Welcome to an extra episode of Flowmatic Blood Moon with bonus material in the form of an interview with Mansoor Hosseini, who created the music for the podcast. Since there’s not all that much information on Mansoor available online, and since he, like Shadi Bazeghi, was originally a refugee from Iran, I thought that it might be interesting to learn a little more about his background, and the way he approached creating the music for the project.
Mansoor Hosseini (Wikipedia)
Mansoor Hosseini (Composer’s site)
The Other Iran (Exhibition)
Shazia Khan (Photographer)
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04:02 Persian Culture
08:13 Movement, Dance, Kung Fu
10:33 Film Music
11:30 Theatrical Music, Themus Ensemble
13:03 Different Paths
15:00 The Other Iran
19:32 ”Frank Zappa”
21:46 Iran as Background
23:08 Musical Approach
28:20 Lockdown Circumstances
31:18 Freedom Within Constraints
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Interview with Mansoor Mani Hosseini
Rudiger Meyer: One of the things I’ve been very curious about is your background, like Shadi, coming from Iran, and as I understand it you’ve been living Sweden for many years and you’ve studied in Paris and Brussels and had a European education, as many composers have had, but from what I’ve gathered… you were also a refugee, like Shadi, from Iran, at a young age, a fairly young age?
Mansoor Hosseini: Yes, my family came to Sweden when I was 17, even before that we were sort of refugees because, well as a kid we, my family went to England, but then we went back to Iran, but there were so many problems there of course, with the regime, and we went to Dubai. I continued to study English there, English school. We couldn’t go back to Iran, so I lived in Dubai from when I was 12/13, and then at 17 we had to decide whether we would stay there or not, but we moved to Sweden, also as refugees. Ja, and I’ve been – then I became some years later a Swedish citizen, and have been living there since, although in between, to study music I was in Paris 7 years, I was in Brussels for almost 2 years
RM: You’ve had quite a thorough European composition background. There are all kinds of things I’m curious to ask about that, but to stick with the beginnings in Iran: Is that something that you feel is still very present in your life today, that background. Now of course you’re well established in Sweden and have had many years of a career…
MH: Well, more and more as you grow older also because you …well since I was small, as I explained, I left Iran, but when I ended up in Sweden and you start to study music and you wonder about the culture and your background, about the poetry there… so I became more and more curious and it was then actually, it was in Sweden that I started learning Persian. My language was not good at all, I even spoke, when I spoke to my parents I had a British accent, speaking Iranian, so that was very strange. So yes the more years passed the more curious I got learning, and knowing about the poets in Iran, the older poets especially, which I tried to use a few times in the piano and song pieces I wrote and similar projects.
RM: The recorder concerto you wrote a few years ago also had a very directly Persian theme… with the bird…
MH: Ja, I think, maybe I wasn’t intentionally trying to do that. Actually the voice of the singer was very much inspired by a very specific story in Japan, this war and these bombs and stuff like that. But I guess you’re right because a lot of things I’m doing have this nostalgic theme that sounds like a Persian melody.
RM: Shadi mentioned somewhere in an interview that for her the Persian language was very soft and poetic and round, that she experienced Danish as being a much more clear and hard language. And that surprised me because I always think of Danish as being incredibly soft and round, compared to German for example, which is much more defined. I don’t know the Persian language at all, but it surprised me that there could be something that was even softer and gentler than Danish, from my experience.
But once again going back to those beginnings. One thing is the language and the cultural aspects such as stories and myths. What about instruments? Because with the music you composed for the podcast one can clearly hear on the one hand the electronic sounds, all the modern sounds that we’re used to, and on the other hand there’s a reference to something that’s more traditional. Is that some kind of memory of the music that you perhaps grew up with, or is that again something that you’ve rediscovered?
MH: I think both. Because I sort of have memories, I grew up, I was born in the south of Iran. So by the Persian gulf where the music sounds 90% like African music, the rhythms, the 6/8 rhythms, a lot of percussion, a lot of flute, and maybe some effects and influences from Portugal indirectly, because the Portuguese came there 150 years ago, at the harbour working there, the ships bringing products… But the instruments, I have some memories of the instruments that I heard and then later on, as I mentioned before it’s the same story here, I was more and more curious about the instruments and I tried playing some of of the string instruments, some of the percussions. So it was both the memories that I had that made me curious after some years to try, and to use some of them, maybe live or just some recordings, and the things I learned later like the percussive string instrument called Santur, I learned about later so I tried that too…
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RM: Is there something specific you could tell us about how you approached the podcast project. Was the music something specifically intended for these poems or more a general thing… ?
MH: It is intended and made specifically for Shadi’s poems.
As you said, it’s about war, it’s very political. It’s quite direct, but in a poetic way. And it’s about trauma and tension and the effect of war, and I think what I took from that for the music is the tension and after-effect of any trauma, war, or anything, any negative indecent. But instead of doing too much, or doing anything dramatic with the music or imitating the words, I instead tried to make things calmer with the music and make it a little bit nostalgic, which is what we talked about before, through the slow flute sounds or the string sounds, because I didn’t think the moment of war, where it’s loud, it’s chaotic, it’s terrible – I didn’t think of that. I thought of after the war when the… smoke is going out. It’s calm but it’s still terrible. So those nostalgic feelings.
RM: That was also very much the way the I experienced it, especially now with the way that we have it set up now – there’s a long section at the end where not very much happens. For me that feels very dystopian. Some kind of aftermath: after the event where there’s not much left, there’s just this single note that keeps on pulsing and there are some small melodies and things and it’s quite desolate in its mood and I suppose there is, there’s definitely a sense of, a mood of loss and “what have we done” – the crazy ways in which governments have acted and also the sense of that we’re facing an environmental crisis and that the earth is paying the price for our insanities.
MH: Ja, I mean that part was actually what I also thought of, and it’s why I have a lot of repetitive, simple, sometimes percussive, or bells or something… you have that throughout the music and its like a time bomb ticking, you know, meaning now what’s going to come next? Is something more going to happen now? It’s calm, but you know there’s tension and that’s… you know, what’s going to happen to earth? To us? Or… it doesn’t have to be. Here in the poem it’s a big scale and it’s the big subject of war here or there, but it can be in a smaller scale in somebody’s life. I always try to make things in smaller… daily life things.
RM: I think that’s also something that comes across quite clearly in Shadi’s texts is that she always anchors these bigger picture reflections in very personal experiences, to do with the body, to do with very intimate direct personal experiences so that that that big picture always gets anchored in the here and now, and sometimes quite difficult personal things…
MH: Ja, I mean the subject of trauma and the body and all these things are in her poems which is very interesting, and it helped me find these sounds and put the music together.