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|An American Lady Goes to Tehran
|Rowan Storm is a musician who took a 3-month trip to Iran in 2006. Storm's devotion
to the classical music of Persia comes from her strong connection with the Eastern
music tradition experienced in Iran most recently, but first in her hometown of Los
Angeles 35 years ago.
Storm's early years were no different from many kids growing up in the Palisades.
She attended local schools--St. Matthew's and Palisades High School, but her path
became clearer through experience and circumstance.
'I was at a concert of classical Persian music in Hollywood around 1967-8, which was
a spiritual epiphany. I thought, 'this is it, completely.''
Soon after, Storm met some others who were playing the music, more accurately
called Radif, and began to play and deepen her knowledge of the ancient tradition.
Radif, and in many ways all Persian artwork, springs from and works toward the
reunification of man with God. It is based on the Sufi belief that music reflects the
first words of God, which elicited such ecstasy when Adam first heard them. And that
the musical system was meant to allow the recreation of the music of the heavenly
orbs by mankind. In other words, it is spiritual music.
'Radif is the name of the repertoire of classical Persian music,' Storm says. 'It is a
collection of nonrhythmic musical pieces that were compiled around 100 years ago
from oral tradition. It is a memorized form and internalized. No notation, no sheet
music. There is a lot of improvisation; the players may respond to the audience or to
the time of day.'
The music is delivered typically by a small ensemble of players and a vocalist. The
instruments often include a tonbak, or hand drum; santur, which is an ancestor of
the hammer dulcimer, the daf, or frame drum and the tar, the most widely used
plucked instrument in Iran today that resembles a fretted lute with six strings.
During her college years, Storm was introduced to Musical Missions of Peace
founder Cameron Power, who was the first musician to open the door for her,
helping her out of her head to participate with others in the pursuit of--and
enthrallment with--Middle Eastern music.
In 1993, she closed her architecture/builder business in New York City and moved to
Greece to study the music and 'understand the cultural connection between the
East and the West.'
She learned to play and teach the drums of the goblet family, which includes the
Turkish dumbek, or tonbak in Persian. She was introduced to the master of great
Persian classical music, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, with whom she studied and
performed with for 5 1/2 years.
Certainly the capstone of her understanding and appreciation of the music came
about with her visit to Iran upon the invitation of the Iranian government for three
months in the spring of 2006. 'Because I can communicate in Zabane Farsi (Persian
language), I enjoyed the freedom to speak to the people and learn more about their
beliefs, their poetry and culture,' she says. 'I went to Kurdistan, which is
off-the-radar-area of Iran and stayed with a woman who is head of the dervish order
for two weeks.
'The thing I want Americans to know about is the amazing hospitality in Iran, where
the guest is primary even if the host has nothing. I also want all of us to know that
poetry is such a deep part of Persian culture, even among the illiterate. Rumi is
probably the most widely recognized of the six major Persian poets. The classical
Persian music is based on that poetry.' (Palisadian-Post)
To read her story, please visit the link below: