The Tehran Times interviewed Scheffer and Dreyer, along with Mashayekhi, at Tehran�s Vahdat Hall on April 23:
Following are excerpts of the interview.
Q: So you are Mr. Scheffer and you are Mr. Dreyer?
Scheffer: You know Frank Zappa?
Q: You made a three-part film series on him.
Scheffer: Dutch television showed it yesterday (Sunday) evening and will show it next Sunday. It was a three-part series for television, but now I am going to work for the big cinema, feature-length documentary. But why I came to that is because he (Zappa) said about smoking, �Every puff of smoke is a delight.�
Dreyer: And Frank Zappa is the one who brought us all here because last year I invited the Tehran Symphony Orchestra to Osnbaruck to the festival. Some weeks before, I came with German television, and they made a report on German TV, and Frank (Scheffer) was staying in Mexico at that time and he saw that on satellite, he saw that the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was playing Frank Zappa, and thought �that�s great.� And he called the widow of Frank Zappa and said, �Do you know that the Tehran Symphony Orchestra is playing �Dog Breath Variations� of Frank,� and then he called me two days before the concert and said, �I�m Frank Scheffer from Amsterdam and I would like to come to Osnabruck to join this event.� That�s how we met. That�s how Frank (Scheffer) met Nader (Mashayekhi), and that�s how it all came together.
Scheffer: I tried to put him (Zappa) within the pantheon of twentieth century composers because he is really an important composer and a pioneer of the 21st century. But bringing us together, in this case through satellite, is very significant for this time in the world where everything is connected. So even if I sit in Mexico I get aware.
I am in the middle of making the Zappa film and, wow, the Tehran Symphony Orchestra is playing Zappa, that�s fantastic. I went back to Holland and organized a crew. And it is a very beautiful scene in part two of the Frank Zappa series. Frank says it does not matter what, it matters when, and then you see the instrument, the daf, then comes Nader (Mashayekhi) who says, �This is really Frank Zappa, to make the impossible possible,� and then the orchestra plays �Dog Breath Variations�. It is a very touching moment, especially the idea that music brings all people together.
Q: Once I saw Zappa in concert in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s.
Dreyer: It is good you saw him, we didn�t.
Q: So your basic program here is you are making a documentary here?
Scheffer: Yes, out of the experiences I had with the (Tehran) orchestra in Osnabruck and especially meeting Nader. You know, I have made 35 documentaries on the music of composers.
Q: You made one on Brian Eno.
Scheffer: He really comes out of this mind of John Cage.
I made, so to speak, a complete picture of music in the West, and in the United States of America with John Cage and Elliot Carter, I made a film �In the Ocean�. I really got a picture of Europe and the United States. I would say John Cage is a very important influence on me because he liberated me from many traditions which stuck me just in one corner. He opened my head to the possibilities of the world. As I was always looking, he was a composer who was looking from the West to the East. He was very much influenced by Eastern thought. And I was looking to have a juxtaposition of balance of a composer who is looking from the East to the West. And I found that in Nader (Mashayekhi). So with him I can make a more complete picture than only the European or American side.
In the 21st century I think the most important development will be the relationship between Europe and China. We see China now growing and becoming the most powerful economy in the world. I mean, if it is not already now, it will be next month. I was just two weeks in China and it is amazing. I mean, they had 11 percent growth in the last three months.
I am very interested in history, in the sense that, you know, we did not suddenly come here.
Q: We are not displaced from our historical connections and background.
Scheffer: It�s a part of our genes, it�s a part of what we are. If you really look at the broader picture over the last 3000 years one can easily see there was, in the early years, communication between China and Europe. Tehran is a crossroad. Persia is a crossroad. And there is enormous responsibility to make that communication possible. That is what I believe. I am very deeply interested in Persian culture.
Q: It is a deep culture. Will you put anything about Iranian traditional music in your film?
Scheffer: I got confronted with Iran through Nader. I started to talk. There are many common interests and so many ideas we share and we love. Through Nader I am going to get very deep into the essence of Iranian identity and civilization. I mean when you hear pieces like �Fihi ma Fih� where he is using a very Persian tradition as the fundament, and then he inserts Western elements in it, make it a very strong, powerful experience. I think it is one of the most exciting pieces of music I have heard.
Q: This world fusion music mixing elements from the East and the West and the North and the South, like from Africa and so forth, is an important new development in music.
Scheffer: First of all I would like to say that the term fusion is problematic because everybody wants to stay within their authenticity, within their own identity. It is dialogue, juxtaposition. You know it is like we are part of a genetic process and that is the dialogue. So that is in nature itself and human existence itself. So we must execute what we are.
Q: There is this cultural cross-pollination. In the West they are taking melodies and styles of the East and in the East they are using some of the West�s electronic instruments like synthesizers and electric guitars. That is some of the cross-pollination I see.
Scheffer: Don�t you think it was also like that in the past?
Q: Of course, it was like that. There is always cultural interaction. You can notice it in music.
Dreyer: But the interesting thing in Nader�s music is the Persian music and Western music, they really go their own way, they stay beside, but they reach the other side, it is not confusing. It is a positive way of coexistence. It is going beside. Every way is going on its own, but reaches to the other side. It is a metaphor -- that cultures should meet together, everyone keeping their identity, but nevertheless reaching the other side.
Scheffer: I think music has that quality to bring ideas closer together.
Q: It is a universal language. You don�t have to understand the words, you can understand the melody.
Dreyer: In Osnabruck, Salar Aqili was singing versions of poems of Sadi. And no one in Germany could understand what he was singing about. They were all sitting like this like -- hah! -� like they were really touched by the music, even though they did not understand a word. And that was really a strong experience for all of us.
Some days ago we met the Iranian ambassador in Berlin. We talked about the orchestra and he said he was sitting beside the wife of the patron of Osnabruck and she was crying, and she said, �I am so touched with the music.� I think it is the best intercultural dialogue we can create. And it is important to have that beside the political sphere, beside the economic sphere. We have to enforce this dialogue.
Scheffer: Music really does not talk politics. It is, how you say, pure vibration. So if the hearts of the people meet, that is through music. That is what I am interested in, that is what my work is about. It is from heart to heart. Music simply is that by nature. Now I think nowadays, and this I have from John Cage, we stated at the end of my documentary that one can see that even the shape of the world is like a mind. And the left side of the mind and the right side are connected together through digital means. So we have together the central nerve system, and it is the responsibility of all of us to have this mind work properly.
Q: Since you are going to make a documentary here, are you going to stay a long time or a short time?
Schefffer: I am here at this very moment to do research. The film has started on paper. The actual shooting will start in autumn. You know the process, it is a big documentary. The co-production has to be organized. As you know, there is a great tradition of documentary in Holland, so I really feel my responsibility to represent my experience in the film with the highest quality level. So that needs preparation.
It�s a feature-length documentary between one and a half and two hours. It will search for the identity of the Iranian people through Nader, who is the main line, and make little portraits of different people who are in the orchestra.
Q: I guess this will take a long time. Are you going to make it in one shoot?
Scheffer: I am very much focusing on the process. Next time I will be in the middle of the work. For me the most important thing in this is dialogue.
One of Cage�s statements was that the ideas outside the head are better than the ideas inside the head. Creativity is being alive.
Q: People are getting diverted from the path of life. They start living unlively lives and uncreative lives and they wonder why they get bored.
Dreyer: You don�t need to be a musician in order to be creative. To be creative is just to be open-minded.
Q: Music has a certain power because it is a special medium, different than television or film or poetry. This creativity is not through verbal communication. You know about Marshall McLuhan? He spoke about acoustic space. In a song, there is no border, but in a book you see the border. In the song it�s acoustic space, like storytelling.
Dreyer: In Western Europe we learn about old Greek and Latin, we don�t learn anything about the Persian language. The idea of the festival (held in Germany last year) was to provide the possibility to learn about the Persian culture. It has been a big mistake in the past decades.
Also, this year the Osnabruck Orchestra is scheduled to play in Tehran and Isfahan.
The Tehran Symphony Orchestra had a performance in Berlin last year. It was broadcast live on German TV and radio, and I hope this year we can bring them again. They are to play German music like Brahms and Beethoven and also a symphony about Rumi that Nader (Mashayekhi) composed for his 800th birthday.
Scheffer: The miracle side of Iranian culture, if you read these texts, they�re so profound, they�re so deep. It is one of the most developed poetries in the world. It�s the richness of it. It�s a very important part in this global mind.
And (it has) humor.
Dreyer: People here have such a good sense of humor.
Scheffer: Humor is what brings people together. The hospitality and kindness which I find here is a representation of an ancient culture. In the world, the people who are very hospitable and kind, they always come from a long heritage. (It is) the result of growth.
Q: Are you going to participate in programs like concerts or lectures during this trip?
Scheffer: There will be the Scheffer evening at the Iranian Artists Forum .
I need to come back for a long time.
We only think about the last 50 years, which is very short.
With things like Stonehenge, which goes back thousands of years, I think, in my humble opinion, communication between these cultures was very much alive and vivid and really happening.
Q: Iranian civilization did have a great influence on the West. Iran had a certain influence on Greece, as did Egypt.
Scheffer: China came through Iran into Europe. If you compare Lao Tzu or Confucius and you see the writings of Aristotle and Pythagoras, there are similarities. It�s just impossible that they were disconnected.
The idea that minds in the past were connected through time is just a much more lovely idea than that everyone would have been isolated.
It�s because of the dialogue�
I want to show people through Nader Mashayekhi and the way he works with his musicians, the lives they have, (a way) to come closer to Persian identity, to be able not only to show my audience that experience but also to grow myself. That�s the basic line.
Q: In the program, you are going to show excerpts of your movies?
Scheffer: Yes. This trip is going be over in one week.
Q: How do you see the global interaction in the context of the Maya calendar�s 2012 end date? It�s not just the Maya tradition. Everybody from various traditions is saying that something is going to happen in the next few years. What are your views on that?
Scheffer: As a matter of fact I lived a number of years in Mexico. If there was one culture in the world which was able to catch the abstraction of time, it is the Maya. Better than any civilization anywhere else in the world ever. They were able to grab time. Time is the most abstract thing.
Now science recently discovered that time doesn�t exist.
Let�s say this awareness was there already for a much longer time in different cultures. Let�s say this awareness was there in ancient Persian times, in ancient Chinese times. I would say Taoism, as such, is understanding this whole idea of quantum mechanics already 3000 years ago.
Nothing is as we perceive it.
The Mayan culture, in this sense, was able very accurately to observe nature. And they figured out that at this time when we are speaking, the magnetic fields of the sun would line up in such a way that the energy of the sun and the solar winds would be so strong that they would affect our Earth.
Q: Some say John Cage was an anarchist. Is that so?
Scheffer: I would say the implication of the word anarchist is in two ways. One is connected to the Russian political idea of Bakunin. That is the political connotation. That is not Cage. His way of so-called anarchy is to have the mind open for the universe, do not close up your mind, but open up so that things can come to you through the universe. It�s more spiritual.
If you close your mind and walk on the street you might miss a lot of things around you. But when you open up your mind and you look around, you can see many things that normally you would not see.
There are two different things. There is the world of political reality and there is the world of spiritual reality. And spiritual reality is inside every individual and what you think and what you are inspired by is a very limited thing, it is only in you. So that�s why I don�t call Cage an anarchist, because that�s connected with political reality but he is not connected to that, absolutely not. This is about music which tries to bring minds in vibration and have them open themselves, open their hearts.
Mashayekhi: I believe he talks about Cage from the philosophical point of view not politics. When one asks about anarchism from the philosophical viewpoint, it contains not only social but also private issues. If it is discussed from a social or political viewpoint, it is only a social thing. Cage is an anarchist. I am an anarchist in my own private life.
Q: Perhaps Cage was an anarchist in the world of his music, like the piece he composed that was total silence?
Mashayekhi: The system of his composing is a different system. We might say it is chaos, but he sees this system as a natural one. If we call the natural order anarchy, that�s through what we observe. We do not understand the order for what it is. Cage sought this order. There is an order that we don�t understand. So we call it anarchy. We can also see it and find it in our own lives.
Scheffer: John Cage, in the Western musical tradition, really did something very very very significant. He ended the Western musical tradition. He ended it through the composition called 4�33�, with all the sounds freely making the composition. If you count the seconds, it is 273 seconds, which is the lowest possible degree on the Kelvin scale (where absolute zero is 273 degrees below zero on the Celsius scale), where the elements stop vibrating. That�s the point zero.
It was so significant to end the Western hierarchy of dictating to the world what the musical tradition should be.
Cage, in Western tradition, opened up the possibility for our Western minds to start thinking and embracing this and having this openness.
He is the first world composer not connected to any country, to any border, to anything except the world in the universe