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Translating a design into a song is an old tradition in parts of Persia that is rapidly disappearing. The practice helped many designs to survive for centuries and become valuable heritages of weaving folks.
In this video, "Ladies in Kerman singing a rug" that my dear friend Turaj Zhuleh kindly shared with me, one weaver follows the directions of another who dictates the design to her through singing. These weavers are from the city of Kerman, where they follow a "Naghsha", which is a pattern on a graph paper drafted by a designer. Therefore, the first weaver (Ustad) spontaneously creates a vocal melody to translate colours and numbers into a song that his/her helper (Shagerd) can understand and translate into knots.
There are examples of this fascinating ritual among carpet weaving nomads such as Qashghais, who sing songs by heart to weave their patterns, those that they perhaps inherited from centuries ago. The motives carried forward through these songs are often interesting archetypical symbols and worthy of deep contemplation.
However, what is more intriguing is the question that the practice arises; if the songs were woven into these rugs, could there be a reverse process? Could one extract the melody from a carpet?
It is interesting to find out that there have been attempts to translate rugs into music in the west. Oriental carpets were Morton Feldman's (1926-1987) major inspiration in composing some of his major works:
"The colour-scale of most nonurban rugs appears more extensive than it actually is, due to the great variation of shades of the same color (abrash) - a result of the yarn having been dyed in small quantities. As a composer, I respond to this most singular aspect affecting a rug's colouration and its creation of a monochromatic overall hue. My music has been influenced mainly by the methods in which color is used on essentially simple devices. It has made me question the nature of musical material. What could be used to accommodate, by equally simple means, musical color? Patterns."
No major work has been done on the lands of Persian carpets or beyond to notate their music. But the rugs continue singing for those who can hear.