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Stanford Department of Music partners with San Francisco World Music Festival with course on Azerbaijani music

World-music offerings expanded this spring with an introduction to Azeri music and culture taught by kamancha virtuoso Imamyar Hasanov and music specialist Krystal Barghelame.

Michael Santoro

Imamyar Hasanov, right, instructor of Stanford's course on Azerbaijani music, works with Emily Graber, graduate student in the Music Department.

This spring the Stanford Department of Music, in partnership with the San Francisco World Music Festival, is conducting an innovative music course titled Music and Culture from the Land of Fire: Introduction to Azerbaijani Mugham. The course is being taught by the festival’s global music director and Azerbaijani kamancha virtuoso Imamyar Hasanov, with Azerbaijani music specialist and Stanford grad Krystal Barghelame.

Nestled in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan is a crossroads between East and West; its rich musical heritage contains threads of Turkish, Central Asian, Persian, Caucasian, Russian and Arabic traditions. In this course, master-musician Hasanov is teaching students to perform and appreciate Azeri music.

Structured as half a music workshop and half a lecture seminar, the course gives students a composite understanding of Azerbaijani music through both playing and studying. The interdisciplinary and multimedia format is inspired by the World Music Festival’s approach to studying and performing music from diverse cultural traditions.

The course was opened to Stanford students with any experience playing a musical instrument (including voice), and non-musician students could take the seminar portion of the course for 1-3 units. Auditors are still welcome. As a culmination to the course, the class will collaborate to produce a final event that will be open to the community.

“We have an interest in increasing our offerings in non-Western music,” said Anna Schultz, an assistant professor of music (ethnomusicology). “It’s a treat and a privilege to work with a master musician like Imamyar Hasanov, who is at the top of his field. One of the things that is so wonderful about the World Music Festival is the innovative, multimedia approach they take toward presenting music and educating, and that is a phenomenal boon to our students and will really enrich their experience.”

Students are learning Azeri music and the kamancha, a bowed string instrument; diving into Azeri music history and culture; and using interactive live-streaming technology to meet Azeri musicians. Working closely with both lecturers, students are also participating remotely in select music conservation projects in Baku, Azerbaijan, as well as interning for the World Music Festival, which premieres its annual commissions in November.

Developed by Founder/Artistic Director Michael J. Santoro, the San Francisco World Music Festival Lectureship Initiative matches the festival's global music directors (representing China, Azerbaijan, India, Tibet, Mali and more), with high-profile lectureship positions at prestigious universities and institutions of higher learning.

“The San Francisco World Music Festival is honored and excited to launch a blossoming partnership with Stanford University,” said Santoro. “Our mission is to spread awareness about diverse and treasured music traditions within interdisciplinary and multimedia learning environments, and hopefully inspire students to consider themselves globalized citizens of the world. "

Hasanov is a master’s graduate of the Azerbaijan National Conservatory. His performances embody the cultural depths and classical creativity of Azerbaijani traditional music. He is gaining recognition in the United States as an Azerbaijani traditional music revivalist. Hasanov’s live solo performances exemplify his virtuosity, especially when performing some of the older traditional repertoire with innovative techniques.

Besides featured roles in five San Francisco World Music Festivals, his recent performance highlights include concerts at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., Symphony Space in New York, the Richmond Folk Festival in Virginia and tours in Turkey, Luxembourg, Greece and Israel.

Barghelame is an Azeri music specialist with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in, respectively, music composition and modern thought and literature, from Stanford. She earned a master’s degree with distinction in ethnomusicology, focusing on Azerbaijani music, from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She has studied classical composition under Franghiz Ali-Zadeh in the United States, Berlin and Baku. She also has won awards across the United States for her original compositions.

With her ethnomusicology training and strong academic scholarship, Barghelame is leading the seminar portion of the course. Her Azeri-American perspectives and experience at Stanford bridge communication between Hasanov and the Stanford students.