Bach, interspersed with my own old and recent compositions and improvisations inspired by Eastern and Western musical roots. The concert also features Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a rising artist and internationally performing cellist, composer and improviser. I am looking forward to playing music with him and to the audience interested in such cross-cultural musical events.
A week after, on April 3, the Intercultural Ensemble will be performing their compositions at the CDCC, supervised by me and featuring a mixed program of works from the student musicians in the ensemble.
Both the March 27 (Coming Home: The Music of J.S. Bach and Hooshyar Khayam) and April 3 (Intercultural Music Ensemble Concert) events take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre (355 Cooper Street) in downtown Ottawa and are open to the public and free to attend. To learn more, visit carleton.ca/music/events.
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