Mani Mazinani and Sanaz Mazinani, Dastgāh, 2024
Mani Mazinani and Sanaz Mazinani: Dastgāh
Jun 4 – Oct 31, 2024
Evergreen Brick Works
Toronto, Canada

How do you listen? What do you hear? Nestled in the Don River ravines amidst urban trails and the Don Valley Parkway, Dastgāh is a sound sculpture that asks visitors to open their ears and listen differently. Created by the brother and sister duo Mani Mazinani and Sanaz Mazinani, the instrument takes its title from the Farsi term “dastgāh,” and can be literally translated as a “hand” (dast) and “gāh” (way) or “set of directions,” a modal system that serves as the foundation for composition and improvisation in Iranian music.

On the unceded territory of Toronto, a space named by Wendat peoples as “a meeting place” and home to the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishinaabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat peoples, Toronto has also become a city of diaspora and refuge. Dastgāh bridges time and distance between the many histories that exist on Turtle Island to date, whether from perspectives in Toronto, the land known as Canada today, across the continent or over the oceans. The work playfully reimagines the chang, an ancient Iranian harp as a giant, walk-in instrument, replacing traditional strings made of sheep gut and goat hair with piano strings. Riffing on the historical instrument, the sculpture is all angles and contains several changs, each with its unique voice. Played together in any number of combinations, the changs form a collective whole, an ensemble that serves as a metaphor for our social fabric.

Dastgāh introduces musical intervals found in traditional Maqam practice, the modal music system stretching between Central Asia and North Africa to the Don River Valley ravines, decentering the 12 tones used in classical and contemporary music. While these tones are pervasive, the sound sculpture creates an opportunity to hear and play with more nuanced tones exposing audiences to different frequencies and expanding what they hear. Stitching sounds together as a quilt, the sculpture generates a sound montage of the city, a sonic landscape that blankets the land. Like the river and creeks that flow nearby, sound is fluid, literally and figuratively traveling across borders, leaky and uncontainable.

In a moment where we can easily be ensconced in our own worlds: plugged into our mobile devices, tuning out wailing sirens or the rumblings of public transportation, Dastgāh encourages active listening. Through collective music making, it broadens the experience of participatory listening in concert with the sonic environment at Evergreen Brick Works and more widely throughout the ravines. The surrounding area becomes a sound stage where the audience is also a player, a listener, a maker. In any one moment, we might hear the many textures of sound in the ravines coming together: cars zooming by on the Don Valley Parkway and Bayview Avenue, birds chirping, families picnicking, vendors hawking their wares at the farmer’s market. If only for a moment, Dastgāh asks us to consider what we sound like, and invites listeners to make a soundtrack of the Don River Valley, to feel the vibrations of another land.

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