The quintessential manifestations of classical Persian music, dating back to several millennia, have only recently been arranged in musical notations or radifs devised by Iran’s modern composers and performers. Unlike western musical compositions which are the creations of distinct individual composers, Persian radifs (the repertory of Persian art music) are the cumulative musical legacy of a succession of composers and performers and are rooted in Iran’s rural and urban musical traditions.
In the latter part of 18th century, the brothers Mirza Abdollah and Aqa Hosseinqoli became the first masters of Persian music who succeeded in systematically arranging the ancient melodies and lyrics into radifs and trained a generation of composers and performers steeped in Iran’s classical music. Mirza Abollah’s radifs were arranged in seven major modal systems or dastgahs (Shur, Mahur, Homayun, Segah, Chahargah, Rast-Panjgah and Nava) and five simpler vocal melodies (Bayat-e Tork, Afshari, Abu-Ata, Dashti and Esfahan). Each radif consists in several gushehs, or minor vocal or melodic variations.
The creation of radifs, and particularly its incorporation in musical notes, was a revolutionary turn in the world of Persian music and paved the way for the systematic training of musicians and introduction of modern modes of composition, performance and preservation of musical works. Gholamreza Minbashian, (a disciple of Alfred Lemaire, the French music instructor of Tehran’s Dar al-Fonun), Mehdiqoli Hedayat, Alinaqi Vaziri, and Musa Ma’rufi were pioneers in the systematic arrangement of radifs in musical notes.