When you listen to the Iranian traditional music, you hear lines of classical poets such as Rumi رومیHāfez حافظ, and Omar Khayyām عمرخیام. Persian poetry is a major inspiration for both traditional music موسیقی سنتی ایرانی and arts and crafts.

The beautiful and accurate rhythmic structure of Persian poetry is ideal for musicians to base their music upon. In fact, it’s almost as if music was already hidden in these poems and musicians would only take that inherent quality out, and give life to it!

Which of the two came first in Iran, poetry or music?  
Persian language is a musical language on its own, holding a perfect ground for poetry. It is obvious that musicians such as Shajarian and Parisa would take advantage of this huge poetic resource. T
herefore, the influence of Persian Poetry on Iranian music and art is quite undeniable.

Persian Classical Poetry as an Inspiration to Traditional Music

The beauty of Persian poetry inspires musicians to an almost unavoidable path: that of creating music. Plus, the already melodic structure of poems helps vocalists in improvising together with the musicians.

Singers use the rhythmic features in the verses to create music. Lines or phrases can be extended, repeated, or amplified with vocal ornaments. 

An expert vocalist should be able to interpret poems and know the metrical aspects of poems as well.  For example, “Parisa” پریسا, one of the foremost female Iranian vocalists, often uses lines of Rumi’s ghazals and Masnavi for her performances. ِYou can readily see the influence of Persian Poetry on Iranian music. 

Spirituality in Persian Traditional Music

Persian traditional music enjoys an overwhelming spiritual beauty and gives a kind of “food for the soul”. Lines of poems often transport you to an otherworldly level.  

Spirituality comes as a result of a combination between the metaphors used in the poetry, and an intricate Persian music modal systemIn Rumi’s poems in particular, traditional love-poems combined with music, turn into a mystical and almost esoteric experience

In Persian tradition, music is not only for pleasure, but has a transformative purpose. Sound is meant to effect a change in the listener’s consciousness, to bring them into a spiritual state called ‘haal’ حال.

Persian Music Scale System: Dastgah, ‘Saz’ ساز, and ‘Avaz’ آواز

“Dastgah” دستگاه is the name for the Persian music modal (scale) system. The vocal section of a mode is called ‘Avaz’ آواز, and the instrumental section is called ‘Saz’ ساز.

Improvisation:

In classical (traditional) Persian music, the improvisation between the two sections of Saz and Avaz is quite common. The exchange between the singer and instrumentalist are among the most engaging moments of a performance. At least one melodic instrument must improvise a response (javab جواب) to each of the singer’s lines.

 

Influence of Poetry on Persian Arts and Crafts

Persian poetry not only cross-pollinates with traditional music, but with other arts and crafts. Many ancient Iranian stories and poems of Ferdowsi, Sa’adi, and Hafez were illustrated in fine miniatures by great artists of this period.

Please check out the series of articles on Persian, A Language for Poetry to read more about the importance of poetry, in particular حافظ Hafez’s poems, in Iranian culture and their lives