Iranian composer Reza Vali was born in Ghazvin, Iran in 1952. From 1965 until 1969 he studied music at the Tehran Conservatory in the Western classical tradition. In 1972 he travelled to Austria to study composition and music education at the Academy of Music in Vienna. He then travelled to the United States where he continued to study music and then earned his Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Pittsburgh. Shortly after, Vali accepted a faculty position at Carnegie Mellon University School of Music where he still is on staff as an associate professor.
In 1991, Vali was recognized by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as their Outstanding Emerging Artist and was given the Creative Achievement Award. In 2010 he co-founded with Bijan Elyaderani the Center for Iranian Music which is part of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts. This center is dedicated to preserving and promoting Iranian music as well as highlighting the role music as played in all aspects of Iranian culture and history. In addition to his teaching and composing, Vali spends time collecting and cataloguing Iranian Folk Music (gaining him the nickname of being the “Iranian Bartók”) as well as working on his Arghonoon software collaboration that is capable of replicating tuning systems from all over the world.
Vali’s early compositional style approached Iranian folk music and western classical music with modernist treatment and he sought to incorporate elements of different musical styles and challenge the listener aurally. His works prior to 2000 were mostly folk song inspired and included pairings of voice & piano, voice & orchestra, voice & chamber ensemble, and instrumental pieces without voice.
Vali took it upon himself to independently study the Dastgah/Maqam system with his later works breaking away from the Western style of the 12 tone tempered tuning and traditional musical forms. Thus, the Arghonoon system came out of necessity as Vali’s compositional style evolved and he began to abandon Western compositional practices. With it, Vali is able to compose in the Dastgah/Maqam system (one of the most sophisticated and complex musical systems in the world due to its microtonal scales).
While few of Vali’s works have actually been performed in Iran (due to the restrictions placed on music and the disconnect between Iran and Iranian composers who are abroad), Vali’s music has been performed around the world gaining Vali recognition and acclaim including the honor prize of the Austrian Ministry of Arts and Sciences, two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships, and commissions from many ensembles.