Name: Azin Zahedi
Occupation: Santour- and flute-player
Current event: Azin Zahedi is one of the artists performing ctrl.xx.tension, an audiovisual work by Turkish producer and sound artist RUSNAM at Oyoun, Berlin on 1st October. [Read our Rusnam interview] A critique and deconstruction of female stereotypes in pop music, it will feature Nora Amin, Valentina Bellanova, Lynda Menoueri, and Syrtha.
[Read our RUSNAM interview]
[Read our Valentina Bellanova interview]
Recommendations: Oh there are so many amazing art pieces that I could recommend. One of the books that totally amazed and shocked me is The Trilogy of Agotha Krystof. And one of my favorite classical pieces is definitely: Dichterliebe by R. Schumann. I like the interpretation of Fritz Wunderlich and Hubert Giesen a lot.
If you enjoyed this interview with Azin Zahedi and would like to know more about her visit her informative official homepage. She is also on Instagram.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I’m actually the only musician in my family. I think I have my sense for music from my father though.I don’t exactly know at what age I started to show interest in music but I remember that I was still going to Kindergarten. I spent hours playing some melodies I heard on an old keyboard we had and was out of this world while doing it.
I think the most amazing thing about music/sounds is the abstraction of it. There is an endless freedom of interpretation. As a small child I discovered this free creative abstraction and have kept enjoying it until now.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I think being part of different music cultures may have influenced my character very much. I am confident with both Iranian traditional and Western classical music. These two have very different approaches but together they helped me a lot to open up myself and choose my personal musical way.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It's a very difficult question. I never think of who I am while doing music but for sure there are many things that shape my character and my identity. And in the end these are what create the sound of my music.
What were some of your main challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
Oh there were a lot of challenges and there still are.
Besides the financial worries and challenges as a freelance musician, especially during the last 2 years of the pandemic, it was a big challenge to choose who I want to be and what I want to do with my music. Both the classical music world and the Iranian traditional music world are not really open and flexible. I’m talking about the people and not about the music itself.
When I decided not to do any auditions anymore, I remember the reaction of my colleagues who couldn't even imagine doing something else than playing in an Orchestra. It took me some years to make this decision and it is definitely one of my best decisions I made in my musical life.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first instrument?
Well in the beginning of my musical education I was still very loyal towards the traditions of my instruments. I think moving to Berlin, getting in touch with new people, their creative ways of doing music and the openness of the audience, helped me to find the courage to try out new things. I started to be more curious about different genres and different sound combinations.
For example, improvising on electro house music with santour / flute or playing Klezmer on santour. Very recently me and a very good friend, Alireza Ostovar founded our Ensemble “Tember”, combining traditional middle-eastern music / sounds and contemporary electronic music and are planning our first concert series in December in Berlin. Our first album will also be released soon.
Soon I will start to work with a loop station to create my solo performance with flute and santour. I’m curious to explore more and more in the world of music.
Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results, including your own performance?
I play santour, an Iranian traditional string instrument, and classical flute. To both I have a different relationship.
The flute is for me like the voice. The breath produces the sound. I sometimes find it easier to express myself with it. But it is also a lot connected with the body. So when you feel tired or have a cold it’s very exhausting to play.
With santour it’s a bit different. There is less physical contact but I feel more confident to improvise on it and let myself go.
How would you describe your approach to interpretation? Where do you start and how do you develop your view on a piece, what are some of your principles and what constitutes a successful interpretation for you?
It depends on the music I’m working on.
In general I’m interested to know about the story of the piece and the composer. I normally listen to other pieces of the composer to get to know the music better.
But in the end I think it is important to take your freedom for the interpretation and add your own story to the piece to make it authentic.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
I have to admit that I am a bit of a loner. I enjoy doing things on my own. But when I find people who are on the same musical wavelength, I like sharing ideas and learning from each other.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don't really have a set schedule because my work as a music teacher doesn't allow for that. But since I'm a morning person, I usually try to get up early to have enough time to practice and do other things like sports before I go to school to teach.
Making music is not like an office job where you have certain tasks to do. You can't force yourself to be creative if you're not in the right mood. That's why it's sometimes hard for me to balance it with my job at school. Being a musician is a 24/7 job. It doesn't stop when you get through a concert or a rehearsal. You have to practice to stay fit, to keep developing, and you don't even get paid for that.
There's always a reason to practice and a lot of ideas that come to mind, but over time I learn to set a limit for myself and leave some time for a social life.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Well this is something that took me very long to learn and still I often struggle with it.
For being creative it is necessary to absolutely not judge yourself or your work. If you're judgemental and rating the outcome in the moment of being creative, you'll kill the whole process and block the mind completely. It’s very important to remind yourself: “There is no wrong or right”, and just let it happen.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I don’t know exactly when music could hurt. I think music is only a mirror to see and feel what we feel. We ourselves put a meaning inside it. And by doing that, the healing process starts.
For example, if deep inside I’m sad but have no access to this feeling, music could help to bring this feeling to the surface and that is where the healing starts. By letting us feel what we feel.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I think the touch / hearing sense are the main senses I am mainly focused on while doing music. When you play an instrument you play it with your body. Your hands, your fingers, your lips, your breath. But I also experienced improvising on some pictures / videos or having pictures in mind while playing a piece.
As a music teacher I work for example a lot with colors. I try to teach the sound techniques through colors to make it less abstract for my students and it helps them a lot. It makes the music more reachable in a way, especially classical music or in general instrumental music.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think before being artists we are all human. We all also have an everyday life in which many things could happen and each of them influence us in a way. I can not imagine an authentic piece of art without all of that influence.
Personally I don’t want to be a political artist but as a human being I care a lot about what happens around the world and I am sure, whenever I am doing music, I am mirroring my feelings. And the audience likes it, it senses me when I’m authentic.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
In contrast to words, music is something you can not misunderstand. It is so personal and so abstract that you can interpret whatever you want.
There is a very famous Quote by H. Heine: “When words leave off, music begins.”