The Choice between National and Classical Music

March 31, 2003
By: Ahmad-Reza Ahmadi

A martial music department was added to Dar-ol-Fonoun School in 1914 on the basis of a proposal from Gholam-Reza Minbashiyan (Salar Mo'azzez) and the approval of the former Culture Ministry. Later it became known as a music school with a four-year curriculum consisting of martial music along with the western classical music. In 1915, Nassrollhah-Khan Minbashiyan the oldest son of Salar Mo'azzez, who had studied higher courses of western classical music at Petrograd Music Conservatory, took on teaching violin and cello.

In 1918, the music school was separated from Dar-ol-Fonoun school. Ever since, it was operated under the supervision of the then Culture Ministry as an independent high school. This was the first independent music school in Iran, where western classical music was taught on the basis of a scientific method. Primary school graduates were qualified to be admitted to the music high school. The school curriculum was six years and the first year was considered a preparatory course.

A series of music lessons, which were translated into Persian from French by Salar Mo'azzez, consisted of introduction to musical instruments, harmony and orchestras. He himself used to teach the above topics. The science of harmony was translated from a book written by a music master from Paris music conservatory, Monsieur Ran ?? and the calligraphy of the book was worked out be Mohammad-Hassan Gharib known as Adib-e Kermani.

The general subjects taught at the school consisted of Persian, French, physics, chemistry, arithmetics, geometry, geography, Arabic grammar and poetry. The techniques of poetry and French were the only general subjects taught in the 5th and 6th grades, while the rest of the curriculum consisted of theories on music as well as learning to play music. The music subjects were taught in the following order: The theory of music in the first grade, introduction to harmony and various instruments in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades, introduction to orchestra in the 5th grade and finally introduction to musical compositions in 6th grade. The theory of music was taught from on the basis of a textbook based on Le Maire book, which was translated by Mozayanoddoleh. Salar Mo'azzez taught solfage and music writing as well as the wind instruments including flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and choir. Piano was taught by Nassr-ol-Soltan in various grades. Given that the high school students numbered 40, there was always a shortage of instructors and thus only a limited number of new students were admitted annually. Besides the general training, the students were required to master playing a string and a wind instrument as instruments of specialization in order to pass the final exams.

In 1921, when the new Iranian army was founded, the General Music Department was established simultaneously. Salar Mo'azzez was assigned the superintendent of the General Music Department and the music high school in the same year. He added the Iranian music to the school curriculum and started teaching it on a scientific basis. The music high school was administered by Salar Mo'azzez until 1928. Two groups of students majoring in martial and normal music graduated from the school under his superintendence.

Every music trainee was required to arrange a piece of marsh by the end of his studies and finally conduct its performance. Mahour from Aqa Hossein-Qoli's conventional classification of melodies was one of the pieces that had been arranged and written by Salar Mo'azzez had to be mastered and played by the trainees.

In 1928, state employees were banned from simultaneous employment in two state departments. Salar Mo'azzez, Nassr-ol-Soltan and other instructors of music high school, who were officers, had to give up their jobs at the Culture Ministry. Since the beginning of the 1928 school year, Ali-Naqi Vaziri was appointed the superintendent of the music school and it was renamed the state music school. After staying in Europe for six years, returning home in 1924, Vaziri founded a music high school. Given his skill in national music and playing tar (an Iranian string instrument) as well as his studies and survey of western music, he added the playing of tar and training on Iranian music to the curriculum of the state music school.

In 1930, culture minister, Yahya Qaragozlou (Etemad-ol-doleh), inspected the school and the melodies and songs written by Vaziri appealed to him. Then he assigned the students to instruct at several primary schools in Tehran. In fall 1928, the remaining military instructors still teaching at the state music school resigned. The martial music was left out from the school curriculum ever since. In 1932, in a visit to the school, the prime minister, Mehdi-Qoli Hedayat (Mokhber-ol-Saltaneh) lauded the progress achieved there. Then a credit was extended to the school to be spent on the required technical facilities and establishment of a library. The school was renamed Mousiqar at the proposal of the prime minister.

The school didn't last long under the new name and was re-titled in 1934. At the beginning of the academic year 1934-5, the deputy head of army music department and conductor of the municipality symphonic orchestra, Gholam-Hossein Minbashiyan, who had higher studies in western classical music, was appointed the superintendent of the music school by Reza Shah, while he continued working in his prior jobs.

As the first step, the 1934-5 academic year started while the previous curriculum was revised and national music was left out. In the next academic year, a new curriculum was drawn up for the music school by the high cultural council. According to the new program, a three-year primary curriculum was arranged, while the male and female trainees attended the same classes for the first time.

According to the new curriculum, which was effected in the 1935-6 academic year, along with the general subjects taught in the primary schools nationwide, reading musical notes, singing songs and playing musical instruments were added to the curriculum of the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. The high school subjects consisted of history of literature, mathematics and physics, geography, French, and psychology associated with education and training. The technical and specialized subjects included training on theoretical music, harmony, singing songs, music writing, the history of music composers, introduction to musical reforms, orchestras, choirs, polyphony and the playing of the following instruments: violin, cello, flute and piano.

Minbashiyan, who also performed as the conductor of the Municipality Orchestra, employed some of the music trainees in the orchestra. The first such orchestra premiered its performance at Nekouie Hall in Baharestan Square on May 4, 1935 at the presence of prime minister, Zoka-ol-Molk Foroughi, and a number of ministers, MPs and diplomats from foreign embassies in Tehran. The other concert was performed by the orchestra in the auditorium of Tehran University Faculty of Literature on March 5, 1936 to commemorate the renowned Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. The performance consisted of pieces from Tchaikovski and other prominent Russian composers, who had written music on the basis of Pushkin's works. It was attended by the cabinet members, MPs, the press managers and some representatives of foreign embassies in Tehran. Jamshid Jahangir was one of the trainees who played a piece from Tchaikovski with violin and raised the applause of the audience. The concert also included a part of the opera based on Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades". By mid-spring 1938, the music department was established in the Culture Ministry and Minbashiyan was assigned the superintendent of the music school which was renamed as the music high school, where training was provided on the following instruments: violin, cello, contrabass, piano, harp, flute, oboe, trumpet, clarinet, trombone as well as singing, composition and orchestra conduction. An eight-year curriculum was also offered for martial music, consisting of a six-year high school and two years of higher training.

Once the higher course was added, Minbashiyan employed 10 Czech music instructors and signed a three-year contract with them. They started instructing the trainees on playing harp, fagot, trombone and oboe since the academic year 1939-1940. The Czech music masters and trainees formed a few orchestras, which was conducted by Minbashiyan. Live performances of the orchestras were constantly broadcast from Radio Tehran ever since it was inaugurated. Until 1941, around 200 trainees underwent training in the various levels of the music school, including the primary, intermediary and higher grades. In addition to the Czech instructors, the following music masters also used to instruct the trainees: Taniya Kharatiyan, Michele Khotsiev, Petrolegi Moqaddam, Arakliyan, Safariyan, Fereidoun Farzaneh and Parviz Mahmoud.

The events of August 25, 1941 resulted in major changes in the national social and cultural situation. The culture minister of the cabinet of Prime Minister Mohammad-Ali Foroughi dismissed Gholam-Hossein Minbashiyan from his posts as the Head of Music Department and the Superintendent of the music school and replaced him by Ali-Naqi Vaziri. The second term of Vaziri's superintendence was one of the toughest in the course of the history of the music school.

One of the major changes that took place during Vaziri's second term of superintendence was the expiry of the Czech instructors contract in mid-fall 1941 and their replacement by Iranian music masters who started giving training on Iranian traditional music and tar. Once the Czech music masters left Iran there was no one to teach the specialized courses. This resulted in the students' strike and protest. Meanwhile, the music trainees found the training on Iranian traditional music contradictory to that of the western type of music.

Their protests were soon reported to the high cultural council, which certified Vaziri's proposed curriculum. According to Articles 8 and 20 of the school's new letter of association, which was approved in October 1942, the trainees were required to be trained both on Iranian and world music as well as playing tar in order to get acquainted with the characteristics of Iranian music. The trainees had to meet all these qualifications to graduate. Vaziri continued working as the head of music department and superintendent of music school until 1946.

In October 1946, Vaziri was replaced with Parviz Mahmoud, who had completed his higher education in Brussels, Belgium. Meanwhile, Roubik Gregoriyan substituted Ruhollah Khaleqi as the deputy head of the music department and music school. Once the Fine Arts Department was established in 1947 and its letter of association was approved, the music high school went under its supervision.

Mahmoud submitted a proposal to the Fine Arts Department on eliminating Iranian music from the curriculum of the music high school. In the meeting held by the high cultural council, the school's letter of association and curriculum were voted to be revised and a commission consisting of the Managing Director of Fine Arts Department Dr. Farahmandi, Gholam-Hossein Minbashiyan, Badi-ol-Zaman Forouzanfar, Alinaqi Vaziri and Parviz Mahmoud was assigned to work on it.

Vaziri believed that in order to preserve and promote Iranian music, the curriculum of the music school should not only be based on Iranian music and his own style, but should also include training on western music. Parviz Mahmoud presumed that given the Iranian music was just a local version which was short of any methods, written techniques and theories, it cannot be taken as the foundation of the training at the music high school. He was of the idea that trainings based on scientific methods and international books on the theory of music, will provide the trainees with the know-how and techniques which will enable them to rearrange the Iranian melodies such that they will not only feature their Iranian origin, but will appeal to other nations as well.

After long discussions on the issue, in 1948, the high cultural council approved to base the curriculum of the music high school merely on classical music. Higher studies were added to the music high school concurrent to the elimination of Iranian music from its curriculum.

A six-year curriculum consisting of a two-year primary and four-year high school was declared for higher studies. Training on following subjects was provided at the music school: theory of music, introduction to musical instruments, general harmony, history of western music, aesthetics, Persian literature, English, Acoustics and orchestra.

The school curriculum became effective in 1971, when the new education system became operational nationwide. In the academic year 1971-2, the music school consisted of following three levels: 1) A three-year intermediary level consisting of all the normal subjects based on the curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and Training along with three musical subjects of the music theory, and musical instruments.

2) A four-year high school level comprising of the following general subjects: Persian literature, foreign language, the white revolution based on the curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and Training as well as musical subjects: theory of music, harmony, history of music, acoustics, introduction to instruments, musical forms, choir and practical courses: orchestra, piano (compulsory), accompaniment, homophony and an instrument of choice.

3) A four-year graduate school consisting of the following general subjects: Persian literature, foreign language, theoretical subjects of counterpoint, introduction to instruments, harmony, history of music, musical form, acoustics, theory of Iranian music, composition and practical subjects: piano (compulsory), orchestration, polyphony and instrument of choice or singing. Music schools operating since 1978 The Music High School and the National Music School were closed in 1980. The two schools integrated into one another and opened in 1984 as the "Boys Revolutionary Music and Singing School" and "Girls Revolutionary Music and Singing School". The schools were based on the above-mentioned curriculum, which was drawn up by Hossein Alizadeh, Kambiz Roshanravan, Parviz Mansouri, Samin Baghchehban, Hossein Dehlavi, Farhad Fakhreddini, and Mostafa Kamal Pour-Torab. It consisted of 12 specialized and nine general subjects and it became operational in the boys and girls music school between 1984-1996.

The curriculum, however, changed in 1997 according to the new nationwide educational system. The new curriculum was designed by Kamal, Pour-Torab, Mehrbanou Tofiq and Sharif Latifi and it was reduced to three years. Every academic year was divided into two terms, while training was provided on a selection of Iranian instruments consisting of tar, dulcimer, qanoun, lute, kamancheh and the following global ones: violin, cello, piano, flute, oboe, saxophone, trombone and clarinet.

Since the beginning of 2000-2001 academic year a new curriculum went into effect at the boys and girls music schools. It was drawn up by a musician, music researcher and former superintendent of the National Music School, Hossein Dehlavi. Meanwhile, Kambiz Roshan-Rawan, Fereiydoun Nasseri and the superintendent of Tehran boys' music school, Alimohammad Rashidi cooperated with Dehlavi as advisors. According to the new curriculum, chemistry and three units of mathematics were eliminated.

The new curriculum was classified into the Iranian and global instruments as well as basics of music writing. Meanwhile, the following musical subjects were added: the theory and structure of Iranian music, history of world music, a second instrument of option, introduction to Iranian and world instruments (separately), homophony of Iranian instruments and songs and structure of the global music. In 2000-2001 academic year, a new option known as basics of music writing was added to the curriculum. Musical subjects are counted as two units.

Once a new program was approved at the 350th meeting of the high planning council of the Ministry of Education and Training in early fall 1997, it opened a promising prospect to graduates of music school. The new scheme was a continued scientific-pragmatic associate course on Iranian and world instruments offered to music trainees.

Only graduates of the girls and boys music schools (both of the old and new system), which are affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Islamic Propagation Organization, are admitted to scientific pragmatic music faculties, once they pass the entrance tests. Other applicants should at least meet the required know-how and skills of the trainees of music schools in order to apply for such a course.

Graduates of music schools should pass four exams in order to be admitted to Tehran University Music Faculty and Karaj Art Faculty. Given that the certificate of the music school is not acceptable to the following majors: human sciences, mathematics and physics, experimental sciences and art, graduates of music school should first pick up one of the four majors and take the related test. For instance, to be admitted to the pre-university art course, tests on four basic subjects of plastic arts, drawing, Iranian and world art history should be taken. Once they pass the tests, the applicants should study art at pre-university level for one academic year, which consists of 15 general subjects not related to music at all. The final tests of the pre-university course is the second exam to be taken. Once the applicants pass it, they are qualified to apply for university entrance tests, which is the third one. Eventually, once they pass the general university entrance tests, the applicants are required to take the fourth one, the musical tests offered by Tehran University Music Faculty or Karaj Music Faculty.

Having passed the four tests, the applicants are admitted to one of the two music faculties and start their higher studies along with the other admitted classmates, who are high school graduates of different majors. According to Roshan-Ravan, given the instructors are faced with students of different backgrounds they fail to achieve the desired result, despite their high attempt. There are a group of students who have to start music from scratch without any prior background or else with a little knowledge on it. The other group are somewhat acquainted with music, while some might have graduated from various music schools. Given that freshmen are of different know-how, which group should be given priority in teaching? If the lessons are taught within the knowledge of the graduates from music school, they will not be comprehensible to others. That's why the instructors have to base their teaching on a lower level to give the novices a chance to understand something. This accounts for low spirits and depression even among the instructors, who come to notice that after all under the conditions, nothing more can be achieved. Thus a lot of instructors might conclude that no musicians are expected to graduate from music faculties. As a matter of fact, no musicians are to be trained under the current inappropriate conditions, unless the students are of high ingenuity and get extra out-of-university training to develop their potentials. No one is given the chance to progress under the current circumstances dominating the universities.

Out of seven superintendents of girls music school, who have taken office after 1978, only two were music graduates, Azarnoush Sadr-Salek, a graduate from the former National Music School and Maliheh Sa'idi, a graduate from National Music School and the music department of Tehran University Fines Arts Faculty.

The library of Tehran Girls National Music School was founded in 1999 by the public funds and under the sponsorship of the art department of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Following are some of the individuals who provided financial aid to the library: Afsaneh Karbasizadeh, Dr. Javad Karbasizadeh, Bahman Farmanara, Ahmad-Reza Ahmadi, etc.

Protests were posed on the new title of "Revolutionary Music and Singing School" by some musicians who believed song to be part of music. According to them, this is analogous to naming the faculty of literature as the faculty of lyrics or elegies.

The new educational system degraded the music schools, since the four-year high school was reduced to three years. Moreover, the general subjects added to the curriculum overshadowed the musical subjects. They included mathematics in four terms at the same level intended for math majors, Arabic comparable equivalent to that studied by majors of human sciences, such irrelevant subjects as chemistry, economics, sociology and several units of detailed history. The strange thing about the curriculum was that the number of music units studied at high school first grade was less than those of the intermediary school third grade. For instance, music trainees used to study the three subjects of instruments and music theory in the three-year intermediary school. Based on the new educational system, music trainees were only taught two music courses in high school first grade.

Nevertheless, the Hossein Dehlavi's new proposed curriculum, which became operational in the academic year 2000-2001 opened up a promising prospect for both the music trainees and instructors. In the new curriculum, all the unnecessary general subjects have been omitted and for the first time in the history of the music schools, music writing is being taught since the high school first grade.

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