(2010) Reza Vali

Project Director Reza Vali, with Eric Barndollar, developed a computer-driven keyboard instrument that produces the sounds of Persian traditional and folk instruments using the Pythagorean tuning system of Persian and Middle Eastern music. Individual instruments in a digital Western European sound library have been manually re-tuned according to the interval ratios of the Persian modes and software that was developed to automate this process. Future plans include bringing masters of Persian traditional instruments to record samples of the sounds of their instruments for a new sound library, developing accompaniment software, and experimenting with new types of keyboard instruments (such as ergonomic keyboards) and foot pedals, to control the Arghonoon instrument in place of the present style of European keyboard.

Arghonoon Project by Reza Vali (2010) [2 of 3] from STUDIO for Creative Inquiry on Vimeo.

The main objective of the Arghonoon Project was to develop a computer-driven keyboard instrument. The Arghonoon consist of two superimposed keyboards that are connected to a series of foot pedals and a controller computer. The two keyboards are able to produce up to 24 microtones per octave. The pedals are used to trigger numerous ornaments, controlled by software. The accompaniment software will control rhythmic and polyphonic sequences, interacting with the performer at the keyboards. In addition, the computer has a large library of sounds that can be selected.

In the book The Complete Treatises of Melodies (Jameh-Al-Alhan), the 15th century Persian music theorist Abdolghader Maraghi describes an organ-like keyboard instrument called Arghonoon, which is the Perso-Arabic transliteration of the Latin word organum. One can surmise that some type of keyboard instrument may have existed in the Persian music of the medieval period; but at the present time, keyboard instruments are not used in traditional Persian music.

The European keyboard instruments are tuned in the Equal Temperament system, which is incompatible with the Pythagorean tuning system of Persian music. However, thanks to computer technology, the problems of tuning systems can be solved, allowing the possibility for keyboard instruments to become part of traditional music of the Middle East—Persian music in particular.

This project was developed with the help of the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and a grant from the Faculty Development Fund.

Press about the Arghonoon
1. Symphony Magazine – Beyond the Melting Pot – 2012 (as PDF)