Today’s Sounds: Hafez Modirzadeh


Hafez Modirzadeh, Post-Chromodal Out! (Pi)

Not every free-improvisation recording comes with a scholarly guide to the music’s modus operandi. There are thousands of books about classical, jazz and rock, but with a few notable exceptions (Braxton’s Tri-Axium writings, Tom Nunn’s Wisdom of the Impulse and Joe Morris’s Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music), not many have attempted to explain the various implementations of free music.

Hafez Modirzadeh not only provides some technical details about his systems, but ties them in with their historical and spiritual origins — indivisible parts of the whole. Full details are available here, but briefly, Modirzadeh is seeking a universal music, unrestrained by the baggage of any single culture. To accomplish this, he has developed expanded scales in which just intonation and equal temperament co-exist. These are partly based on modulations of intervallic fourths and fifths, but are also heavily influenced by Persian half sharp and half flat intonations. These tunings were learned from master violinist Mahmoud Zoufonoun and Filipino kulintang (tuned gong) player Danongan Kalanduyan, who guests on one track. The unification of different scales has social and political implications, demonstrating the successful mixing of entities usually seen as incompatible.

Upon hearing the music, it is hardly shocking that Ornette Coleman was also a major influence on Modirzadeh. The 28 tracks are divided into two suites, “Weft Facets” and “Wolf and Warp.”  Similar to Ornette’s harmolodics, there is much polyphony and rhythmic freedom, challenging drummer Royal Hartigan to keep things together. The front line of Modirzadeh on saxophone and Amir ElSaffar on trumpet evoke early ’60s free jazz, both thematically and texturally, but the CD goes far beyond that.

If “Facet Seventeen” indeed harkens back to the Don Cherry/Ornette front line, “Facet Sixteen” sounds like a piano soloing over gamelan gongs, “Interlude II” conjures Persian oud music and “Wolf Two-bass solo,” played by Ken Filiano, has a modern classical feel. The piano has been retuned, requiring Vijay Iyer to forgo old habits and relearn the keyboard. Faraz Minooei and Timothy Volpicella provide further variety, guesting on santur (Persian dulcimer) and electric guitar, respectively.

Highly innovative, Post-Chromodal Out! manages to seamlessly bridge the exotic and the familiar into one of the most captivating releases of the year.


How to Destroy Angels, “Keep It Together”

How to Destroy Angels is Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), his wife Mariqueen Maandig (not a gay porn actor, believe it or not) and Atticus Ross (with whom Reznor scored The Social Network, and won an Oscar for it), and they release a new EP via Columbia on Nov. 13. Here’s a hot and heavy preview.



Metz, “Wet Blanket”

Celebrate today’s release of this Toronto band’s eponymous debut LP (on Sub Pop) with a stuttering, vaguely sinister video directed by Scott Cudmore and Michael Leblanc.

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