Hafez Modirzadeh




2015. (with Almir Côrtes). "A Discourse on Brazilian Popular Music and U.S. Jazz Education".  Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Vol 5, no 1 (23-35).

During a 2013 post-doctoral grant funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation-FAPESP to conduct research on North American jazz education, Almir Côrtes spent several hours a week at his host institution, San Francisco State University, with Hafez Modirzadeh, Professor of Jazz and Creative Music Studies. Together, they discussed and compared improvisation pedagogies between their two institutions. The following is a summary of several months of discourse, with Modirzadeh’s critical cross-cultural positions on jazz lending to Côrtes’s own research on the teaching of musical improvisation in Brazil. Among points discussed are some of the parallels and problems of institutionalizing historical contexts of practice, and popular music in particular. What follows are their own interactive perspectives – referencing causes for the current state of teaching methods, proposing potentialities for future ones that lay ahead – always with the
knowledge that through consistent dialogue, shared boundaries expand.

2011. "On The Convergence Liberation of Makam X". Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation. Vol 7, no 2 (1-21).


Improvisation, by definition, fuelled by the same creative energies that move life, and as a fluid variance on and constant trickster of form, embodies the subversive. As sound, this paradoxical force gives rise to the metaphoric renaming of the harmonic series as "Makam X," thereby coiling such intervallic gravity with musical and extra-musical messages: here, speculation on a "cradle-mode" leads to implications of the tetrachordal, and subsequently, the appreciation of shared principles among African American, Persian, Andalucian, and Filipino musical traditions. This inspired me, through several personal encounters that included masters Mahmoud Zoufonoun, Danongan Kalanduyan, and Ornette Coleman, to pursue the eventual convergence and consequent disintegration of such systems, seeking not only a drive towards shared source, but also the liberation from formal restraints that suppress shared empowerment. In consideration of all this, and in light of recent shape-shifting movements throughout the world, I present an omnivorous model for improvisation used towards the proposal of a Convergence Liberation Principle.


2009. "Musical Compost, Consorts and Collapsing Pyramids: On the Disintegration of Traditional Performance Practices to Raise a Sound Society". Leonardo. Vol. 42, no. 3 (252–258).


By introducing a consort of instrumentalists representing musical traditions from Iran to the Philippines, Zimbabwe, Japan, Korea and the Americas, the author presents a paradoxical compost approach of defining while disintegrating musical cultural elements, thus conveying the transformative nature of self and society. Improvisation informs the author's chromodal concept, illustrated in the article with a collapsing pyramid model, thereby illuminating co-existence as a shared creative source that ultimately expands human potential through the extinction of the formal.


2005. "World Music-Making in the 21st Century: Traditions in Transition" (Spanish and English). Fulbright Lecture III. University of Granada. Granada, SPAIN.

2004. “The Jazz Educators' Unholy Three: Cleric, Recruit, and Con-Artist”. Cadence.

2001. "Aural Archetypes and Cyclic Perspectives in the Work of John Coltrane and Ancient Chinese Musical Theory". Black Music Research Journal XXII, no.1 (75-105). Excerpt.

The following work, by relating musical constructs with cross-cultural concepts, proposes essential parallels between John Coltrane's enigmatic diagram of 1960 (see Lateef 1981, inside cover) and several ancient cyclic music theories of China. Consequently, with a reconsideration of commonly accepted analytical approaches to Coltrane's later musical periods, a new perspective offers a more artistically relevant view toward his developing musical conceptions of the 1960s as well as a more integrated understanding of modal practices in general. Historically, the inclusivity of jazz tradition has inspired many musicians to introduce a variety of world influences into a predominantly African-American musical heritage. Beyond general concepts of pentatonicism, though, specific Chinese references to historical jazz practices have thus far remained untapped. Scholarly significance in this area must move both analytical and performance worlds forward, primarily because of the manifold potential in applying ancient Chinese theories toward the analysis of a twentieth-century musical culture like jazz.

1996. “Tetramode Exercise Chart”. The Chromodal Approach to Improvised Music (Self-Published).

1995. "Trans-Intervallic Exercises for the Post-Modern Improviser. The Horn Call XXV, no. 2 (55-57). Excerpt.

1994. "Out There: Hafez Modirzadeh" by Gamall Awad. California Jazz Now III, nos. 10-11 (11-14). Excerpt.

1992. "Chromodality and the Cross-Cultural Exchange of Musical Structure". Wesleyan University dissertation excerpt: Tetramodes and Metricodes (University Microfilms International 1992: 123-134).

1986. "Research Models in Ethnomusicology Applied to the Radif Phenomenon in Iranian Classical Music". The Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology V, no. 3 (63-78). Excerpt. Full text available at http://ethnomusicologyreview.ucla.edu/journal/volume/3

The understanding of the interrelationships among the musical tradition, the performer and the performance context within a culture has concerned ethnomusicologists throughout the development of the field. The interdependency of these three factors can raise particular interest as to how and why change occurs in cultures’ musical traditions. This paper addresses the problem of determining how the radif functions in Iranian classical music, and why it is able to serve as a flexible base from which both the theory and practice of Iran’s musical tradition is derived.

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