Placeless has 14 melodies that Mahsa Vahdat composed to classical poems by Hafez and Rumi and the works of contemporary Iranian poets Forough Farrokhzad, Mohammad Ibrahim Jafari and Atabak Elyasi. Composers Sahba Aminikia (Iran/US), Aftab Darvishi (Iran/ Netherlands), Jacob Garchik (US) and Atabak Elyasi arranged the songs for string quartet.
Despite spanning a period of 800 years, even the oldest poems are still surprisingly relevant, showing how the human heart is always the same, regardless of time, place and culture. The album title Placeless references a well-known poem by Rumi from the 13th century:
I am not from the East, nor from the West
I am not from the land, nor from the sea
I am not from the world, not from beyond
My place is placelessness. My trace is tracelessness.
“This recording is a milestone for us,” says Mahsa Vahdat. “The wonderful musicians in Kronos Quartet have given our music new dimensions. Our lives are constantly changing in relation to time and place. Our home and where we belong – this is all over the globe. By performing poems from Persia’s classical era, we have been coming closer and closer to finding an organic connection between what we express in our art and the way we live.”
Commenting on the new release, Kronos’ artistic director, founder and violinist David Harrington states, “We’re always trying to learn as much as we can, and now, recording with Mahsa and Marjan, we sometimes are able to make sounds we have never before heard from our instruments.”
The Kronos Quartet has a 45-year career behind it, bravely and tirelessly striving to seek new musical experiences by continuously collaborating with new artists and composers. For 25 years, Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat have had an innovative attitude in their quest to give Persian poetry and music new expressions in collaboration with a number of musicians from many countries, from both their own region and other parts of the world.
Kronos and Mahsa Vahdat were first introduced by Sahba Aminikia, when he served as the artist-in-residence of Kronos Festival 2017. Kronos and Mahsa Vahdat first performed together at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco on 2 February 2017, as part of that annual festival produced by the nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association. Since then, Kronos and Mahsa Vahdat performed an encore set at Kronos Festival 2018 and have been presented by the City of Geneva’s outdoor concert series Musiques en été, Oslo World Music Festival (with Marjan Vahdat), University of California, Santa Barbara, Arts & Lectures.
This year, Kronos and Mahsa Vahdat will perform concerts presented by Carnegie Hall on 8 February in New York, New York; Washington Performing Arts on 2 March in Washington D.C.; Narodowe Forum Muzyki and Jazztopad Festival on 9 March in Wrocław, Poland; and Green Music Center on 9 May in Sonoma, California.
Placeless is produced by KKV’s founder Erik Hillestad. He also produced Lullabies from the Axis of Evil (2004), which featured Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat. That album was the start of a long and productive collaboration, which has led to Hillestad’s producing all subsequent releases by the Iranian sisters.