Earmark // Parisa Sabet

February 11, 2019

In this installment of the Earmark series we speak with CMC Associate Composer Parisa Sabet about hidden pianos, that moment when you experience O Superman for the first time, and composing music about hard topics.

Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Parisa Sabet: I was born after the Islamic revolution of Iran. During that time, music was banned. We had a piano at home that no one was allowed to touch. It was buried under many blankets for fear of it being detected by the Islamic revolutionary guard. That piano was soon sold to an American family and mostly forgotten. A few years later when music was no longer banned, my parents encouraged my sisters and I to learn a musical instruments; though I had never seen nor heard one, I insisted on learning the piano. I was 7 or 8 when I started taking my first piano lessons on a tiny keyboard that had no more than an octave-and-a-half of keys.

CMC: What was the most important music event you attended?

PS: When I had just moved to Canada, I got to watch Salome in one of our music history classes for the first time. After the class, everyone was complaining about its musical language. To my own surprise, I was overjoyed by the experience and fascinated by every aspect of the opera. The same experience happened a few years later when I saw Laurie Anderson's O Superman for the first time in one of our 20th century music classes in Chicago College of Performing Arts.

CMC: What have you been listening to lately?

PS: I have been listening to Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra, a band formed in 2012 in Spain. It amazes me how delicately performers integrate extended techniques in their performance while improvising on some of the simplest folk tunes, and it never sounds out of place.

CMC: How do you define your musical/artistic community?

PS: This is a very difficult question to answer. I find myself belonging to the community of artists whose works are relevant today and whose goal is to make a change with their art work.

CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.

PS: I am proud of my recent work, Cup of Sin, commissioned by Tim Brady. The Lioness of Iran project was my first collaboration with a Canadian commissioner/producer that was related to my Iranian heritage. Six original compositions were commissioned based on the poems of Simin Behbahani, an Iranian poet, lyricist, and activist. I chose a poem about violence against women. It was a very emotional composition process as it was very difficult to address various aspects of this issue openly in my composition, however the end result was very fulfilling and successful.