Jeffrey Werbock: Art Music of Azerbaijan

Monday / April 5, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
Oliver Colvin Recital Hall
1140 Boylston Street
United States

Jeffrey Werbock will present an clinic of instrumental solo improvisations based on traditional Azerbaijan mugam, played on oud (fretless wood-face short-neck lute), tar (fretted skin-face long-neck lute), and kamancha (skin-face spike fiddle).

One of the richest traditions in Near Eastern music is that of the Caucasus Mountains, and in particular, of Azerbaijan. The art music of Azerbaijian is closely related to the Persian court music and reflects both ancient liturgical music and the vigorous folk music of the various nomadic peoples who have inhabited, conquered, or passed through the region over the centuries.

Azerbaijan mugam is monophonic modal music, highly microtonal; meter-free; densely ornamented; composed of complex, melodic lines that are somewhat improvised according to the eastern tradition of theme and variation; and conveys a mix of sorrow and joy, exaltation and lament, and an overall sense of antiquity and otherworldliness.

Werbock has been giving presentations for well over three decades and has performed often at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Asia Society, and World Music Institute, and presents lecture demonstrations at colleges and universities all over the English-speaking world. He has been awarded an honorary degree by the National Music Conservatory of Azerbaijan, in Baku, and was recently sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan to perform a solo concert.

Werbock is one of the few westerners who has mastered this highly complex music. He was taught by Zevulon Avshalomov, one of the acknowledged masters of Azerbaijani mugam music and a fine instrument maker. Werbock studied for twelve years with the master, and was considered by Avshalomov as his prize pupil and inheritor of this tradition. He has performed worldwide to high acclaim with his teacher, as a solo performer, and in ensembles on the kamancha, tar, gaval, and oud. Werbock is a fluent speaker of Azeri and has a wealth of knowledge on the history and traditions of the Caucasus, which he shares during performances.