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AMIN SHARIFI

Composer | Sound Artist

Artistic Director at Petrichor Records

Ideas: Welcome

IMAGINATIVE MUSIC

A Kaleidoscopic Experience

"Growth" has always been one of my artistic core values, both in my technical skills in composition and finding new horizons in the aesthetics of my music. My recent compositions have four primary characteristics: Persian Philosophy, current socio-political issues, especially in the Middle East, the visual aspect of sound, and software development.

My research interests include Persian philosophy, anarchism in music, and mathematic structures and patterns found in nature. I am fascinated by light reflections/refractions, natural textures, birds flocking patterns, fractals, and scientific and mathematical patterns and formulas. The latter is born directly from my background in programming and computer science. I have developed several programs and sophisticated tools for composers to use. Additionally, I curate multimedia and multidisciplinary projects with visual artists. I have also designed different graphic notation systems used in my recent pieces. My graphical notation has been exhibited at various art fairs, including "Asia Now" at the Paris Art Fair.

Ideas: Text

Salt Flat Portals [2022]

for generative visuals, Afrofuturist actors, footage from Great Salt Lake, flute, string quartet, and electronics.

Video: Alisha Wormsley

Flute: Kelariz Keshavarz

JACK Quartet

Ideas: Video

WOMAN, LIFE, FREEDOM

My works have generally been based on abstract ideas and structures inspired by textures, shapes, lines, and patterns naturally formed in my surroundings. However, more recently, my works specially sound installation projects tend to relate to my reflections on current social-political issues in my home country, Iran, namely the recent magnificent and inspiring “Women, Life, Freedom” movement and the brutality of the regime in oppressing the protesters, arresting and executing them for demanding their rights and freedom.

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#EYESONIRAN

#EyesonIran is a response in solidarity with the courageous Iranians who are risking their lives to express their demand for human rights and a free Iran. Artists and activists throughout the diaspora and their allies are holding a shared vision to ensure international audiences and institutions remain awake in their eyes and hearts to this movement.

Ideas: What I Do

COMPOSER-LISTENER GAP

When I studied New Complexity, I was inspired by the music and ideas of the English composer Brian Ferneyhough. I realized that his music had been widely misunderstood even by progressive composers. American theorist Joseph Strauss has argued that since Schoenberg's music, there have been many reasons for a widening of the gap between the non-musician audience and the pioneer composers who are trying to touch the extremes. I believe one of these reasons is found in the visual aspect of music, whether in the form of instructions for performers or a visual realization of music for the audience to follow and understand. Ferneyhough admits that he has struggled with this visual aspect, seeking to incorporate such instructions or audience realizations without compromising the complexity and precision degree necessary to realize the composer's idea. For my own part, I have been preoccupied with solving the issues arising from Ferneyhough’s notation system and performance practice.

Ideas: Text

Maximum Insufficiently Identical Outlines [2019] for string quartet

Mivos Quartet

Click here to see the full score and recording.

There is always a minimum level of difference that allows humans to recognize and differentiate two objects or concepts. Beyond that point, differences are not distinguishable. The immediate moment of recognition, finding the minimum different details, is the basic concept of this piece. In other words, the outline and the macro structure of the musical materials are near-identical, but the level of diffierence is insufficient for the listener to hear the similarities, even in those sections where all instruments perform the exact same material. Due to the nature of my notational design and the approximation in the performance details, even the same musical material with the "maximum identical outlines" proves to be "insufficient" for listeners to hear the perfect similarity.

Ideas: Video

INTERPRETER-CREATOR

I want to explore further the issues within the relationship between the performer, the interpreter, and the creator. The discussion starts with the traceability of new notation systems and the blurry boundary of a playable or unplayable musical element. I am working on a series of pieces to be released as a score-reading/album project, in which the performance score consists of more than a recipe or a list of instructions. My notations have an independent visual aspect, which is why they have been shown in various art exhibitions in the US and Europe.

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THE VISUAL ASPECT

The score can have an independent function as a piece of visual art, before or even without being performed. It also has a traceable surface, readable with no deep knowledge of music—a surface that was abruptly removed in much modernist and postmodern music since the advent of dodecaphonic music as a replacement for the melody in Romantic music.

Ideas: What I Do

Minimum Different Enough Details [2018] for two violins

JACK Quartet

Click here to see the full score and recording.

Ideas: Video
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SEARCH FOR A NEW LANGUAGE

This project took a significant step forward last year with my string quartet Maximum Insufficiently Identical Outlines (2019), where the notation itself functioned as a newly invented language, easily readable and learnable, that, due to its newness and lack of trials-and-errors, contains limited words. This new language can be tailored differently for each composition, as can be seen in the evolution of this system in my Mise-en-scene (2018), Mise-en-synthesis (2019), and Aposynthesy (2019).

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SONIC OUTPUT

I am looking for a new language with which composers can write poems that are not understandable or translatable using conventional systems (languages). Its performance practice would be very much under the composer's control and one could easily increase or decrease the level of sophistication. Ultimately, I seek a notational system that does not rely on sonic output and has underlying meaning even without musical performance as a purely visual and imaginative musical score.

Ideas: What I Do

SPECTRA

As a composer with a computer science and programming background, I have been developing computer software to analyze audio files and categorize their harmonic spectra by their types or other parameters. It can also analyze to the millisecond the exact timing value of each. I am developing it to be a comprehensive spectral analyzer tool for composers. I also have been using some of the program's output as the source material for my recent compositions Koocheh Baghi for Hypercube Quartet and Aposynthesy for the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Ideas: Text

Veni, Vidi, Amavi [2018] for wind orchestra

Indiana Philharmonic

Click here to see the full score and recording.

Ideas: Video

Koocheh Baghi [2018]

for tenor saxophone, guitar, piano, and vibraphone
Hypercube Quartet

Click here to see the full score and recording.

To begin the compositional process of Koocheh Baghi, I recorded myself improvising on Tar (a Persian plucked instrument), based on a Persian music mode named "Koocheh Baghi" (”alley garden”). Then I fed my recording into a piece of software I designed myself using Python programming language, which analyzes an audio file and categorizes the harmonic spectra into four categories: high unheard partials, quarter-tone fundamentals (since the Persian mode is tuned in a quarter-tone system), unheard undertones, and noise/ambiance. The software also gave me the exact timing value of each spectrum, in durations as short as a nanosecond. I used these materials as the primary source of this composition. No time signature or tempo changes are needed because these are embedded in the rhythms, which include many tied rhythmic figures as a characteristic feature of Koocheh Baghi. The piece also features a pointillist texture with complex contrapuntal motion.

Ideas: Video

DECOMPOSITION

Aposynthesy (“Decomposition”) is based on the spectral analysis of the recording of the piece Booy-e-Baran (“Smell of the Rain”) by Iranian composer Parviz Meshkatian (1955-2009). Booy-e-Baran is a composition in the Persian mode Nava and in the form of Tasnif (vocal and instrumental dialogue, the Persian equivalent of the ballad) on the Rumi’s poem “O Yusef.” It was recorded by the Tehran Symphonic Orchestra in 1985 and has been one of the most inspiring pieces of traditional Persian music in my life.


Aposynthesy, my tribute to this piece and in memoriam Parviz Meshkatian, assigns individual and equal values to every frequency in the original recording, each series of frequencies quantized to the nearest pitch. I have maintained the timing of frequencies with quantizing milliseconds to the nearest 32nd rhythm, while stretching and squeezing the material continuously, thus achieving a distorted view of the original piece as it passes through several layers of filters and processes.

Ideas: Text

Aposynthesy [2019] for chamber orchestra

Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra

Click here to see the full score and recording.

Ideas: Video

CUBISM IN MUSIC

With the help of my program, a new compositional direction began in 2018 with the piece I wrote for the JACK Quartet. Starting with that piece, Mise-en-scène, I designed a new notation system based on the morphology theory of music, wherein all the musical elements are decomposed, and the composer has complete control over every individual aspect of music that a performer could think of independently.


I also designed a new rhythm staff utilizing simultaneous irrational tempos (I can relate the concurrency of irrational tempos with the idea of cubism in music) instead of confusing partial tuplets. Both the morphologist approach and the rhythmic design of my new notational system give composers an extreme level of precision and offer new horizons with which to experiment. I believe it could be a new notational language with which composers can access more details and have the facility to use new musical dimensions.

Ideas: Text

Mise-en-scène [2019] for string quartet

JACK Quartet

Click here to see the full score and audio.

Ideas: Video

DISTORTED LANDSCAPES

Distorted Landscapes (for bass flute, electronics, and visual media) is about the human destruction of nature and the threat of industrialization to the environment. Distorted Landscapes is an abstract story of the natural wonders in Utah, depicting the way in which they have been gradually ruined over the past one hundred years. These images of Utah’s landscapes were taken between 1905 and 1920. During that period, the states' natural landscapes had been barely touched by humans, making these images symbols of the untouched nature of Utah in the early 1900s. The photographs, over one hundred years old, have low resolution and are somewhat distorted due not only to their age but also because of the comparatively primitive photographic technology of the early 20th century. The generative visuals overlaid on the photographs, the visual media component of this piece, symbolically refer to the increasingly ruined nature of Utah’s natural environment, distorted because of humans’ destructive and excessive use of natural resources.

Ideas: Text

Distorted Landscapes [2022]

for bass flute, electronics, and visual media

Flute: Kelariz Keshavarz

Ideas: Video
Ideas: Text

The piece consists of three episodes:

1- View of the Forest (Part I)
In the first part, I used an image of a mountain forest in Utah taken around 1913. Generative straight lines drawn on the photo add a digital sense of distortion metaphorically equivalent to the destruction of forests over the past decades.

 
2- View of the River (Part II)
In the second part, I used images from rivers in Utah that held water a century ago, but are now completely dried up due to the climate crisis caused by global warming and humans’ careless and excessive use of natural resources. Generative shadow waves mimic the streams and waves of rivers that do not exist today. This part symbolically emphasizes the substantial negative effect of climate change on the environment we live in.


3- Distorted Views (Part III)

In the final part, the flute music heard in the previous two sections turns into an electronic variation added to loud continuous noises resembling bulldozers and trucks getting ready to exploit Utah’s natural resources. In this part, the generative visuals become gradually more complex and noisier, highlighting the increasing destruction of the environment. At the beginning of this part, a black stain on a white background grows based on the Mandelbrot fractal formula, conquering the screen (nature) like a cancerous tumor.

Ideas: Pro Gallery
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