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COLLECTION Identifier: AWM RL 16198-16251, AWM SC 11742-11763

The Stephen Blum Collection of Music from Iranian Khorāsān at Harvard University: Original Ethnographic Sound Recordings


The sound recordings in this collection provide examples of the musical culture of the region of Khorāsān, in the northeast of Iran.


  • 1968 - 2006

Language of Materials

Materials are in Persian [Farsi], Khorasani Turkish [Torki], and Kurmanji Kurdish.

Conditions Governing Access



1 collection (Sound recordings: 54 audio tape reels (acetate, recorded at 7-1/2 or 3-1/4 ips); 22 analog audio cassettes; 2 books)

The audio reels in the collection resulted from ethnomusicological fieldwork conducted in the northern part of Iranian Khorāsān in the years of 1968-1969 and 1972. There are 54 audio reel tapes, on 5-inch and 3½-inch reels, containing about 50 hours of recording. The main emphasis is on sung poetry in three languages – Persian [Farsi], Khorasani Turkish [Torki], and Kurmanji Kurdish. This finding aid arranges the material according to the types of performer active in the cities of Mashhad and Bojnurd, followed by recordings made in nine villages.

The analog audio cassettes consist largely of conversations, with occasional performances. The cassettes comprise the 1995 and 2006 portion of the collection content.

The main types of performer are the subject of Blum’s Ph.D. dissertation, “Musics in Contact: the Cultivation of Oral Repertoires in Meshhed, Iran,” supervised by Professor Bruno Nettl and completed in 1972 for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The dissertation is summarized and slightly extended in Blum’s article, “Changing Roles of Performers in Meshhed and Bojnurd, Iran,” in Eight Urban Musical Cultures, ed. Bruno Nettl (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978, pp. 19-95). Several of the recordings are discussed in some of Blum’s other publications (see Bibliography and Discography, which lists published versions of individual items and is available in a separate file).

The musical genres most prevalent in the collection are: chārbeiti; ghazal; ghazal khwāni; Shāhnāmah khwāni; qesseh; dastgāh; pandiyāt; dobeiti; dāstān; mosibat; tarānah Mahalli; gharibi; sarhaddi, and naqqāli, among others.

Some of the most frequently played musical instruments in this collection are: dotār; ney; qoshma; sornā; kamānche; Caucasian tār; Iranian tār, and Zarb-e Zurkhāneh.

Frequently referenced works are: Sabz parī va Zard parī; Shāhnāmah; Chahārdah afsānah az afsānahhā-yi rūstāʾī-i Īrān [available at Harvard Harvard College Library]; Haftṣad tarānih az tarānihhāy-i rūstāʾī-i Irān [available at Harvard]; Ṭūfān al-bukāʾ [available at Harvard College Library]; Kanz al-masa’ib.

The collection also includes notebooks and printed collections of verses intended for singing, along with a street guide to the city of Mashhad.

The spoken word content in the audio collection presents recitations, conversations and interviews.

Note to Users:

For the purpose of this finding aid, the transliterations for subject and index terms and proper names have been standardized according to the OCLC authority file, when found. Turkic alphabet characters for Kurmanji Kurdish and Khorasani Turkish have been retained.

Occasionally there are discrepancies between the spelling and dates indicated in the finding aid and on the streaming audio banner. The authoritative dates are those indicated in the finding aid proper.

As of September 2010, all 54 audiotape reels have been digitally preserved and are represented within this finding aid. Digitization of the 22 analog audio cassettes with conversations is anticipated in the near future.

A book with maps of Mashhad, Rahnumā-yi shahr-i Mashhad-i Tūs shāmil gūsheh (Aleph 12562801), is also housed with the collection.

Biographical and Historical Note

After completing his dissertation fieldwork in the summer of 1969, Professor Stephen Blum taught first at Western Illinois University (1969-73) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1973-77). From 1977 to 1987 he was the founding director of an M.F.A. program in “Musicology of Contemporary Cultures” at York University in Toronto. Since 1987, he has taught at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, where he initiated a concentration in ethnomusicology. Following the Revolution of 1979, Dr. Blum was unable to return to Iran until 1995, when he donated copies of his earlier recordings to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and made additional recordings in Khorāsān as well as in the city of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran. He began to make more frequent visits in 2006, and remains in close contact with Iranian students and colleagues. He is collaborating with Dr. Ameneh Youssefzadeh on a series of critical editions of narratives (dāstān) in Khorasani Turkish, and in 2007 the Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art began to issue compact discs drawn from his recordings.

This collection holds the originally recorded fieldwork on audio reels. Copies are held by the University of Illinois Archives of Ethnomusicology [Collections 61 and 67], the Archive of Revolutionary Song maintained by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the Ethnomusicology Archive of the City University of New York Graduate Center [Collections 89-034-F, 89-039-F and 93-009-F].


  1. Series 1. Performers in the Cities
  2. ___Subseries 1: The Naqqāl
  3. ___Subseries 2: The Morshed
  4. ___Subseries 3: The Bakhshī
  5. ___Subseries 4: The Luti and the Motreb
  6. ___Subseries 5: Itinerants
  7. ___Subseries 6: Instrumentalists
  8. ___Subseries 7: Miscellaneous Singers and Storytellers
  9. Series 2. Performance in Villages
  10. ___Subseries 1: Village of Gheibi
  11. ___Subseries 2: Village of Āb Kuh
  12. ___Subseries 3: Villages of Golestān and Hesār
  13. ___Subseries 4: Village of Qorqī
  14. ___Subseries 5: Village of Permei
  15. ___Subseries 6: Villages of Zoshk and Shandiz
  16. ___Subseries 7: Village of Kharv Oliā

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the Harvard Music Library, Archive of World Music in 2006.

Related Materials

Blum, Stephen. 1974. “Persian Folksong in Meshhed (Iran).” Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 6: 86-107.

-----. 1996. “Musical Questions and Answers in Iranian Khorāsān.” EM: Annuario degli Archivi di Etnomusicologia 4: 145-63.

-----. 2006. “Navā’i, a Musical Genre of Northern Khorasan,” in Analytical Studies in World Music, ed. Michael Tenzer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp._____

----. 2007, comp. Naqqāli dar shomāl-e Khorāsān / Naqqāli in Northern Khorāsān. Compact disc with 6p. of notes in Persian and 6p. of notes in English. Tehran: Mahoor Institute of Culture and Art.

Clinton, Jerome W., trans. 1987. The Tragedy of Sohráb and Rostám from the Persian National Epic, the Shahname of Abol-Qasem Ferdowsi. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

-----, trans. 1999. In the Dragon’s Claws: The Story of Rostam & Esfandiyār from the Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi. Washington: Mage.

Davis, Dick, trans. 2006. Abolqasem Ferdowsi: Shahnameh, The Persian Book of Kings. New York: Viking. Translation first published in 3 vols. with different titles, Washington: Mage, 1997, 2000, 2004.

Fā’iz-e Dashtestāni. n.d. Kolliyāt-e dobeyti-hā-ye Fā’iz-e Dashtestāni. Tehran: Sherkat Nesbi Kānun-e Ketāb.

Magtymguly. 1992a. Şygyrlar. Vol. 1. Aşgabat: “Türkmenistan” DNÇB.

-----. 1992b. Mahtumkulu divanı, ed. Himmet Biray. Kültür Bakanlıghı Yayınları, 1398. Ankara: Türk Tari Kurumu Basımevi.

Tavahodi Kānimāl, Kalimollah, ed. 1369. Divān-e ‘erfāni-ye Ja ‘far Qoli Zangeli. Mashhad: Sāzmān-e Chap-e Mashhad.

-----. 1377. Harakat-e tārikhi-ye kord be Khorāsān, V, Qiyām Nāfar Jām Kolonel Mohammad Teqi KHān Pesyān. Mashhad.

-----, ed. 1381. Divān-e ‘erfāni-ye Ja ‘far Qoli Zangeli. 2nd ed. Mashhad: Enteshārāt Vāse‘.

Youssefzadeh, Ameneh. 2002. Les bardes du Khorassan iranien. Le bakhshi et son répertoire. Paris and Leuven: Peeters. Accompanying compact disc.

The Archive of World Music holds all of the compact discs published by the Mahoor Cultural Institute, Tehran, Iran (Muʼassasah-yi Farhangī, Hunarī-i Māhūr), which are cited in separate bibliographic notes.

Processing Information

Processed by: Donna Morales Guerra, in consultation with Stephen Blum.

Finding aid encoded by: Donna Morales Guerra

The Stephen Blum Collection of Music from Iranian Khorāsān at Harvard University: original ethnographic sound recordings, 1968-2006. A Finding Aid
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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