This print article for The Philosopher’s Magazine compares Iranian music–in which riffing and flexing performing skills are seen as the highest marks of artistry–with philosophical theories about classical music, jazz, and improvisation, offering an example of comparative aesthetics in action.

“Let your hands do the thinking” is the unofficial motto of the traditional Persian musician. Until the late 20th century, many traditional virtuosos didn’t find much value in learning formal music theory at all, believing that it slowed down their creativity while performing. Today, their legacy inspires traditional musicians to foreground embodied learning, believing it fosters a deeply intuitive grasp of musical grammar that drives the creative process.