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Listening: The Fourth String

Multimedia Installation and Performance, 2022

A Collaboration: Artist + Musician + Community = SOCIAL AWARENESS + SOCIAL CHANGE

Visual Artist: Raheleh Filsoofi

Musician: Reza Filsoofi


Listening: The Fourth String is project that introduces an interactive and experiential instrument and platform ShahTár (شه تار) through public performances that re-imagine the silenced existence of the Iranian musician and Sufi, Moshtagh Ali Shah (18 century Iran), and emphasizes his historic contributions to the Iranian music. The project addresses the concept of sound, suggesting the act of listening can power community engagement, promote social change, and foster a better future.


The performances and workshops intend to broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern and specifically Iranian music and its ethos. It provides unique educational and performance opportunities for the community. The performance showcases the dynamic aspects of Middle Eastern music, its capacity to integrate with other musical genres, and the potency of its contribution to the soundscape of the United States. The first phase of this project was exhibited in The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN in March 2022. The second phase included a series of performances and workshops which occurred from February 28- March 3, 2023, at the Ingram Hall at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.


The Fourth String is a reference to the traditional Iranian instrument, the setar. Literally translated from the Persian Farsi language, setar means three (se) strings (tar), and the Iranian setar is a three-stringed instrument. However, centuries ago, the Iranian Sufi musician, Moshtagh Ali Shah, added a fourth string. This dramatically changed the instrument from its original configuration, enhancing the sound and allowing musicians to explore more complex compositional and performance possibilities while retaining the traditional capabilities of the three-stringed instrument.


About Moshtagh

Despite his significant contribution, Moshtagh Ali Shah has been excluded from Iranian musical history due to his religious beliefs and his use of the setar in the reciting of the Quran and call for the prayer, which was considered blasphemous and led to his death by stoning. However, the fourth string remains on the setar today as a testament to his cultural innovation and courage.


About ShahTár

A Kermani rug that traditionally serves as a gathering place is transformed into a new four-string instrument where artists and community members can experience sound and music together.

Pictures by Amir Agharebparast

Video: GoodFellow Producion

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