Violin from Iran
: exploration into Iranian repertoire for the violin

  • Mohammad Amin Keshmiri

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (DPerf)


From the early age, I was affected by a stigma that discourages classical violinists from playing Iranian microtonal music, believing it to be inferior to Western classical music. As an Iranian classical musician, I also often had personal conflicts in my musical choices. Whether as an instrumentalist, conductor or composer – I aimed to remove any traces of Iranian influences in my music. This study is the result of my personal journey to explore some of the Iranian repertoire for the violin from a Western violinist’s perspective. Initially, this journey began from resenting Iranian music to having a newfound passion which helped me resolve many of my musical and technical problems in my practice as a violinist, and a musician in general.

Iranian music, which is based on a collection of many short melodies known as gusheh-ha (singular: gusheh), is organised into a 12 modal system known as dastgah-ha (singular: dastgah). The organisation of the gusheh-ha within their respective dastgah is called radif (row) – mostly improvised unmetered music that forms the majority of repertoire for the violin. Since adopting the dastgah-ha system, several masters of Iranian music have put together some 400 gusheh-ha. To improvise and create new melodies, the performer must therefore learn as many different gusheh-ha as possible.

The theory of practice of Iranian music has been researched and discussed by ethnomusicologists such as Ella Zonis (1973), Hormoz Farhaat (1994) and Mohammad Reza Azadehfar (2017). As a result, this study has aimed to focus on the practise of practice within Iranian music from a Western classical musician’s perspective starting with studying the Iranian radif repertoire for the violin in four of the most popular dastgah-ha out of the twelve by two prominent composers, Abollhassan Saba and Manouchehr Lashgari. I will then conclude this study by producing new recordings of performance of Iranian violin repertoire and improvisation in Iranian music. These recordings reflect a personal performance style where it represents my training in both Western and Iranian music training. As a result of this journey, I developed a balanced sense of musicianship and performance style integrating the two musical personalities – a personal take on integration of East and West.
Date of Award13 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAlistair Macdonald (Supervisor), David Watkin (Supervisor) & Andrea Gajic (Supervisor)


  • Iranian music
  • Violin repertoire
  • Persian music
  • Radif
  • Microtonal Music

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