Composing a Life

Kamran Rastegar 88FKamran Rastegar 88F’s life since Hampshire has been rich with music, language study, and literature. He is an associate professor of Arabic in the department of German, Russian, and Asian languages and literatures at Tufts University and a member of the faculty of the International Letters and Visual Cultures program there.

Rastegar’s Division III was a study of the practice of Persian classical music in Iran after the 1979 revolution, with a series of original musical compositions in response to his research.

“What I took from the experience was the value of going deep into a single subject, looking at that whole range of sources, and how to do original research,” he says, “but I  was also interested in music composition. My Div III allowed me to explore a variety of issues at the heart of my interest in music, in a way that was not one-dimensional. It was an opportunity to focus my attention on one topic and not only produce research about it, but to creatively respond to it as well.”

Rastegar composes for movie soundtracks and collaborates on songwriting. His instrument of choice is an oud, a Middle Eastern fretless stringed instrument that resembles a lute. His most recent project was the soundtrack to the Palestinian film When I Saw You, which debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

For several years Rastegar worked as a researcher in social research nonprofit organizations, all the while still playing and recording music. “Music has been constant in my life,” he says, “but perhaps paradoxically, I loved it too much to pursue it as a profession.” Eventually, he returned to academe and in 2005 earned a PhD. in comparative literature and Middle Eastern and Asian languages and cultures from Columbia University.

“I found something that makes me very happy: being a teacher,” he says. “I think Hampshire had an incredibly profound influence on how I approach teaching, which still reflects what I experienced while a student at the College and its entire pedagogical philosophy, even though my professional experience has had me teaching in more-traditional universities.”