The Met Museum Presents THE SACRED LUTE: THE ART OF OSTAD ELAHI, Now thru 1/11

The Met Museum Presents THE SACRED LUTE: THE ART OF OSTAD ELAHI, Now thru 1/11

Ostad Elahi (1895-1974) was a renowned Persian musician, thinker, and jurist whose transformative work in the art of tanb?r-an ancient, long-necked lute-paralleled his innovative approach to the quest for truth and self-knowledge. Beginning today, August 5 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Sacred Lute: The Art of Ostad Elahi will document the interdependent, mutually transformative relationship between player and instrument through a presentation of some 30 rare instruments and works of art from the Museum's collection. The exhibition will include rare tanb?rs that belonged to Ostad Elahi and his father, who was also a great tanb?r player; a number of Elahi's personal possessions, such as his judicial robes and a selection of manuscripts; as well as symbolic items that provide greater insights into his disciplined approach to life.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Nour Foundation.

Small-bodied, long-necked plucked stringed instruments have been used in central and western Asia since the third millennium B.C. They appeared first in ancient Mesopotamia, and in their long history have been used for both secular and sacred music in regions ranging from Egypt and Greece to central and western Asia and India. The tanb?r became a sacred, venerated instrument used by dervishes in the mystical order Ahl-e Haqq("fervents of truth"), founded in the late 14th century. The members of the order are primarily from western Iran and Iraq and use the instrument for contemplation, meditation, and ecstatic dance.

Nour Ali Elahi, later known as Ostad (master) Elahi, was raised in western Iran and learnedtanb?r from his father, Hadj Nematollah, a charismatic mystic and poet who attracted tanb?rplayers from as far as Turkey and India. As a young child, because his hands were so small, Ostad played a tanb?r built from a wooden ladle, eventually graduating to the larger instrument. Under his father's tutelage and influenced by the players who came to hear his father's teaching, Ostad rapidly absorbed multiple musical styles and playing techniques, becoming a consummate master of the tanb?r by the age of nine.

The exhibition is organized by Ken Moore, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge in the Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Nour Foundation will host a lecture and concert in the Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on September 6. In addition, the monthly Moroccan Court Music Series will feature a concert of Persian music on October 10. The Museum will also offer a tanb?r workshop on November 15 and a Sunday at the Metprogram on November 16.

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum's website at