Dissolving into the Pluriverse 

A new mixed-music composition and graphic score by
Anoush Moazzeni

What is Dissolving into the Pluriverse?

Dissolving into the Pluriverse is a new musical composition and graphic score by Iran-born artist Anoush Moazzeni.

A work of "mixed music," the piece incorporates acoustic performance (in this case, Moazzeni playing the piano) and electronically programmed sounds inspired by artistic traditions from West Asia, Morocco, and South America.

Continue scrolling to discover the fascinating story behind the project. Or click here to watch the full performance on YouTube. 

Before the Pluriverse

In Summer 2020, the Aga Khan Museum commissioned Moazzeni to create a new musical composition responding to an upcoming exhibition. 

Anoush Moazzeni sitting at a Piano facing the camera.

Iran-born pianist, composer, and scholar Anoush Moazzeni. 

Her assignment: to craft an original work that responds to Dissolving Order, an exhibition highlighting the work of Baku-based artist Faig Ahmed. 

The centrepiece of Dissolving Order is a deconstruction of one of the world's most enduring, remarkably consistent art forms: the carpet. Like many of Ahmed's sculptures, Gautama (2017) distorts the familiar features of carpets, warping the past into something otherworldly and new. 

Moazzeni, too, looked to traditional art forms such as weaving for inspiration. As part of her field research, she visited artisans' workshops in Iran, recording interesting sounds she found along the way. 

In the video below, she creates an audio recording of a woman operating a traditional loom. 

And here she is learning how to work a scutching stick, a tool used to remove impurities from cotton.

Building the Pluriverse

Back in Moazzeni's studio, she set out to build mechanized instruments simulating the sounds of traditional practices such as weaving, pottery, carpentry, and even farming. 

Creating these "hyper instruments," as she calls them, involved constructing and programming machines that play in time with the piano. 

After she was finished writing the music, building the hyper instruments, and working out the bugs, Moazzeni set them around — and on top of — her piano. 

Like the piece of music itself, Moazzeni’s physical setup reveals a collision of art forms, cultures, and eras. A Western musical instrument paired with traditional textile-making tools. The tools of traditional craftspeople, hooked up to and controlled by electronic devices.

All in service of experimenting with sound and making people think. 

Moazzeni's piano and hyper instruments set up for the performance.

Scoring the Pluriverse

Dissolving into the Pluriverse wasn't composed using musical notation, at least not in the classical Western sense. Instead, Moazzeni created a "graphic score" to visually represent the sonic structure of her work. 

Image of Graphic Score

Anoush Moazzeni's initial design for the graphic score. 

What is a graphic score? It's an alternative form of musical notation that uses graphic design to communicate musical cues and stimulate a performer's creativity while they improvise. 

A graphic score is often an artwork unto itself. One can think of it as visual window into the mind of the composer, or as an extension of the musical composition rather than a transcript of it. 

In Moazzeni's case, she chose to convey her musical ideas using symbols and patterns from West Asian and Moroccan textile-making traditions, (literally) weaving them into Dissolving into the Pluriverse's score. 

Artist Niyaz Azadikhah embroidered the designs Moazzeni had created for the graphic score. The score's symbols and patterns nod to traditional and indigenous cultures from West Asia and Morocco.

Enter the Pluriverse

As you experience Dissolving into the Pluriverse, ponder for a moment the categories she is breaking down in the piece. What do you think she is saying about the relationship, say, between contemporary music and traditional handicrafts, or between the past and the present? 

The following quote, taken from Moazzeni's scholarly reflection, provides helpful clues. 

"I use the format of the patterns as an act of resistance, to challenge assumptions of the dominance of Euro-centrism in artistic practices, and demonstrate the lack of diverse representation in rhetorical practices. I aim to allow reflection on how classifying and normalizing practices and techniques have led to ordering and normalizing human beings."
—Anoush Moazzeni, 2020

Click the video below to watch Dissolving into the Pluriverse. The split-screen video shows Moazzeni's performance on the left; on the right, follow the strand of yard as it tracks over the graphic score, revealing which patterns and symbols correspond with which sounds on the recording.

The End.