Alinaqi Vaziri

Alinaqi Vaziri was born in Tehran in 1887. He received his first tar lessons from his uncle at age fifteen. A few years later, he studied Western music theory under Yavar Aqa-Khan, a music instructor at the Darolfonun (Tehran's Polytechnic School), and under a priest at the Saint Louis School in Tehran. At the same time Vaziri continued practicing the tar intensively and finally succeeded in transcribing the radif (the repertoire of the Persian classical music) according to the performance of Mirza-Abdollah and Aqa Hosein-Qoli, both prominent tar soloists of that period. This transcription of radif was thought to have been lost after Vaziriís death, except for the Chahargah mode, which Vaziri had presented to the School of National Music Library. However, many years later, Moussa Maroufi (a tar soloist, professor of the School of National Music, and pupil of Vaziri) announced in the Muzik-e Iran Magazine (Vol.11, No. 10, Jan. 1964) that this radif had been made available to him by his teacher, and that he had prepared a complete version of the radif based on Vaziriís material. After working with Mirza-Abdollah and Aqa Hosein-Qoli, Vaziri practiced the radif orally with Montazem-ol-Hokama. In 1918 Vaziri traveled to Paris and Berlin to study composition, piano, and voice.

On his return to Persia in 1923, Vaziri founded his School of Music. In addition to teaching, he gave lectures and Persian music concerts. He also established a musical club and tried to revive the traditional Persian music using some of the new concepts he had learned in the west.

In the 1920s, women were not allowed to attend musical programs, but Vaziri succeeded in obtaining official permission to form two classes for young girls in his school. His own daughter, Badri, was a tar player, ballet dancer, and writer, educated in Switzerland and Belgium. In 1928 Vaziri became the director of the Tehran Conservatory of Music, but in 1934, due to a conflict with the Persian imperial court, he was discharged. A few years later, in view of his research in the fields of art history and esthetics, he was offered a professorship at the Tehran University.


When Reza Shah was exiled to Johannesburg in 1941, Vaziri was chosen as the director of the Tehran Conservatory, and, in collaboration with Rouhollah Khaleghi, he established the Novin Orchestra at Radio Iran. With a change in the Cabinet in 1946, Vaziri was dismissed again, and until the end of his life in 1979 he worked only as a university professor, no longer appearing on the musical scene.

Vaziri's techniques in the playing of the tar caused the next generation of tar players to develop their style of performance. According to music critic Parviz Mansuri, "He was the first tar player in the history of Persian music to add strength and power to the sweet style of previous players of this instrument."


On the one hand, Vaziri loved Persian music so much that he was unable to accept the claim of the extremist advocates of modernism that it should be put to rest on account of its age; on the other hand, since he wished to modernize Persian music, he was persistent in adapting it to his knowledge of Western music, particularly in his handling of the intervals in Persian modes that fall between the half step and the whole step.


Professor Hormoz Farhat, the esteemed composer and musicologist, writes, "In the course of the twentieth century, three separate theories on intervals and scales of Persian music have been proposed. The first of these, put forward in the 1920s by Vaziri, identifies a 24 quarter-tone scale as the basis for Persian music....Vaziri's quarter-tone theory, which is arrived at by way of a further division of the Western equidistant 12-note chromatic scale, is entirely irrelevant to Persian music. It is an artificial creation, devised to make possible the adoption of a kind of harmonic practice, based on western tonal harmony. It would be difficult to accept that Vaziri was not aware of the fact that Persian music makes no use of the quarter-tone and that intervals other than the semi-tone and the whole-tone are not achieved through multiples of the quarter-tone. He must simply have believed in the desirability of their being adjusted to correspond to an equidistant quarter-tone scale so that a kind of harmony may be imposed upon the music. Clearly, he did not propose to do this in order to destroy the music, but, as he saw it, to advance its possibilities into the realm of polyphony. He and many other Middle Eastern musicians of the early twentieth century regarded a monophonic musical tradition as intrinsically inferior. Their aim was to make the necessary adjustments, so that polyphonic writing could be admitted into their music, and understandably they took Western music as their model."

Alinaqi Vaziriís service to Persian music included training such noted musicians as Rouhollah Khaleghi, Abolhassan Saba, Moussa Maroufi, and Javad Maroufi, innovation of symbols for the unique pitches in the Persian notation, translation of Western musical terms into the Persian language, and writing several methods, books, and articles about the classical music of his homeland.


Vaziri died on September 9, 1979, at age 91.