The Stephen Blum Collection contains audio from ethnomusicological fieldwork conducted in the northern part of Iranian Khorāsān.
It includes about 50 hours of field recordings made in 1968-1969 and 1972, with an emphasis on sung poetry in three languages: Persian (Farsi), Khorasani Turkish (Torki), and Kurmanji Kurdish.
Musical genres most prevalent in the collection include: dastgāh, the modal building blocks of Persian art music; and both lyric songs (including chārbeiti, ghazal, and gharibi) and narrative pieces (naqqāli, dāstān, pandiyāt and others) performed as solos or with instrumental accompaniment.
Frequently referenced poetic works include the Shāhnāmah of Firdawsī, Sabz parī va Zard parī, and Chahārdah afsānah az afsānahhā-yi rūstāʾī-i Īrān.
The performers in this collection are the subjects of Blum's Ph.D. dissertation, "Musics in Contact: The Cultivation of Oral Repertoires in Meshhed, Iran." After completing his dissertation fieldwork in the summer of 1969, Blum taught first at Western Illinois University (1969-73) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1973-77).
From 1977 to 1987 he was the founding director of an M.F.A. program in musicology of contemporary cultures at York University in Toronto. Since 1987, he has taught at the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he initiated a concentration in ethnomusicology.
Following the Revolution of 1979, Blum was unable to return to Iran until 1995. At that time, he donated copies of his earlier recordings to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and made additional recordings in Khorāsān as well as in the city of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran.
Blum began to make more frequent visits in 2006, and remains in close contact with Iranian students and colleagues. Recordings from these visits consist largely of conversations with occasional performances.
The collection also includes notebooks and printed collections of verses intended for singing, along with a street guide to the city of Mashhad.
Accessing These Materials
- The finding aid describes the items in the collection.
- The reel-to-reel tapes from the collection have been digitized, and audio files of the recordings are available through the finding aid.