Iranian New Music Series P.5 – Axiom of Choice

AXIOM OF CHOICEText by Dawoud Kringle

Axiom of Choice, a southern California based group who dares name themselves after a mathematical concept (i.e. an axiom of set theory equivalent to the statement that the Cartesian product of a collection of non-empty sets is non-empty) is someone to be reckoned with.

Founded by guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian, and accompanied by vocalist Mamak Khadem and percussionist Pejman Hadadi, Axiom of Choice blends Persian radif (a collection of traditional and ancient melodic figures organized into a number of tonal spaces called Dastgah) with elements of Western music. Their first release, Beyond Denial (1996), explored their original concept to critical aclaim. This was followed by Niya Yesh (2000) and Unfolding (2002).

One of the signature sounds of the group is Torkian’s quarter tone guitar. He modified a western classical guitar with frets that allow him to play the quarter tones that traditional Persian and Arabic music make use of. Khadem’s vocals are crystal clear, and executed with technical perfection; but the emotional strength of her interpretations are startling in their intensity. The effect of their intertwining is profound.

Axiom of Choice brings classical radif into a new perspective. The group’s intimate understanding of this gives the music a poetry and intensity of emotion that draws the listener into an embrace from which escape is neither possible nor wanted. Their immersion in Sufi poetry and imagery give it an authenticity of spiritual tradition, and their use of modern Western elements opens them up to an accessibility across all boundaries.