As an expansion of the long-running Crete-based musical workshop created by renowned world musician Ross Daly, Labyrinth Online, is a digital platform dedicated to the modal musical traditions of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central and South Asia. 

Modal systems offered on Labyrinth Online include: Persian radif and dastgah, Arabic maqam, Ottoman makam, Greek dromos, Indian raga, Azeri mugam, Kurdish meqam and some lesser known such as Andalusian nouba, Tajik Shashmaqam, and Ethiopian qenet.

“At Labyrinth we tend to focus less on the National or ethnic aspect of the music, preferring instead to stress the regionality of it. Music tends to distribute itself in a regional manner more than according to ethnic or national lines. Frequently the same idiom can be shared by various peoples on different sides of what are frequently arbitrary borders.. Looking at Modal Music regionally is more accurate…Modality is the their shared approach to music. Even each village or town has its own sound. There’s a clear and obvious connection between them the all that is very valuable,” says Ross Daly whose first contact with modal music was when he heard the Santoor when he was 14. 

“We were living in California, in the 1960’s, a family friend took me to a concert at a nearby university where I heard Iranian classical music for the first time. I was studying classical guitar and loved the complexity but felt it was missing the improvisation portion—I tried to recreate the sounds I heard at the concert on my guitar, and very soon realized I needed to have the corresponding instrument to make that particular sound. And that’s when my journey with instruments from all over the world began.”

Modal musical practices involve systems of scales and modulations, which are associated with common melodic phrases and styles of ornamentations. Many include microtonal intervals not found in Western music, and commonly, certain modes are thought to evoke specific emotions and feelings.

“I enjoy the music of Khorasan and some Azari [Azarbaijani]. I listen to Mohammad Reza Lotfi, my dear friend Dariush Talai, who also introduced Djamshid Chemirani and I ages ago, and of course Shajarian. Sima Bina is another favorite as well as Ali Akbar Moradi, and my good friend, Kourosh Ghazvineh. Iranian classical music is impressive. There’s a very balanced meeting of complexities of structure as it relates to improvisation. I visited Iran several times in the 70’s. Before the revolution. I stayed in Tehran, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Esfahan,” adds Ross Daly.

Percussion virtuoso Djamshid Chemirani and his sons Keyvan and Bijan (Trio Chemirani)—all of whom have taught classes and workshops at Labyrinth—are just a few of the instructors in the Iranian classical music program. 

Currently, Iranian music classes are taught by Iranian musicians: Araz Salek (Tar) and Pedram Khavarazimi (Tombak).

“The experience of learning which we aspire to offer at Labyrinth is not merely a matter of instruction and the imparting of information to our students, rather it is a multi-dimensional initiation into a rich and varied musical world where ancient traditions and contemporary creative dynamics coexist and intertwine in harmony. It is by no means a ‘crash course,’ rather it works on many levels within the framework of an endless journey of discovery and creativity,” Ross Daly elucidates. 

 To learn more about how you can sign up for a course in arrangement, composition, improvisation, production, or songwriting in modal music, please visit: Labyrinth Online.

In this video: 

Ross Daly: Tarhu, Lyra, and Saz. 

Kelly Thoma: Lyra

Pedram Khavarzamini: Tombak

Araz Salek: Tar