When I first found out that a sound engineer is going on stage as a part of an ensemble it really cheered me up. I think not enough attention is paid to the role of sound engineers. A sound engineer accompanies the creators of a work from the beginning to the end. In concerts, they are the ones who show up before everyone else to do the sound check, and they are the last ones to leave with their equipment. Sometimes even the weakness of the players or the bad sounding of the ensemble is considered the sound engineers’ fault. But if the sounding is perfect, no one mentions the sound engineer.
This recent collaboration between Mehdi Paknejad, Farhad Assadi and Ramin Mazaheri in Jana ensemble merits appreciation. This concert was also important because it showcased the ability of live improvisation of two instrumentalists. Among the many traditional instrumental players who are active now, very few are open to performing live solo, or in a duo, or even a trio. The reason might be that most players are now merely performing written pieces and aren’t capable of creating improvisational atmospheres. This creative aspect of the Iranian traditional music which is based on instantaneous thinking and feeling and being in the moment has faded away in recent years. But Jana ensemble went on the stage of Roudaki Hall with only a mixer, a Setar, and a Tonbak. Ramin Mazaheri’s role with the mixer, wasn’t to create effects on the instruments sounds. .Instead, he created added value to the performance.
Before the performance starts, Mehdi Paknejad explains that the pieces are parts of an album which is going to be released soon. Then the performance starts. The themes are catchy, and Mehdi’s pickings are strong. Farhad Assadi is also accompanying Mehdi’s melodic lines effectively. Farhad’s hands move rhythmically on Tonbak and creates wonderful sounds on it. Apart from the music being attractive enough, the pieces were minimal and affective, and they stopped at the totally optimal moment. The role of Ramin as the sound engineer converted this performance to a sort of conceptual performance. Once in a while, he created pauses between the pieces by playing back recorded dialogues of
himself and the two players while recording in the studio.
Ramin as sound engineer/performer did naughty things in this performance. Things that tricked me and made me think. For example, playing back the conversation of the musicians with the sound engineer in studio, on stage, during the concert, was as if a frozen moment from the past was revived and relived in the present. Each time that Ramin mysteriously got behind the mixer, I thought that what I was expecting would happen. But I was wrong and he did something else. And I would wait for him to come back behind the mixer again. I think the members of the Jana ensemble were well aware of the fact that everything is transient, and even the most glorious musical projects fade away. But this state of being transient doesn’t mean that we have to comply with some laisser-faire attitude. To the contrary, taking responsibility and getting involved in a meaningful interaction with the other ensemble members is what remains. This was what I took home from this concert, in short: honesty and compassion.