Noruz: Azerjaiban music

This week, the holiday of Noruz, the Persian New Year, is being celebrated in a number of countries around the world, including Iran and Azerbaijan. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. The origin of Noruz dates back to the time of Zoroaster, some 2500 years ago.

“It’s an ancient Zoroastrian spring festival. Azerbaijan means ‘Lands of Fire’ and these Zoroastrians were fire worshipers. There’s a mountainside or two that is permanently on fire because of the, oil and gas reserves underground are very close. So the gas just bubbles up through the stony fissures and, who knows, the lightning struck a hundred thousand years ago and lit the mountain up and it’s been burning ever since. So you have the fire worshipers making pilgrimages from all over Asia.”

Jeffrey Werbock is an American musician who has mastered a number of Azerbaijani instruments, including the Kemancha – a four string instrument which is bowed like a fiddle. He plays an example of the kind of music one might hear in Azerbaijan during the thirteen day celebration of Noruz.

“Their octave is divided up into seventeen unequal intervals as opposed to our tempered piano which is twelve equal halves tones so the intonation may is not the same as ours so the intonation may, certainly the first hearing, will sound off. But obviously that’s what they want to hear so one has to open oneself up to the fact that this is an intentional sound that they’re producing.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Noruz: Azerjaiban music

Traditional music from the fire worshiping festival of Noruz points to the holiday's Persian roots.
Air Date:03/25/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

This week, the holiday of Noruz, the Persian New Year, is being celebrated in a number of countries around the world, including Iran and Azerbaijan. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. The origin of Noruz dates back to the time of Zoroaster, some 2500 years ago.

"It's an ancient Zoroastrian spring festival. Azerbaijan means 'Lands of Fire' and these Zoroastrians were fire worshipers. There's a mountainside or two that is permanently on fire because of the, oil and gas reserves underground are very close. So the gas just bubbles up through the stony fissures and, who knows, the lightning struck a hundred thousand years ago and lit the mountain up and it's been burning ever since. So you have the fire worshipers making pilgrimages from all over Asia."

Jeffrey Werbock is an American musician who has mastered a number of Azerbaijani instruments, including the Kemancha - a four string instrument which is bowed like a fiddle. He plays an example of the kind of music one might hear in Azerbaijan during the thirteen day celebration of Noruz.

"Their octave is divided up into seventeen unequal intervals as opposed to our tempered piano which is twelve equal halves tones so the intonation may is not the same as ours so the intonation may, certainly the first hearing, will sound off. But obviously that's what they want to hear so one has to open oneself up to the fact that this is an intentional sound that they're producing."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.