Having performed with Atefeh Einali for some years now, it never occurred to me how difficult it would be to composer for her instrument! I'd listened, watched her play and asked many questions about the practice of performance and improvisation in the Persian santoor tradition, and this has informed the way I perform with her.
However, it wasn't until I took on the bold decision to write for santoor, flute and voice in my composition 'Rainy Thoughts' that I realised how thoroughly I had to understand the broader principles of Persian music in order to negotiate the fusion of Western and non-Western instruments. The biggest breakthrough this experience has had for me was the discovery that each and every degree of the Persian 'dastgah' system is permeated with spiritual significance. The limitation of patterns and selection of notes for each section of the 'dasgah', gives the modal elements of the system their own peculiar character, and it felt like I had to learn a whole new language to understand the voice of the santoor and find a way for it to interact with the flute and vocal part. As a composer this challenge has been incredibly valuable, giving me scope to explore unchartered territory.