Musical creativity across cultures involves the paradox of simultaneously working within and transgressing rules. In a state of profound inspiration, and even trance, performers are struck with flashes of musical insight and transcend the standardized canon, discovering unprecedented gestures, techniques, patterns, and melodies.
In my research, I explore how mugham creativity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan erects a realm for transgressing musical boundaries and, in so doing, creativity functions to establish an identity that departs from the secular Soviet past. Enveloped in the sounds of mugham, how do Azerbaijanis imagine and create subjectivities after nearly two centuries of control by a secular Russian dominion? How does the enigma of mugham creativity become a meaningful decolonial vehicle towards an understanding and realization of what it means to be Azerbaijan? Most importantly, how can scholarship truthfully shed light on the subjective experiences of cultural insiders for whom mugham is a phenomenon of faith leading to cathartic inner states? With these questions at the core of my current postdoctoral project, I undertake a phenomenological analysis of mugham creativity in Azerbaijan today, and venture into uncharted paths towards discussions of musical creativity in broader cross-cultural terms