The topic keeps coming up – how to find mental peace and remain centered even in tumultuous times. Iranian-born composer Arash Azadi is uniquely able to create those kinds of spaces in his music.

Finding meditative practice has been a survival tactic for friends dealing first-hand with crisis in Ukraine, in Iran, in Armenia, with long COVID, with other stress. Meditation for musicians is always impossible to separate from sound, to the point of it sometimes being difficult to find stillness in silence. But “Healing Light Through Stained Glasses” provides a specially constructed sonic environment for just this kind of inner recovery.

Arash, born in Hamedan, Iran, began with classical Persian study on the setar. But he came to interweave other compositional approaches across folk, contemporary concert, and experimental practices, followed by audiovisual work and more recently some club idioms. He studied in Armenia’s Yerevan State Conservatory and lived in Armenia for some years – to the point that Arash’s name comes up all the time as you look at some of what’s happened in the Yerevan scene in the past decade.

“Healing Light Through Stained Glasses” was composed back in 2021, in the context of the Mahaweb Festival, which focused on Middle Eastern and North African (and Persian) music. The festival’s name literally means “talents.” This piece was part of “Space In-Between,” an audiovisual installation-performance in collaboration with Hasmik Badoyan.

In what seems now to some of us like a parallel universe, the setting was Planetarium No. 1 in St. Petersburg. Now, in 2022, international collaboration in Russia has been largely interrupted. But as an instrument of meditation, the piece becomes essential. Here’s what Arash wrote about it:

The music is a minimal composition for one multi-layered synthesizer which creates a meditative soundscape over a long chord based on perfect 4th intervals. In this piece the composer has experimented with 528 hz (tuning A=444 hz, centered around C) that refers to ancient healing frequencies called Solfeggio and Sacred Geometry that are based on the perfect 4th intervals creating a Dodecagram. Over time the notes add on top of each other and get modulated gradually. The whole piece is constantly evolving and transforming in subtle, gentle ways.

It’s worth following it to the end, in order to get the full trip. The project is out on Kotä, curated by Gleb Glonti. (I’ve been both on this label and partnered on projects with Gleb.)

For an entirely different gesture, there is also this demand to abolish nations, self-released:

From the description:

Who needs nations? This whole Earth belongs to us.

As an active member of Earth’s society, I demand the total abolition of all old and existing constructs that create division and conflict. I demand the full implementation (theoretical and practical) of All Unity concept to be core of our ideologies. Amen Ya Rábál Alámin.

** Sufi knows no country, that the whole universe is their home.

Track: Sufis Raging Dance (Total Abolition)

Voice: from Osho’s talk on Nationalism

I also find myself returning to Arash’s 2017 outing, too, which is out on my own Establishment:

I’m certainly thinking of a lot of friends and loved ones right now, alongside strangers in need, as well. And for a lot of people separated by the chaos of the last years, I hope we meet again soon.

So to all of you, I hope this helps you find some healing light. Thank you, Arash.

Artwork by Hasmik Badoyan (“Healing Light Through Stained Glasses”) and Arash Azadi (Geosonic Journeys).

Updated: Arash also shares this live performance from April in Moscow. I should note that the venue Mutabor has come under criticism by some Ukrainian activists – but this performance also reveals how artists inside the country are encoding pro-peace messaging in the face of intense state censorship. The choice of Armenian and Persian also connects to crises that have often been ignored or downplayed by western media.

“White Space” was a collaboration between composer Arash Azadi, Gayane Avetissian (inscribing this massive chalkboard, and a text and artist statement by Hasmik Badoyan, so it’s also a combination of Armenian and Iranian voices.

The premiere of the multidisciplinary installation-performance “White Space” in collaboration with Gayane Avetissian at Mutabor club, Moscow.

Description from Arash’s upload:

This work was created out of a state of anxiety, uncertainty and pain that we all feel today. Artists entered a dialogue that helped them to realize that one way of transformation from externally created anxiety is to connect to the inner space of peace that each individual carries. The resulting collaboration is recreating this path from chaos and anxiety to a balanced state of harmony for the listener/viewer by connecting to their own inner “White Space”. They see this inner space as the source of external change.

The performance lasted for 30 min. During this time ‘A Hymn to Peace’, a minimalistic composition written for 4 alto saxophones, was played 2 times as a symbolic gesture of a mantra. The music explores possibilities of development through micro changes in rhythm, dynamic and tonality. The piece was composed as an installation performance, rather than a horizontal narrative form, and it creates a soundscape with repetitive elements. It’s Azadi’s simplest composition after more than a decade of avantgarde and experimental music.

While music continues Gayane Avetissian covered black sheets of fabric with calligraphy writing “Peace” in Armenian and Persian, that rhymes both with the rhythmic structures of the music, and a cardiogram. Her writing is a reflection of meditative practice of repetition that leads to detachment from external towards the inner power. Gayane here develops and continues her practice that works with images of blackboards as metaphor for human life with all its mistakes and correction of errors.

White Space was premiered at Mutabor on April 17th 2022, 20:00 under the curation of oleg ma @eye_que__

Marina Dubina
Rakhimova Viktoriya
Roman Shilepin
Vladimir Morkovkin

Text and artist statement by Hasmik Badoyan

That’s Arash vibing in the corner; the piece was performed without conductor.