Off the Beaten Taqsim: Middle Eastern Musical Encounters in the Urban UK

A half-day conference on Middle Eastern music

The conference focuses on the work of practitioners in the Middle Eastern music scene in the urban UK.  The event explores the lived, eclectic experience of composers and performers in London and elsewhere. We will strive to reveal what real-time, contemporary UK practitioners are doing in the wide-ranging spectrum of the Middle Eastern music scene, highlighting the impact of the urban environment on musical output. The day will consist of a wide-ranging variety of presentations, from oud performance to a post-tonal-maqam blend. Artists will perform and talk about their work in a relatively relaxed setting, with plenty of time for questions and discussion.

Seth Ayyaz

Seth Ayyaz lives in London and is composer-performer spanning live electronics, free improvisation, noise, electroacoustics and Arabic music. Specialising in live electronics and machine-listening, Ayyaz builds custom software/hardware ecologies for specific performances. Drawing on his background in neurosciences, his work is concerned with embodied perception and how this resonates across psychological and social spaces.

Shaun David Crowdus

Shaun David Crowdus is a composer and educator based in Liverpool. He has written over thirty works ranging from solo to full-orchestra works, including an operetta Medra and Anieb based on the short story The Finder by Nebula winning author Ursula K. LeGuin. Crowdus has had his works performed by international artists including Iwan Llewellyn-Jones and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Crowdus’ current project explores migration and cultural tension in urban Britain in a post-tonal/maqam song cycle.

Peyman Heydarian

Peyman Heydarian is an award-winning Iranian music scientist and santur virtuoso. He has adopted innovative tuning systems and performance techniques in order to play a multi-ethnic repertoire on the instrument. He has held a number of high profile teaching and performance positions including appointments at London Metropolitan University and SOAS. He is currently researching the possibilities of pushing the boundaries of the Persian music and santur performance. He is also developing computer software for Automatic Estimation of the dastgàh and maqàm in audio musical signals.

Sara Manasseh

Sara Manasseh is an ethnomusicologist, performer and researcher in the musical traditions of the Jews of Iraq. She is the founder director of the musical ensemble, Rivers of Babylon (London, 1999). Her publications include articles on music in religious and life-cycle events, in the Babylonian (or Iraqi) Jewish tradition, the role of Iraqi Jewish women in music performance. Sara was appointed Senior Lecturer in Music at Kingston University, Surrey and has also lectured in Jewish Music at SOAS.

Soosan Lolavar

Soosan Lolavar is a British-Iranian composer, musicologist and educator whose sound work spans the genres of concert music, contemporary dance, installation, film, animation and theatre. She holds degrees in Social and Political Sciences (University of Cambridge), Musicology (University of Oxford) and Composition (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance) and her research interests include the politics of gender and sexuality, post-colonialism and the music industry and postmodernism in electronic musics. She recently received funding from Arts Council England and Jerwood Charitable Foundation to pursue ‘Stay Close’, a ten-month project harnessing contemporary classical music as a means of cultural exchange between the UK and Iran.

Tea and coffee will be served during the mid-afternoon break.

Main image credit: Luciano Serafini